You have probably heard of the glycemic index, but do you know what it really is or how it functions? In the simplest definition, the glycemic index is essentially the relative value that is assigned to various food products. It is the number that informs you how fast your blood sugar rises if you eat a specific food.
Before we understand delve further into the subject, it is important to note that glucose has a level of 100. Essentially, high GI foods are assigned a value of 70 or higher, while medium GI foods are assigned a value of 56-69 and low GI foods are assigned a value of 55 or less.
Examples of low GI foods include sweet potato, peas, lentils. Whereas medium GI foods include brown, wild or basmati rice, whole wheat bread, and quick oats. Finally, high GI foods include pretzels, popcorn, pineapple, white bread and rice pasta.
So Why Does Your Glycemic Index Matter?
Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) release glucose gradually over a period of time into the blood. Whereas foods with a higher glycemic index release glucose at a faster rate over a short period of time. Low GI foods help to maintain or lose weight while high GI food, help to replenish energy after a vigorous workout. High GI foods can also be consumed to offset hypoglycemia.
Benefits of Low-Glycemic Diet
Consuming foods with a lower GI prevents blood glucose spikes. This is vital as the body produces more insulin in response to blood glucose spikes. Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for transporting your glucose from the blood to the cells. If you have insulin resistance, the repeated rapid spikes in blood sugar have the potential to wear out your pancreas. This also leads to a reduction in the production of insulin and when there isn’t insulin produced by the body, this increases the risk of developing diabetes. Studies have shown that a healthy low GI diet has a positive impact on people who have diabetes. People with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes will have an easier time managing their cholesterol and blood glucose levels if they adopted a diet consisting of low GI food. Additionally, low GI food also lowers insulin resistance in the body, which reduces the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Helps to Maintain A Healthy Weight
As discussed earlier, low GI foods help to manage and maintain a healthy weight. Because low GI foods release insulin gradually into the blood, this plays a role in keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Besides helping you manage your hunger and curbing your cravings, low GI foods also aid in burning body fat and maintaining a steady metabolic rate. Apart from helping you attain your ideal weight, a low GI diet will prevent the onset of various diseases. Obesity is one of the underlying causes of some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Maintaining a healthy BMI will keep your body free from obesity-related diseases.
Good for Cardiovascular Health
A low GI diet can improve the health of your heart in a number of ways. In addition to improving the elasticity of blood vessel walls and in turn ensuring a healthy blood flow, a low GI diet also aids in lowering the blood glucose levels after meals. Consuming more low GI foods also improves blood cholesterol levels. A high-fibre, low GI diet will lower both the overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Adopting this diet will also decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, which is said to affect blood vessels. If you’ve been looking for a solution to trim that tummy, adopting a low GI diet might more than likely be the solution that you are looking for. A low GI diet will aid in reducing abdominal fat; however, be sure to combine this diet with a fairly active lifestyle to get more effective and faster results.
Sustains Energy Levels
Although high GI foods will rapidly increase your energy levels, it usually doesn’t do a very good job of sustaining your energy levels. However, a low GI diet will not leave you feeling fatigued or lethargic as quickly. Due to the gradual release of glucose in the blood, a low GI diet will ensure that your energy levels are sustained throughout the day, without depleting rapidly over a period of time. Typically foods that are low in GI are broken down slowly, allowing the glucose to enter your bloodstream slower. As a result, this gives your body a stable source of energy that will support all facilities over longer periods of time. The slow release of glucose also provides the body with another advantage, it maintains the natural balance of blood glucose in the system without the constant disruption of insulin peaking and plunging in the body. Long-term disruption of insulin balance can lead to various health problems including obesity, stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
A low GI diet definitely has its benefits, but it is important to take note of the nutrient content of certain foods before including them into your regular diet. The best way to get the most out of your diet is to combine healthy low GI foods with a fairly active lifestyle.