The Low Down on the Glycemic Index

You’re going to be mad at me – in previous posts I’ve recommended you decrease your sugar and salt intake (by the way thank you for doing that), asked you to eat more fruit and vegetables and then I went ahead and ruined bacon for you…wow, sounds like good times. Well, I’m throwing the glycemic index at you now only because COBS Bread made me.

If you’ve been to COBS Bread recently you might have seen a little sign recommending the “country grain knot roll” or the “country grain half baguette” because they both have a low GI. What does that mean? And why should you care, especially if you’re already eating a diet low in fat, high in fibre, and eating a variety of foods from all food groups? Why do you have to worry about the glycemic index now? Truthfully, you don’t - unless you’re trying to manage hypoglycemia, but the overall message is a good one, which is why I’m about to share it with you.

The glycemic index, or GI as you’ll commonly see it written on shelves, is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to a standard food (white bread). Carbohydrate-containing foods such as: starches, fruit, milk, and sugar eventually wind up as glucose in your blood. But not all carbohydrates behave the same way when it comes to raising your blood sugar – some are digested and absorbed quickly while others are broken down and converted slowly. With slower digestion and absorption you will experience a smooth, steady blood sugar level, which leads to more consistent energy levels.

Homework: for breakfast one morning have two slices of white bread and note down what time you need your next snack. The next morning have a bowl of high fibre cereal, and again note what time you start to get hungry. If I were a gambler I would bet the snack on day two came much later than the snack on day one.

Eating foods with a low GI may help to: control blood glucose and cholesterol levels, control appetite, decrease risk of heart disease, and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, if you eat foods with a low GI it does not mean you can eat as much as you want - it is only one part of healthy eating. Try including at least one low-GI food per meal. Here are some examples: pita bread (white), All-Bran Original (Kellogg’s), sweet potatoes, al-dente pasta, lentils, low-fat yogurt, and popcorn.

For more information here are a couple of good links:

Image Courtesy of Sifu Renka