What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index is a ranking system of foods that conveys likely each food is to spike insulin and blood sugar levels. In contrast to traditional methods of evaluating the healthiness of foods, such as amount of calories (not all calories are created equal, according to Scientific American), cholesterol, and fat, the glycemic index evaluates the extent to which your body will have increased glucose in your bloodstream.

It is based on a scale of 1 – 100.  The lower the number, the less likely the food is to spike insulin and blood sugar level in the body.  Many green vegetables such as broccoli have very low GI levels at around 10-15, while pure glucose is a 100.  There is still much data and research emerging about his rating scale, and more and more foods are being indexed so people can have a more comprehensive idea of how the foods they eat are effecting them. But there is already much credible research that has shown that the glycemic index is a very real and significant factor that should be considered when evaluating your diet. This website about combatting diabetes has an excellent table that explains the glycemic index and load of various foods.

This rating system can be useful especially for people struggling with diabetes and needing to regulate blood sugar levels, as well as those in need of an effective weight loss program.  When there is a high level of glucose in the blood, cells in the body use this as energy, and also store it as fat.

The glycemic index has been adopted as a full fledged diet plan and lifestyle

This index rating system has been developed into a full fledged diet plan. By eating foods that are low glycemic (GI = 50 or lower) or at most mid level glycemic (GI = 70 or lower), individuals can avoid the bodily conditions that result in health problems and increased body fat. Since the low GI diet involves primarily vegetables and lean proteins, and shuns many highly processed carbohydrates and refined sugars, the result is a program that can have many health benefits.

For those wanting the most impactful results, it’s better to stick as much as possible to exclusively low GI foods.

Evaluate whether the Low GI diet will be helpful in reaching your goals

Before moving forward with any plan, it’s important to evaluate your options and make an educated decision about what’s best for you. The glycemic index can be a very helpful guide for many wanting to change their eating patterns, but it’s not right for everyone. 

Here are some questions you should ask yourself as you being to evaluate whether to use the glycemic index as a guide for your diet:

Do I eat a lot of breads, flour based foods, or sweets? – If you are accustomed to eating a lot of these unhealthy foods, it can be a painful transition to a low GI lifestyle.  However, if you’ve become entrenched in a poor diet, it is probably all the more critical that you make a change.

Do I need to reduce blood sugar levels? – If you have taken a medical exam recently and the results indicate higher than normal blood sugar levels, one way to combat this problem would be the low GI diet.  This can help prevent your blood sugar from developing into a larger health problem.

Am I above the age of 30? –  A simple, and alas, unfortunate, fact of life is that our metabolism begins to slow when we get older.  The same sweets and junk food that seemed to not even phase us while in high school or college, at the age of 30 or later, can now make us fat.  It’s sad but true, and eating exclusively low glycemic foods will help prevent this.  The older you are, the more you should likely consider adopting at least some aspects of low GI into your lifestyle.

Am I at risk of being overweight or struggling with obesity? – Most weight loss programs will include dieting as a major component.  You can incorporate low GI into your weight loss regime along with other nutritional supplements and exercise, and it will most often be a great compliment to other weight loss measures you are taking. As this Spotlight on Low GI from BBC states, this diet can be effective for weight loss.

Am I diabetic or at risk of diabetes? – The most important action to take here is to consult with your physician. When you do, you will likely be recommended to follow a low GI diet, meaning that you will be advised to avoid sugars and foods high in enriched flour.

Do I have health problems such as heart disease? – As with the above point, make sure to consult with your doctor if you are struggling with a major health issue such as hear disease.  But very often, a beneficial step here is to increase the amount of vegetables and lean protein in your diet while eliminating unhealthy foods, including sweets and processed carbohydrates.  This amounts to adopting at least parts of the low glycemic index diet.

If your answer is yes to a large portion of the above questions, you should seriously consider at least adopting some portions of the low glycemic index diet. 

There are many resources available that will help you get started, as well as tools that will help keep you focussed on your goals and executing your plan.  You can start on this site, sign up to receive low glycemic index information and tips.  In addition, you should talk to your physician, who will be able to give you a more personalized consultation, along with advise about whether or not it is the best path for you.

There is another great, simple explanation of the low glycemic index diet here.

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