Monday, March 8, 2010

Glycemic Index

What is the glycemic index? In addition to choosing less monosaccharides and increasing the whole grains, a new tool for choosing the food you need has emerged over the past few years. It provides insight into the body’s use of carbohydrate, and more specifically, how quickly your blood sugar rises after the ingestion of a particular food.

Most carbohydrates are absorbed in a mono and disaccharide form. These mono and disaccharides are what impact the blood sugar level. As we digest these foods and break them down into their component parts, they reach the bloodstream at variable rates. This index measures how quickly your blood sugar rises after the ingestion of a particular carbohydrate.

Major studies indicate that those who eat a diet of high glycemic index carbohydrates have the greatest risk of many chronic diseases. That means that the carbohydrate in that food was thrown into the bloodstream at a rapid rate, and your body produces insulin to utilize that particular carbohydrate. Is it the carbohydrate or is it the insulin response? Most of the science says that if you eat a high glycemic index food, you’re going to have a significant increase in the amount of insulin that is produced.

We must know, however, that many factors influence this insulin increase. For example, white bread carbohydrates might reach the bloodstream quickly, but when I make a hamburger with it, it is going to leave the stomach slowly, and hence exhibiting a lower glycemic index response. Also, the organization of the carbohydrate influences it.

Foods such as oatmeal, most whole grains, non-tropical fruits (apples and pears, for example), legumes, dry beans and peas have a lower glycemic index. Think about it this way: the more hands touched it, in general, the higher the glycemic index.

Many studies are looking at the relationship between high glycemic index foods and chronic diseases. There is enough evidence out there. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are going to help you maximize the benefits of carbohydrates.

Is there a time when a high glycemic index food is desirable? Absolutely. There are times in the athletic world, for example, where they want that carbohydrate to get back in that muscle as fast they can. Why? Maybe they want to run another race in 2 hours. Sports drinks have a relatively high glycemic index. At that point in time, athletes are mostly interested in their performance.

Those who eat a diet with a high glycemic index as a chronic diet, meaning that you’re not using it for athletic performance but it is just the food choice that you make, you’re going to have more issues with chronic illnesses. These include obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cataracts.

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