Glycemic Index

Glycemic index (GI) pertains to foods that have high carbohydrate content. Foods that have rich fat or protein content do not result in a rapid and significant rise in the blood sugar level after consuming them. Hence, the glycemic index is related to the quality of carbohydrates and not the quantity.

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Still many people are of the belief that it is enough for people suffering from diabetes to just avoid taking plain table sugar. However, now the glycemic index (GI) has shown that the results of consuming complex carbohydrates such as baked potatoes may be worse.

Using the glycemic index while preparing healthy meals helps one to keep their blood sugar levels steady and in check. This is all the more important for people suffering from diabetes. However, overweight people and athletes can also benefit from making use of GI while preparing their meals. In fact, glycemic index (GI) is an entirely new concept in healthy nutrition.

Precisely speaking, glycemic index is a measurement that tells us about the impact of consuming foods rich in carbohydrate content on our blood sugar. It is actually a new concept of analyzing foods high in carbohydrate content. Earlier, majority of the diet plans aimed at improving the blood sugar evaluated the sum of total carbohydrates, counting all types of sugars and starches, present in various foods. Glycemic index, however, goes further than this approach. It examines the actual effect that consumed foods have on our blood glucose levels. To say it differently, GI measures the real effect of carbohydrate rich foods on the blood sugar levels, rather than calculating the total amount of carbohydrate present in foods before they are eaten.

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Importance of glycemic index (GI)

Our body functions at its optimal level when the blood sugar levels are maintained reasonably steady. If the blood sugar levels decline sharply, one becomes indolent and may even feel hungrier. On the other hand, a spike in the blood sugar level stimulates the brain to send a signal to the pancreas to produce and secrete additional insulin. While insulin works to lower the blood sugar levels to normal, it mainly does so by changing surplus sugar into fat, which is stored by the body. At the same time, the pace of increase in the blood sugar levels is directly related to production of insulin. The higher the sugar levels in the blood stream, the more insulin will be produced and secreted by the pancreas. Consequently, it will force the blood sugar levels to drop too low.

Hence, when a person consumes foods that lead to large and quick glycemic reaction, initially when the blood sugar level goes up, they are likely to experience a rise in their energy levels as well as mood. However, this will be followed by a sequence of augmented fat storage, lassitude and feeling hungrier.

While it may seem that enhanced storage of fat in the body may be unhealthy, people suffering from diabetes, both diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2, experience problems that are even worse. Their body will become incapable of secreting or processing insulin and this will result in extremes spikes in their blood sugar levels. As a result, they will be suffering from a host of several other medical issues.

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The theory pertaining to the glycemic index (GI) is simple. It involves minimizing problems related to insulin by noting down as well as avoiding the foods that have the maximum influence on one blood sugar levels.

The most important question here is whether or not we should avoid all foods having high glycemic index (GI)?

Sometimes even non-diabetics may also experience a quick rise in the blood sugar levels together with an increased secretion of insulin. This is usually desirable. For instance, following rigorous physical activities insulin may help glucose to get into the muscle cells, where it helps in repairing damaged tissues. This is the main reason why several coaches as well as physical trainers suggest taking foods high in glycemic index (GI), especially sports drinks, soon after their workouts. Taking such foods helps to accelerate the recovery process.

How to measure the glycemic index (GI)

According to the glycemic index (GI), foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 10 depending on how rapidly they increase the levels of blood sugar. Foods that spike the blood sugar levels very quickly are ranked on the higher side, while foods that take considerable time to influence the blood sugar levels are ranked at the bottom of the scale.

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Measuring the glycemic index of any food involves a study wherein a minimum of 10 people are fed foods containing digestible carbohydrates. The carbohydrate should be of a particular weight, generally 50 grams or four tablespoons of sugar. Subsequently, the blood sugar levels of these volunteers are measured at intervals of 15 minutes to 30 minutes over a period of two hours with a view to create a blood sugar (glycemic) response curve.

Next, the blood sugar response of every food is evaluated against the response of a test food, which is usually glucose or table sugar and is allocated the number 100. After this, the blood sugar response for every subject who has undergone the test is averaged. The result is the glycemic index (GI) for that particular food. It is worth noting that each individual may have a somewhat dissimilar glycemic response to different foods. This is the main reason why such tests are undertaken on ten or more volunteers and the average result is taken as the GI for a particular food.

As data on the list for glycemic index (GI) is segregated into three basic groups one does not be confused with figures, but just concentrate on the basic objective of glycemic index. In other words, they just need to opt for foods that keep the levels of their blood sugar stable. This will result in a feeling of fullness for long, thereby improving their overall health.

The three different categories or basic groups of glycemic index (GI) data include low, medium and high. Low GI denotes an average reading of 55 or less, while a medium GI denotes a reading between 56 and 69. High GI means a reading of 70 or higher.

As a thumb rule one should try and ensure that their daily total glycemic load (GL) is below 100. If an individual takes three meals daily and each meal contains similar glycemic load, it is likely that they will cross the preferred total maximum glycemic load of 100. Therefore, in order to avoid surpassing the ideal total of 100, one should balance a lower glycemic meal with a higher one. Alternatively, they can also swap a meal with higher glycemic load for one with a lower glycemic load in order to lower the overall glycemic load of his/ her meal.

When we talk about the glycemic load of any particular food we actually refer to the number that approximates the level to which consumption of that food will spike an individual's blood sugar level. On a standard scale, one unit of glycemic load estimates the impact of eating one gram glucose. Precisely speaking, glycemic load denotes the amount of carbohydrate present in a particular food and the level to which consumption of each gram of the food will raise the level of glucose in the bloodstream. Therefore, it is clear that glycemic load (GL) is dependent on glycemic index (GI) of a particular food and it is determined by multiplying the weight of carbohydrate available in a particular food with the GI of the food and, subsequently, dividing the product by 100.

Apparently, glycemic load (GL) is an important factor in various dietary programs that are aimed at insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and weight loss. Findings of several studies have revealed that continued rise in the levels of blood sugar as well as insulin may result in greater chances of developing diabetes.


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