The Glycemic Index, is a system that measures the speed at which a particular carbohydrate raises blood sugar, after that food is eaten. Carbohydrate foods are those that contain simple sugars (glucose) and are found in plant foods and milk products.
The rating system is from 0 to 100. Foods that cause a dramatic rise in blood sugar, and quickly absorbed, are given a rating of 70 to 100. Foods that cause a moderate rise in blood sugar, and time to be absorbed are given a 55 to 70 rating. Foods that take the longest time to raise the blood sugar and be absorbed, are given a rating of less than 55. Sugar is given a value of 100, and each food is compared to sugar to receive its rating.
This rating system gives you a basis by which you can compare the carbohydrates that you eat. It is best to include many low GI - foods in your diet. This helps to keep your blood sugar balanced, rather than spiking and falling blood sugar levels, which will cause greater hunger and cravings.
The benefits of eating a Low G.I. Diet are many. Low - GI foods tend to contain more fiber, so you will feel fuller longer. Your blood sugar will rise slower after you eat, and you will have improved blood sugar control, more energy, and feel less tired and lethargic after eating.
Low G.I. Diets can be helpful in losing weight also, because without high carbohydrate levels, your body is able to use stored fat over carbohydrates and protein for energy.
I love this system of rating carbohydrates because it is simple to understand. Most G.I.Diet books rate foods by a color coding system. Green light foods are the lower value foods and are rated a go. Eat a lot of them. Yellow light foods are the medium value foods and are rated "eat with caution". Red light foods are the high value foods and they are foods that you should "eat sparingly", especially if you are trying to lose weight. There are some tricks to be learned in this system that will allow you to eat red light foods.
An entire diet system has been developed around the Glycemic Index rating system, and it has helped people to lose weight and have much better control of their blood sugar. This is called the Glycemic Index Diet, but it is not really a diet, but a Lifestyle Solution for controlling carbohydrates in your life. Carbohydrates are foods that cause most of us trouble.
The problem with the GI rating system for foods, is that a food may rate low on the system, yet that does not mean it is actually better for you, than one that rates higher. Many foods are just empty calories. A candy bar with nuts, might score below a sweet potato, but the sweet potato is full of phytonutrients that are healthy, and the candy bar is empty calories. You need to always keep health in mind.
Another fact about the Glycemic Index, is that most of us do not eat our foods by themselves, but combined with other foods. When you combine several foods, the GI Indexes of several foods are combined, and the chemistry is changed and a new number results, called your GI load. The GI load is how this combination of food actually affects your blood sugar. It would be impossible to list every food combination possible, and develop a GI load chart. Should you just abandon the G.I. Diet then, or how would you use it?
I still think that this concept is awesome! I use it to rate my plate. Are most of my foods low G.I. foods? If they are, then my meal is a success. If every food on my plate is a high G.I. food, I might have a problem! I can plan one high glycemic food, and fill in the rest of my foods with lower glycemic foods.
Another way I use this idea is for my snacks, which I do eat alone. I would never eat a high-glycemic snack, without pairing it with a food that is full of fiber or protein. Fiber and protein, slow down digestion, and decrease the glycemic load, and my blood sugar will remain more constant. Doing this, allows me to add some higher glycemic foods into my life!
I believe that the more you know, the more you can eat, and the Glycemic Index is another tool that allows me to add healthy diet habits to my life.