The Glycemic Index

By:    Published: December 14, 2012

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The glycemic index is a tool that is used to help individuals keep track of their eating habits and monitor their carbohydrate and sugar intake. It was originally designed for individuals suffering from diabetes as a means of tracking carbohydrates, which can raise blood sugar levels. Though it was invented to help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels under control through food monitoring and healthy eating, it is now a popular tool for individuals who are attempting to lose weight.

What Is The Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index is a food monitoring tool that is used to keep track of sugar and carbohydrate intake. The index assigns a number rank to all foods according to how much the food raises blood sugar levels. All foods are given a ranking that ranges from low to high, depending on how much the food raises the level of blood sugar. The main function of the glycemic index is to target carbohydrates according to the correlation they have with blood sugar levels. Although all carbohydrates result in a rise in blood sugar levels when consumed, certain types of foods will raise blood sugar levels much quicker than other foods. Foods that raise blood sugar levels quickly will rank high on the glycemic index, while those that cause levels to rise slowly will rank lower on the index.

How Is the Glycemic Index Calculated?

The ranking index goes from 1 to 100. Foods that receive a high score of 70 or above would be labeled as high on the glycemic index. If a food falls in the 55-70 range, it is considered a moderate glycemic food. To receive a ranking of low on the glycemic index, a food must rank below 55. The longer it takes a food to cause a rise in blood sugar, the lower that food will rank on the glycemic index. Foods that cause rapid spikes in blood sugar will rank the highest on the index.

How Can The Glycemic Index Be Helpful?

The glycemic index is helpful for all individuals attempting to monitor their carbohydrate intake and keep track of blood sugar levels. However, it is particularly helpful for diabetics who must keep their blood sugar levels balanced. Sticking to a diet that consists primarily of low glycemic foods is the most effective way to keep blood sugar levels under control. This is true for both diabetics and individuals who wish to lose weight. The lower glycemic foods make individuals feel fuller for longer. This is because low glycemic foods are not as easily absorbed by the body as high glycemic foods. Most of the low glycemic foods contain large amounts of fiber, which helps to promote weight loss and keep blood sugar levels under control. They are also generally healthier and less processed than high glycemic foods.

How Does The Glycemic Index Promote Weight Loss?

The glycemic index helps individuals choose healthy foods that will not cause a spike in blood sugar. The majority of low glycemic foods are healthy and high in fiber, which helps individuals feel fuller for longer, thereby cutting back on hunger and food cravings. The glycemic index goes beyond healthy eating by targeting carbohydrates and the effect they have on blood sugar levels.

Many people assume that simply eating foods that are known to be healthy will result in weight loss, but this is not true for everyone. While fruit is a much healthier option than a cookie, it is important to understand that all fruits are not created equal, and some fruits can actually raise blood sugar levels almost as much as a cookie does. By using the glycemic index, individuals can determine which fruits raise blood sugar too quickly and can avoid them.

Who Can Benefit From Using the Glycemic Index?

Although the glycemic index was originally designed for diabetics, many individuals can benefit from using the index to keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy balance. The glycemic index is beneficial to diabetics who need to prevent blood sugar spikes, as well as individuals who are trying to lose weight or those who are attempting to maintain their healthy weight. Because following the glycemic index is such a healthy way of eating, individuals who do so may inadvertently cut their risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Related: 8 Natural Ways To Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Potential Problems With Using the Glycemic Index

Although the glycemic index can be an effective tool for healthy eating and preventing blood sugar spikes, there is more to it than just eating foods that are low on the glycemic index. In addition to glycemic ranking, there are other factors that can affect the outcome of using the glycemic index. If the glycemic index is not followed properly, it can hamper the results. It is important for individuals to understand all aspects of the index to increase their chances of success:

  • It can be misleading. The glycemic index can have different results for different foods, which can be misleading and confusing. This is because the index provides a score for glucose levels, but it does not provide the number of carbohydrates in a food serving. Comparing two different foods can be misleading, because of the difference in serving sizes.
  • Portion size is important. Many people mistakenly assume that they can eat unlimited amounts of food, as long as the foods are low on the glycemic index. Although low glycemic foods are generally low in calories, individuals who do not pay attention to portion control will likely have a difficult time losing weight.
  • Healthy foods can have a high glycemic index. Many individuals fall into the trap of assuming that all healthy foods are low glycemic foods. Foods like strawberries, apples and carrots are all high glycemic foods, despite them being considered healthy. Conversely, there are foods that are low on the glycemic index, but are rather unhealthy, such as heavy cream or diet soda. The key is to eat plenty of healthy, low glycemic foods. It is important to remember that not all foods are created equal in terms of nutrition, even if they have the same glycemic rating. When two foods rank the same on the glycemic index, such as water and diet soda, the healthier choice is obviously the way to go.

Although the glycemic index can be somewhat complicated at first, it can be an effective tool for monitoring your diet and balancing out blood sugar levels.

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