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Healthy Living for Every Body! 
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Healthy Living for Every Body

 

MAKING SENSE OUT OF THE GLYCEMIC INDEX

strawberriesWHAT IS THE GLYCEMIC INDEX?           

Not all carbohydrates are created equal.  Those carbs that are highly processed and/or have added sugar are typically digested more quickly and cause high fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.  Carbs that are made with whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables digest more slowly, keeping your blood sugar levels more consistent. 

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrate-rich foods based on how quickly they are digested and absorbed into the body.  The more quickly a food causes your blood sugar level to increase, the higher Glycemic index it gets. 

 

 

IT’S ALL IN THE RANKING

Below is a sample list of foods which are high, moderate, and low in their gylcemic index:

apple
LOW
MODERATE
HIGH
sandwhich

Oatmeal,

Rye Bread,

Skim milk, Apples,

Oranges

Brown rice,

Bananas,

Raisins,

Shredded Wheat

White bread,

Corn flakes,

Instant rice,

Cereal

 

WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS TO THE GI?

The GI has its limitations.  For one, the GI can change based on how the food is cooked.  A fruit’s GI can be different, based on how ripe it is.  Also, the GI can be affected by fat or acid in the food.  As a result, sometimes the GI of a particular food may not be giving you the true picture of how it is absorbed. 

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO EATING LOWER GI FOODS?

Despite the limitations of the glycemic index, there are good long-term health reasons why you should be aware of and try to eat foods with a lower GI.  For example, lower GI foods are less processed.  Studies have shown that eating more of these whole grain foods helps to decrease your risk of diabetes and heart disease in the future.  By changing your eating habits now and eating more whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas and less processed foods and foods with added sugars, you are setting yourself up for more healthful eating for a lifetime.

THE GI AND ATHLETICS

Using the GI can be a helpful tool to fine-tune your performance if you are an athlete.  Before a game or workout, eating foods with a low glycemic index will give your body sustained, longer-term energy.  During a workout, you may want to take in carbs with a higher glycemic index in order to sustain your energy level.

 

whole grainsTHE BOTTOM LINE

In general, eating a diet rich in carbs with a lower GI will provide your body with good sources of fiber and more nutrient-dense nutrition.  In the long run, eating foods with a lower GI (more whole grain foods) will decrease your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease in the future.  For athletes, being aware of which foods are higher or lower in number may help your athletic performance.

 

References:  Nancy Clark’s ADA Sports Manual

 

 

    To learn more, please browse our Healthy Living resources:

 

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