Glycemic Index, what is it and how does it relate to diabetes?
The glycemic index (GI) is a term that may not seem very important when considering food consumption and nutritional information, however, knowing your way around how the glycemic index works can improve your judgment or choices on foods throughout the day to bring you better results on your fitness journey. Let’s examine:
✓ What the glycemic index is?
✓ Why is it important?
✓ How can knowing about GI help you with balancing your nutrition when suffering from diabetes?
What Is The Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a rate or a measurement for how fast after consumption do carbohydrates affect the blood sugar levels in the body in comparison to pure glucose.
In basic terms, the glycemic index measures how quickly after consumption will the energy from the food be released into your blood stream and affect your blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, the glycemic index measurement is not the only factor affecting blood sugar. The carbohydrate load of carbs you consume also affects the amount of change in blood sugar levels, so we need to look at both the GI and the carbohydrate load of foods to determine the impact of carbs.
A number of tables provide the information about GI of foods that you already have in your pantry, or that you encounter on a daily basis. The GI table separates into three sections:
1. Foods with GI below 55
2. Foods with GI from 55 to 70
3. Foods with GI higher than 70
GI below 55
Foods in this section represent the slower release of energy and therefore have a slower impact on raising blood sugar levels. These foods release the energy over a longer period of time, take longer to digest, and are great for when you need that long lasting energy for a long hiking trip or working outside the entire afternoon! Some common foods in this section are beans, vegetables, the majority of fruits, yogurt, pasta, wheat products, brown rice, oats, and nuts.
GI 55 – 70
This GI section has a little bit of both worlds. Some of the foods in this section include hamburger buns, some soft and soda drinks, certain cereals, couscous, or popcorn. These foods do not act nearly as fast as glucose, but still result in a certain increase in blood sugar levels after consumption.
GI 70 & higher
Foods in this section will provide energy and enter your bloodstream fairly quickly. Higher the GI, the more foods act like pure glucose. Some of the foods from this section are rice cakes, puffed cereal, candy and cookies, pretzels, waffles, white potatoes, pizza, and white bread.
Try to look at your current meal plan and check if you have any of these items on the list. Notice how certain foods such as brown and white rice have a completely different glycemic index. Brown rice (50) and white rice (72).
Why Is It Important?
It is crucial to know the GI of foods as it can provide you with valuable information about the release of energy after eating certain foods. Knowing how quickly you will be able to utilize the energy released from the carbs after eating can help you with setting up your nutrition plan and to determine which foods to eat in the morning, afternoon, or before you hit your next gym session!
For example, it would not be a great move to consume a high GI food right before going to sleep, as it will quickly spike your blood sugar and you will have all this excess energy available that you will not be able to use. On the contrary, foods with lower GI that release the energy over a longer period of time may not be the best option to choose before going to the gym, or when you need a quick energy boost.
Understanding the GI can really help when planning your meals for the day.
The Glycemic Index & Diabetes
Can understanding the glycemic index assist with diabetes?
Without a doubt, understanding the GI of foods and the associated release of energy and blood sugar effect can help you balance your daily meals to prevent sudden and unexpected blood sugar spikes. Knowing which foods affect your body can help you with balancing your diet to help you stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day and to potentially lose or regulate weight. Understanding how your body responds to and utilizes certain foods can help with being healthier and in more control of your insulin and blood sugar levels!
Take Home Message
The Glycemic Index is a topic that many of us do not think about on daily basis, however, understanding the GI can have great benefits for our health. Personally, whenever I am doing meal preparation for the week, I try to select a variety of foods for the morning, afternoon, and the evening based on the GI and other factors. It helps me to utilize the energy from carbs more efficiently by knowing how quickly my body will receive the energy after consumption. I can plan ahead my meals for pre and post-workout or for a late night snack to stay on track with my fitness progress. The GI is definitely a great tool to moderate insulin spikes, utilize the energy from food, and to be healthier and more fit each and every day!