Glycemic Index

 glycemic index

     These terms can get to be a bit confusing.  Basically, the Glycemic Index (GI) is based off of the blood sugar response that 50g of carbohydrates from a specific food will give you. The GI is a rating system that gives a food a number on a scale of 0-100 that relates how fast and how high those carbohydrates will spike your blood sugar after consumption.

     It is talked about in Diabetes management because it is important to manage blood glucose levels to minimize complications.  By avoiding high glycemic foods, diabetics can avoid spikes in blood sugar levels, and also importantly low blood sugar.  To a person without Diabetes, it is also important to have steady blood sugar levels because too much can increase insulin production which over time will increase adipose stores, insulin resistant and Type II Diabetes. Too little blood sugar will leave you feeling weak and lethargic.

     Consequently, choosing foods that have a lower GI rating are generally healthier. They include whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins and vegetables.  Some exceptions include fruits, starchy vegetables like beets, and grains such as millet.

     The GI of a food can be effected by many factors including how old it is ( very ripe banana has a higher GI than a green one), how it is processed/cooked ( the more it is cooked, generally the higher the GI), its form (mashed vs. diced potatoes), its temperature (hot vs. cold potatoes), how much, and with what it is consumed (bread alone has a higher GI than bread with butter).

     The Glycemic Load (GL) is a bit more practical.  This term takes the GI number and adjusts it to reflect an amount normally consumed.  For example, eating 50g of carbs from pasta is realistic and won’t change the number that much, however eating 50g from watermelon would be quite a feat, so the number will most likely drop.

     The GL can be manipulated in a number of ways by altering the variables mentioned above.  For example, if there is a food with a higher GI you can lower its GL by combining it with a fat or protein to slow digestion and glucose metabolism.  For example, have a piece of fruit with some nuts or seeds, or eat beets with a fillet of fish for dinner.  If you are craving something sweet, you can substitute regular sugar with a less processed form such as Sucanat, which has a lower GI and bake with whole instead of light grains to lower the GI.

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Carbs

  healthy carbs

     Carbs, it’s a word we hear all the time.  There are people who don’t worry about them and devour them continuously, and then those who go “Oh I can’t have that I’m on a low carb diet!”.   Well I have a bit of information that may be helpful to you.  A healthy diet should consist of between 15-25% protein, 25-35% fat and about 50% carbohydrates.  Yes we should be eating carbs.  There are many varying opinions of carbs but after looking at some of the healthiest diets around the world this is what I have come up with.   I believe that they are very important and that no one should be on a low carb diet unless you have been specifically told to by your Dr. for certain health scenarios.  Carbohydrates break down into smaller sugars that provide our body with the energy it needs to thrive.

     Now first you must understand some basic things about carbohydrates.  There are four kinds: monsaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.   Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar.  Disaccharides are when two monosaccharides have joined together.  They are referred to as simple sugars.  They are found in dairy products, some starchy vegetables, fruits, processed grains  and sweeteners.   Now for the most part these are very bad for your health because of many reasons.  They cause and abrupt spike in your blood sugar which causes your pancreas to have to secrete lots of insulin to lower your blood sugar.  However simple sugars do not last long in your blood anyway thus you will “crash and burn” shortly after, leaving you stuck with excess insulin in your body which has its own side effects.  They also help feed Candida in your gut which can be very detrimental as well.

     Simple carbs however do have a healthier side.  If you are going to make a desert (we all crave it sometimes!) there are certain  substitutes that you can use that are healthy in moderation such as raw honey and  less processed grains.  As for vegetables it depends which ones you pick.  Having mashed white potatoes should not count as a serving of vegetables.   It breaks down in the form of a simple carb without many nutrients to justify it. Fruits contain a high amount of simple carbs, however fruits can be very beneficial to your health if used properly.  A great time to eat fruit is in the morning when you have low blood sugar from your fast overnight to bring it back up quickly to start your day.    I like to put fruit in my morning smoothie with a protein powder.  The protein actually slows digestion and uptake of glucose attenuating the rise in blood sugar and lowering the Glycemic Index of the fruit but that is for another post!

     Oligosaccharides consist of between three and ten sugar compounds, and polysaccharides are more than ten.  These are called complex carbs.  A complex carb will give you a slow build up in energy and last longer before tapering off, keeping your blood sugar more stable.  For choosing which complex carbs to eat, I recommend eating whole grains and vegetables including some starchy but less sugary ones.  Some great choices are oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes,  broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and so forth.   I did not include breads or cereal because most of them contain wheat, gluten and yeast.  I will have to write about that soon, but until then go ENJOY some healthy carbs!