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Selecting beneficial sources of carbs can allow you to effectively control your blood sugar and help you lose weight. Consuming a diet rich in healthier types of carbohydrates can also help you to reduce your risk of developing cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease.
As part of a healthy diet or any reasonable plan to lose weight, it is vital to understand the importance of the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index measures how much a specific food elevates your blood sugar or glucose.
The glycemic index describes the effect of a specific amount of a food on blood sugar compared with the same amount of pure glucose or sugar. For example, a food with a glycemic index of 20 boosts blood sugar only 20% as much as pure glucose. One with a GI of 90 acts essentially as pure sugar.
People with diabetes understand that when they consume carbohydrates, their blood sugar goes up. The total amount of carbs you eat at a meal or in a snack essentially determines how high your blood sugar elevates.
However, the specific food itself also plays a role. As an example, a serving of white rice has nearly the same effect as eating pure table sugar—a rapid, high spike in blood sugar. By contrast, a serving of lentils or beans has a slower and more gradual effect on rise in blood sugar.
Foods with a high glycemic index result in a quick spike in insulin and blood glucose, while low glycemic foods have a slower and smaller effect on the rise in your blood sugar with a lower spike in insulin.
The net effect of eating lower glycemic foods is a more gradual rise in blood sugar and a lower insulin spike, ultimately making you feel full for a longer period of time, preventing surges in hunger and appetite.
It is important to select foods with a low glycemic index, as opposed to those with a high glycemic index. You can mix in other foods with a moderate glycemic index in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Glycemic Index Chart:
Low glycemic index (GI of 55 or less): beans, most fruits and vegetables, pasta, nuts, minimally processed grains, low-fat dairy foods.
Moderate glycemic index (GI 56 to 69):, corn, white and sweet potatoes couscous, white rice, Cream of Wheat and Mini Wheats.
High glycemic index (GI of 70 or higher): White bread, bagels, croissants, rice cakes, most crackers, cakes, doughnuts, most pre-packaged breakfast cereals.
Six Food Substitutions for Lowering Glycemic Index
- Eat brown rice instead of white rice.
- Eat bran cereal/flakes instead of cornflakes.
- Eat whole wheat pasta or bulgur instead of a baked potato.
- Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread.
- Eat steel cut oats instead of instant oatmeal.
- Eat green peas or leafy vegetables instead of corn.