Archive for June 8th, 2009

Glycemic Diet… yes, it really can matter.

The glycemic index is a measure of the effect a carbohydrate has on a person’s blood glucose level in a two hour period. The glycemic index score of a particular food is a number the amount of rise in blood glucose divided by the standard (glucose) and multiplied by 100.  That gives us the number associated with foods on a GI chart. Eating foods with a lower GI should equate to slower absorption, lower blood glucose rise, and a lower insulin release, therefore lower blood lipid counts. For example white bread will have a very high GI and will therefore enter the bloodstream very quickly and cause a sharp spike in insulin response, causing the fabled sugar rush and insulin crash that so many people experience often.  Eating an avocado on the other hand will have a much lower effect on insulin response and therefore a more even energy release.  Repeatedly spiking insulin and stressing our systems has been shown to lead to insulin resistance and eventually to Type II diabetes, and oxidative vascular damage leading to heart disease.  The GI can be used fairly effectively to smooth out the peaks and valleys of the typical American diet and therefore help one prevent some major disease processes.  There are problems with some GI charts and a few issues with the concept itself. First conceptually the charts are not very precise because the GI of a particular food can change due to ripeness, preparation, and processing.  Second everybody is different and we all digest very differently and nowhere in the GI is there a thought about how the food will effect a person over a long period of time.  Certain things seem like a good idea based on GI charts while we know that they are not, like artificial sweeteners and fructose.  There are so many other problems with these sweeteners that no matter how good they appear on the charts they should never be considered healthy. Some foods labeled as high GI (carrots) are actually so good for you that they should be included in almost any healthy diet. So the glycemic index is not perfect, but it can be used as a general tool to effectively to point you in the right direction towards health.  It is easy to se on a GI chart that breads and pastas will have a more negative effect on blood sugar than vegetables and fruits.  Just one more reason to eat all the fresh fruits and veggies that you can!

June 2009
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