The Glycemic Index tells you how much a given food will increase your blood sugar level. That’s the basic idea. But do you know what it means for your health and how it affects your body in the long term? Is it something you should focus on when choosing meals? How important is it really?
Glycemic Index 101
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly the sugar in a food enters your bloodstream. Low-GI foods, thanks to their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, which is desirable. Some good examples would be boiled potatoes, pumpkin, or rice and all fresh vegetables and fruits. High-GI foods are the opposite, they shove sugar into our bloodstream too quickly, which can be dangerous. These would typically be foods like French fries, candy, cakes, pastries, pizza, and ice cream.
How does it affect our health?
The home of the Glycemic Index, the Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney has this to say about the effects of GI on health:
“Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance. Recent studies from Harvard School of Public Health indicate that the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the GI of the overall diet.”
It’s quite clear that keeping GI low is important for your health. Just keep in mind that GI is only one of many attributes of a food. You should always look at the whole picture. A baked carrot will have a very high GI, but it can definitely be part of a healthy meal. Don’t focus only on GI, look at the whole picture.
How can you reduce the GI of your diet?
Step one is to eliminate highly processed foods like the ones mentioned in the first paragraph. Step two is to add foods that contain fibre, protein, or fat. A well-balanced meal like that will generally have a lower GI. Step three is to cook foods gently. The type of food preparation you use has a big impact on the GI. For example boiled potatoes have a fairly low GI but as soon as you bake them or fry them, their GI becomes very high.
Spend a lot of time wondering how cooking method effects the GI of your sweet potato? Just me? Well anyway, there's a study for that. Sweet potatoes get a lot of love, a lot of the time for their low GI. But cooking can alter this dramatically, this study put the GI of an uncooked sweet potato at 32 rising to 64 when baked! Some studies put it much higher. So if you care about such things, and there are a variety of reasons to eat low GI, then always consider cooking method. In the case of the sweet potato the increase comes from the way the starches in sweet potatoes gelatinise during cooking. Glycemic Index of Sweet Potato as Affected by Cooking Methods (Allen et al, 2012) #nutrition #glycemicindex #plantbased
This month we will be looking at different types of food preparation that allow you to keep the GI of your meals low, and that also preserve the nutritional value of your ingredients.