If you are like most people, you have probably heard of the glycemic index, either from your medical doctor or from a passing conversation. But you may be wondering what it is exactly and also what it was designed to do.
The glycemic index is actually a number, but it is a number that tells you about the good and bad carbs that you are eating. It gives you an idea of how fast those carbs will be digested by your body, and also allows you to distinguish which carbs you should be eating and which you should avoid.
How To Read Glycemic Index Ratings
Because glycemic index is basically a number line, you are looking to keep the foods you eat in the good range of numbers and stay away from the bad. In this case, you want your foods to stay around or below 55, which is the number for good carbs. 55 to 69 is considered the medium range.
While it is not bad, it is something to keep an eye on and make sure that your number doesn’t go any higher. 70 and higher are your bad numbers, the foods that cause your glycemic index to become this high are foods that you need to cut out of your diet altogether.
Most food labels will tell you where on the scale that particular food ranks. This is something that you will want to pay attention to as you are shopping for food. Research states that you should search for foods that are either in their natural state or as close to it as you can get. These foods will have a lower number and will digest in the way your body needs them to.
Blood Sugar & The Glycemic Index
It is very important to remember the glycemic index if you are just starting out on your healthy eating journey or if you are a diabetic. The more processed a food item is, the higher the glycemic index and the more likely it is that the food will make your blood sugar spike. Carbs and some types of sugars will cause your body to produce more energy and digest foods at a more rapid pace.
Your overall goal is to find food that will digest slowly and allow your body to give you the energy you need, when you need it. Consuming large amounts of carbs and refined sugars can also give you a sugar high and your body will crash when the energy has run out. This can be a very dangerous situation for anyone to experience, so it is always a good idea to get more information before you head to the supermarket.
Using Resources Can Help
If you are unsure of what foods are better for you in the case of the glycemic index, make an appointment with your medical doctor and talk over the foods you need. They may also refer you to a nutritionist who can help you make a more detailed list of the foods that you should be eating and the foods that you need to avoid.
Once you are more comfortable with using the glycemic index on a regular basis, you will be able to tailor your diet yourself and choosing the right foods will become second nature to you.
If you do find yourself in the grocery store without your list of glycemic approved foods, there are many websites that you can pull up on your phone that will give you an answer on the spot.
There are so many resources for the glycemic index that are meant to make your life a lot easier and help you transition. While it may be nerve racking at first, it will actually become easier over time and you will automatically know which foods are the right ones to choose.
What Affects the Glycemic Index?
The number system with glycemic index is a starting point that you and your doctor should discuss in a way that works for you. There are some thing that can affect the index number that foods have, and unless you are eating them raw in their natural state, you will have to take into account any changes that might be made to that number.
There are three things that can affect where a food item falls on the glycemic index: preparation, ripeness, and if you are consuming other foods while eating a food on the glycemic index.
Unless you choose to eat the food in its natural state without cooking it or making any changes to it, the glycemic index number will change. And more often than not, the number is actually going to increase instead of decreasing. So, you will want to make sure that you find a balance between the middle range of the index and the good range.
Cooking your food for longer actually increase the glycemic index number for that food, and this is especially true of foods like pasta. If you overcook pasta, you are giving the starches more time to develop, which will bring your number up. It is also important to err on the side of caution and not overcook whole wheat pasta, either.
Adding other ingredients to your food, such as acids and fiber, can actually lower the glycemic index number for that food. Preparation of your food is very important when you are using the glycemic index in your diet. Taking the extra time to make sure the food is cooked properly and with ingredients that will only decrease the number is important.
While all fruits are different and have different glycemic index numbers, the majority of them will increase on the index the more you allow them to ripen. While you do not want to eat a fruit that is under ripe, you also don’t want to eat it over ripe.
As you probably know, for most fruits there is a fine line between ripe and over ripe. Talk to a nutritionist about when is best to eat fruit and how you can tell when it is ripe to eat. This will help you ensure that the banana sitting on your kitchen counter remains in the green for you on the glycemic index.
3. Food Choices
If you are going to be consuming foods that are lower on the glycemic index scale, you should pair them with foods that are higher on the scale. So, try to make sure that in each meal where you are consuming a high index food, you also have a lower one. While it will act similar to a counterweight and balance things out a bit, it won’t do so completely. So, you should try to avoid those bad carbs as much as you can.
Talk with your doctor at your routine check up to see how your weight and age can affect your body and the carbs you eat. Age has a lot to do with many health issues that people experience, and it can also affect not only how your body digests the carbs, but also how to carbs affect your body in general.
Diabetic complications can also cause issues with glycemic index foods and how they are digested, so make sure to bring that up to your doctor or nutritionist so they can help you get on the right path.
Lower Glycemic Index Foods Are Not Necessarily Healthier!
By now you should be ready to start making a list of questions for your doctor about making healthy food choices with the glycemic index. And while the glycemic index is a good guide to go by when you are choosing your foods and how to prepare them to make sure that they are still on the lower end of the scale, it is not the only thing that you need to take into consideration.
Just like with anything else, you need to make sure that the foods you are choosing are healthy by themselves, and then make smart choices about portion control. While you don’t necessarily have to count calories for every meal or snack, it is important to make sure that even your low glycemic foods have lower calories in them.
Eating foods that are low glycemic foods but high in calories is not going to give your body the fuel and nutrients that it needs.More often than not, you will hear doctors and nutritionists tell you that everything is better in moderation and that you should limit your portion sizes at your meals.
This is a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to using the glycemic index. You want to make sure that the foods you are eating are not only healthy, but in the right portion size for what your body needs.
If you are eating a plate full of low glycemic foods, you are not getting the benefit from those foods, and you are still making a bad food choice. In fact, chips have a lower glycemic number than peas, but peas are healthier and give your body more nutrients.
So you would want to make sure that you go with the peas and not the chips. There are actually some veggies that you can cut like potato chips and get the crunch or salt factor that you are craving without actually having the chips.
Using the Glycemic Load
If you are having trouble distinguishing between which lower and higher foods are better for you, try the glycemic load. The glycemic load will actually be able to tell you if the food you are eating is both low on the index scale and good for you.
You want to look for foods that have a load number of around 10 or lower. Over 20 is considered to be high and those are the foods that you would need to avoid or at least have in a significantly lower quantity.
This, again, is where portion control comes into play. It is important that you make sure that you are getting what you need, as well as what you want, but just on a smaller scale.
For people who want to try a diet with the glycemic load instead of following the glycemic index, there are still things that you need to know and make sure you take into account when you are grocery shopping.
Your diet should include foods that are high in whole grains, veggies, fruits, and healthy nuts like almonds. Try to avoid other types of nuts and foods with high starch content like pastas, white rice, and potatoes.
You can find riced veggies in most supermarkets now, which is simply vegetables in rice form. Or you could run your veggies through a food processor or blender at home, this would give you the feeling and texture of rice without actually having to indulge in regular rice.
Like with any other diet, it is important to cut out sugar, or at the very least limit it to rare occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries. Your primary beverage of choice should be water.
If you crave a taste to your drinks, you can always add zero calorie flavors. Even when you do indulge and have those sweets, make sure you limit yourself to a small piece and don’t go back for seconds.
Place yourself away from the foods that are high on the glycemic index and those that are unhealthy, and over time you will be able to walk past them without thinking about them. If you do indulge and have cake at a party, make sure there are veggies or lower glycemic foods on your plate to help balance everything out.
Glycemic Index Final Words
While changing your diet and trying to follow a diet plan that is comprised of lower index foods may be difficult at first, it is a very reachable goal. Take the time to do your own research, talk with your medical doctor, and get a referral to a nutritionist.
By taking advantage of the help around you, you will be better prepared to begin your journey, and you will be more likely to succeed. It will take time and a conscious effort on your part to make it happen, but if you put forth that effort, you should have no problem in succeeding.