Glycemic Index and How It Affects Your Diet

Growing up, you have been in all probability advised to restrict sweets. That meant not overdoing it on Halloween sweet, for instance, or having that additional bowl of sugary breakfast cereal. While adult-you is likely to be tempted to throw warning to the wind and eat no matter you need, sustaining a nutritious diet is extra essential than ever.

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One means of a nutritious diet is contemplating the place meals fall on the glycemic index.

“The glycemic index is used to classify foods that contain carbohydrates, their potential for raising blood sugar and how quickly they raise your blood sugar,” says endocrinologist Alexander Williams, MD.

The glycemic index relies on the understanding that not each carb is created equal. “Say someone said that you could have 100 grams of carbs a day,” says Dr. Williams. “If you had that all in soda, intuitively you would understand that’s not the optimal way to get your carbs when you can instead, eat whole grain rice, vegetables, fruits and other things.”

The motive for these variations comes from how carbs react in your physique. Simple carbohydrates — say, the sugars present in soda and candy desserts — are damaged down sooner than the extra complicated carbohydrates present in some greens and whole-grain meals. As a end result, your blood sugar spikes after which falls quickly. Over time, docs consider these fixed surges and retreats play an element in individuals turning into insulin resistant.

How is the glycemic index decided?

To decide glycemic index numbers, docs observe how wholesome individuals’s blood sugar ranges change after ingesting carb-containing meals. By measuring subsequent blood sugar levels — and evaluating it to a baseline — they’ll decide the place a meals falls on a scale of zero to 100, the place 100 represents pure glucose and 0 is a meals with no sugar in any respect.

“Essentially, the glycemic index is trying to show that not everything that contains the exact same amount of grams of carbs will behave the same way in your body,” says Dr. Williams. “You actually measure how your body responds to a cup of orange juice versus how it reacts to other food items: a banana, 25 grams of candy or 25 grams of whole-grain bread.”

Doctors have measured the glycemic index numbers just for sure meals or courses of meals. “Not every single food item, not every vegetable or fruit or piece of bread, has been studied,” says Dr. Williams. However, you should utilize present information and make estimate for meals that aren’t studied. 

What is a low glycemic index eating regimen?

A low glycemic index eating regimen is one primarily based on meals that gained’t trigger wild swings in your blood sugar. “Eating foods with a lower glycemic index means they will cause a slower and lower rise in your blood sugar,” Dr. Williams says, noting this may assist you to take in meals extra slowly and keep full for longer, and due to this fact eat much less. “Foods with a high glycemic index, or simple sugars, give you this quick burst of energy with a rise in blood sugar quickly. But then you’ll tend to feel pretty tired afterward and will get hungry quickly.”

Certain sorts of meals fall into these classes — for instance, Dr. Williams notes that meals increased in fat and protein “tend to be absorbed slower, and therefore have a lower glycemic index. But the glycemic index isn’t necessarily a measure that’s easy to use as a nutrition guide, the way that you can with calories. And foods with a low glycemic index aren’t necessarily packed with nutrients. Eating a balance of foods from all five food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy — is still a better rule to follow.  

In fact, Dr. Williams agrees with the American Diabetes Association’s assessment that the glycemic index numbers are “not easily accessible for meal planning.”

“I don’t know how important the numbers are if you’re thinking about going to the store and deciding what to prepare for dinner,” he says. “It’s more about thinking what kinds of foods have a lower glycemic index and trying to make sure that there’s a good portion of these in each meal instead of other foods that have a high glycemic index.”

The advantages of a low glycemic index eating regimen

A low glycemic index eating regimen can enhance your total well being and assist stop sure sicknesses. “There is increasing evidence that foods with a low glycemic index can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Williams. “If you already have diabetes, it could potentially reduce the risk of long-term complications. Other studies show that it’s beneficial for certain cholesterol levels.”

It stands to motive {that a} eating regimen filled with excessive glycemic index meals would (amongst different issues) up your danger for Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. “It can definitely contribute to weight gain, and then the complications that go along with that, such as stress on the cardiovascular system,” Dr. Williams says. “It’s definitely going to make your cholesterol metabolism worse off.”

Dr. Williams says there aren’t many downsides to a low glycemic index eating regimen, save for just a few exceptions. “If you’re already on insulin and drastically change the way you eat without changing insulin dosages, this could put you at increased risk for low blood sugar,” he says. Additionally, in case your cholesterol will increase after happening a low-carb eating regimen (for instance, the keto eating regimen), a low glycemic index eating regimen additionally may not be your best option.

Low glycemic index meals

Dr. Williams says low glycemic index meals are ones with a quantity that’s 50 or much less. Some of those embody:

  • Vegetables: Peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants.
  • Fruits: Strawberries, apples, pears.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, beans (dried or boiled), legumes.
  • Dairy: Whole/full-fat milk, plain yogurt.
  • Sweets: Dark chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa.
  • Nuts: Cashews, peanuts.

High glycemic index meals

High glycemic index meals are likely to have a quantity over 70 and embody:

  • Processed meals: Corn chips, pretzels.
  • Sugar-containing drinks: Soda, candy tea, sports activities drinks.
  • Fast meals: Cheeseburgers, fried rooster, pizza.
  • Bakery/grains: Doughnuts, white bread, cereals (except complete grain).
  • Potatoes: Mashed potatoes, French fries.

Sample glycemic index numbers

Going by the University of Sydney’s glycemic index database, here’s a sampling of the glycemic index numbers for sure meals:

  • Banana (yellow and ripe): 51
  • Quinoa (cooked, refrigerated and reheated): 53
  • Carrots (uncooked): 16
  • Brown rice (steamed): 50
  • Sweet potato (orange, peeled, reduce and boiled for 8 minutes): 61
  • Apple (uncooked, golden scrumptious): 39
  • Honey (pure): 58
  • Potato (white, cooked): 41
  • Popcorn: 55
  • Watermelon (uncooked): 72 or 80
  • Coconut Sugar: 54

Why the glycemic index of meals differs

Dr. Williams cautions that figuring out the glycemic index scores for particular person meals is an imperfect science. “It’s going to be different for each food, depending on how it’s processed or prepared, and then how each individual person responds,” he notes.

For instance, he says one examine of prompt oatmeal confirmed that it had a glycemic index of 79, which is the excessive vary. Yet steel-cut rolled oats have a glycemic index of 55, which places it in a medium glycemic index.

Different variations of the identical meals may also range as a result of elements. “Yogurt that’s marketed for kids is going to taste delicious because it has a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup — versus plain Greek, regular fat yogurt. They might have very similar amounts of carbs, but the glycemic index is very different because of the number of proteins and fats and the quality and quantity of the sugar that’s in there.”

How a lot you eat of a sure carb-heavy meals can even have an impact. For instance, a small sip or two of soda gained’t have as huge an influence in your physique as a big portion of whole-grain rice — regardless that the latter is mostly perceived as more healthy.

As with many diets, Dr. Williams stresses that “moderation” is essential, as is hanging a stability between consuming high and low glycemic index meals.“We’re all human,” he says. “It’s very difficult for most of us to try to eliminate any one kind of food if we like it. So it’s all about having portions that are reasonable and not going overboard.”

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