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TOPIC: Carbohydrates and the GLycemic Index

Carbohydrates and the GLycemic Index 18 Feb 2007 14:16 #3549

  • Debra
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Good Carb, Bad Carb, Geez What's a Girl to Do?

I get a lot of questions about good carbs, bad carbs and the glycemic . How do we know a food is high or low on the glycemic index?  Just try to remember this main concept: (while on the Cycle Diet or any diet) -  the closer you are to the original whole food or grain the better off you will be.  According to the glycemic index you will reduce the roller-coaster spikes in blood insulin.  The main problem we see with the glycemic index measurement is that it's based soley on the increase of blood sugar of one food at a time. As an example; 1 piece of plain white bread the basis of the index of (100), 1 piece of fruit, or 1 oz of cheese.

Most of us, however, do not eat only one food at a time and it's at that time the glycemic index blurs. If you eat a whole grain food or high fiber food and add a pad of butter or margarine- what then happens to the glycemic index of the combined food? Well it goes way down, but does that mean it's better for you? No not necessarily, but if you're someone who needs to pay close attention to carbs when matching insulin, than yes maybe.

If you'd like to know more about carbohydrates read on from Harvard School of Public Health - [font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]

Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Index

[font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]A new system for classifying carbohydrates calls into question many of the old assumptions about how carbohydrates affect health. This new system, known as the glycemic index, measures how fast and how far blood sugar rises after you eat a food that contains carbohydrates. ( 1 ).[/font]

[font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]The most comprehensive list of the glycemic index of foods was published in the July, 2002, issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ( 2 ). A searchable database maintained by the University of Sydney is available online.[/font]

Diets filled with high-glycemic-index foods, which cause quick and strong increases in blood sugar levels, have been linked to an increased risk for both diabetes ( 3 , 4 ) and heart disease. ( 5 , 6 ) On the other hand, lower GI foods have been shown to help control type 2 diabetes. ( 7 )

[font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]One of the most important factors that determine a food's glycemic index is how highly processed its carbohydrates are. Processing carbohydrates removes the fiber-rich outer bran and the vitamin- and mineral-rich inner germ, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm. (See Fiber for more information on whole-grain foods.)[/font]

[font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Other factors that influence how quickly the carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar include:[/font]

  • [font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Fiber content. Fiber shields the starchy carbohydrates in food immediate and rapid attack by digestive enzymes. This slows the release of sugar molecules into the bloodstream.
  • [font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Ripeness. Ripe fruits and vegetables tend to have more sugar than unripe ones, and so tend to have a higher glycemic index.
  • [font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Type of starch. Starch comes in many different configurations. Some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. The starch in potatoes, for example, is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.
  • [font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Fat content and acid content. The more fat or acid a food contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into the bloodstream. [/font]
  • [font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Physical form.[/font][font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"] Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested, and so has a higher glycemic index, than more coarsely ground grain.[/font]
All these elements lead to sometimes counterintuitive results. Some foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, quickly raise blood sugar levels, while some foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as whole fruit, raise blood sugar levels more slowly.

There is one thing that a food's glycemic index does not tell us: the relative amount of carbohydrate in a given food. Take watermelon as an example; the sweet-tasting fruit has a high glycemic index. But a slice of watermelon has only a small amount of carbohydrate per serving (as the name suggests, watermelon is made up mostly of water). Looking at the glycemic index alone may not tell us everything we need to know about a food's impact on blood sugar levels. So researchers have developed a new way of classifying foods that takes into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food and the impact of that carbohydrate on blood sugar levels. This measure is called the glycemic load. ( 8 , 9 ) A food's glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate it contains. (For a listing of low, medium and high glycemic load foods, see the sidebar, Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Load .)

[font="Times New Roman, Times, serif"]Although the fine points of the glycemic index and glycemic load may seem complicated, the basic message is simple: Whenever possible, replace highly processed grains, cereals, and sugars with minimally processed whole-grain products. And only eat potatoes - once on the list of preferred complex carbohydrates - occasionally because of their high glycemic index and glycemic load.[/font]

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