The Glycemic Index and Your Diet
The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index (GI) was created several years ago for people with diabetes in order to help develop nutritional plans for people with the disease. Carbohydrates come in three different forms - sugars, starches and fibers and they all behave differently in our bodies. The GI enables a person to understand this behaviour by ranking carbs according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. The secret to long-term health and reduction of risk for heart disease and diabetes can be found in choosing lower GI carbs, the ones which produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels.
High GI Foods - What They Do
Eating higher GI foods produces a rapid increase in blood glucose levels which cause the pancreas to produce insulin. This release of insulin causes the body's muscle and liver cells to attempt to store the excess glucose. If there is an overload of glucose into the blood stream moving faster than the insulin can handle it, then the body will deal with the overload by turning it to fat. By eating lower GI foods, there is a slower rise in glucose, and little insulin and fat storage.
How The Body Handles Sugars
Grabbing a soda, candy bar or even a bottle of fruit juice can easily create the situation wherein the blood is flooded with the ingested sugar. Suddenly you have an energy rush (sugar high) and your body calls for help from the pancreas to produce additional insulin to handle the load. Momentarily your blood sugar lowers, in response to the infusion of insulin, and you then have a sense that you need more fuel (calories). The residual low blood sugar level causes you to crave something to give you more energy so you head for the sugar again. And the cycle begins...
While the pancreas secretes insulin to handle the sugar load, it is forced to lower its production of another hormone called glucagon. Glucagon is the only hormone in your body which allows stored body fat to be released into the bloodstream to be burned by your muscles as energy. By forcing the pancreas to use its energy producing insulin to handle a sugar load, your body is effectively locking in excess body fat. Reducing stored body fat is negatively impacted by the intake of too much simple sugar.
There's a Better Way
Complex Carbs are low on the GI scale and are really the body's preferred source of energy. Healthy carbs are broken down into glucose molecules and are either used for fuel or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. The body will run very efficiently when its glucose and glycogen fuel storage is adequate. The energy to function at your best is now available and you've provided your body with the material it needs to reduce body fat and enhance your health.
Your best choices for low GI carbs are found in starches, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and whole grains and in fibrous carbohydrates. These include asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, peppers and spinach. Of course there are many more to choose from including dark green leafy vegetables.
Eat fresh and stay away from processed foods and you'll serve your body well.