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Glycemic Index: Everything You Should Know

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Are you always worried about the sugar levels in your body? Or were you always scolded as a child for munching on too many chocolates? If yes, then adulthood is not much different!

No matter if now your parents do not scold you, it’s your responsibility to follow a healthy eating schedule for your body.

The primary reason behind aiming for healthy foods is because health is not just a term to focus on by the health enthusiasts or fitness freaks. Being healthy is a lifestyle that you should opt for!

But what should you know to be healthy? There are a plethora of attributes you need to know to be healthy, one such attribute is the glycemic index.

So if you want to learn all about the glycemic index then this is the right article you have come across. Let’s get started!

What Is The Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic index helps to measure the amount of potential a particular food item has to raise your blood sugar.

Hence, the glycemic index helps to segregate different food items that have carbohydrates according to the potential with which they could[1] raise the blood sugar levels in your body.

The major reason behind the difference in the glycemic index of different food items is that the carbs may react in your body in different ways.

First of all, simple carbohydrates like the sugars found in sweet desserts or soda could be broken down faster in your system than the more complex carbohydrates.

This means these carbohydrates could be more easily changed into glucose by your body as compared to the more slowly digested carbs like whole grains.

Due to the same reason, they have more potential to amplify the blood sugar levels in your body.

In short, a glycemic index is a number that could give you a rough idea about how fast your body could convert a particular food item into glucose.

So two food items with the same amount of carbohydrates may even have different Glycemic index numbers.

The glycemic index numbers range from 0 to 100. The lower the number, the lower impact it will have on your blood sugar levels.

Importance Of Glycemic Index

As you know, a certain amount of glucose is required by your body for the proper functioning of the different metabolic processes.

Generally, the estimated amount of obligatory requirement of glucose for a human body could be around 200 grams in a single day.

The major reason behind the requirement for glucose is that[2]your brain depends on oxygen as well as glucose.

Hence maintaining a proper glucose level in the blood is quite important for our health.
But make sure to pay heed to the word ‘proper’ here.

Any excess or deficient levels of glucose in the blood could be quite detrimental to your health.

Are there times when you always feel lethargic and hungry during the day, even after your meals? Then worry not, this could be because of the low blood glucose levels in your body.

Different Levels Of Glucose In The Body

Let’s have a glance at the different levels of glucose in your body and how they could affect your health.

Knowing the different issues that could arise in your body when the level of glucose is not optimum simply shows the importance of knowing the glycemic index.

  • Hypoglycemia

    Hypoglycemia is a situation under which the blood sugar levels in your body are below 40MG per DL.

    This condition could[3]be severe to your health because it may cause coma, stupor, and in rare situations even death.

    Other symptoms of hypoglycemia include excessive sweating, shakiness, excessive hunger, fatigue, fainting, or lightheadedness

  • Hyperglycemia

    This is a situation under which the blood sugar levels in your body are more than 180MG per DL.

    Since there is too much sugar in your blood in hyperglycemia, it could[4]result in certain side effects like vomiting, vision issues, rapid heartbeat, thirst, or excessive hunger.

    If left untreated, these symptoms could even result in certain serious health issues.

  • In rare situations, the level of glucose in your body could be above 300 to 500MG per DL. Since there is excess glucose in your blood, it is stored in the form of fat.

    However, these levels could cause acidosis and might even result in a coma.

    Foods that have a very high glycemic index might provide you with a sudden rush of energy, but as the amount of fat stored in your body increases, they could make you lazy.

Thus, these are the different risks of not having optimal blood sugar levels in your body.

On the other hand, if you have an optimum level of blood sugar in your body then there could be several benefits.

An ideal level of blood sugar in the body may help to curb your appetite.

Thus, facilitating weight loss, increasing your energy levels, preventing any side effects related to diabetes, lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and preventing type 2 diabetes.

Glycemic Index Of Different Foods

  1. High Glycemic Index Foods

    Here is a list of the different food items which have a glycemic index of more than 70. They could[5]also cause obesity.

    • Fast food like cheeseburgers, pizza, or fried chicken.
    • Potatoes in different forms like French fries or mashed potatoes.
    • Heavily processed grains like white pasta, white rice, or white bread.
    • Processed foods like canned goods, corn chips, etc.
  2. Low Glycemic Index Foods

    Here is a list of the food items which have a Glycemic index of 50 or less.

    • Fruits like[6]apples, strawberries, and pears.
    • Vegetables like Peppers, lettuce or tomatoes.
    • Sweets like dark chocolate, have more than 70% cocoa content.
    • Nuts like peanuts or cashews.
    • Legumes like[7]Beans or chickpeas.
    • Dairy like plain yogurt or full-fat milk.

The GI Diet

A glycemic index diet refers to a diet that helps to regulate your blood sugar levels. Though the Glycemic index is not a diet in itself, it could serve as a tool to guide your food choices.

Moreover, what’s beneficial about this diet is that it may not specify certain portion sizes or limit the number of calories, carbohydrates, and fats you consume.

The major purpose of following this diet may be to help you in limiting the consumption of carbohydrate foods that may[8]cause a spike in your blood sugar levels.

Hence, you may even follow this diet as a method to stay at bay from several chronic diseases and even promote your weight loss process.

Other than this, it could be used as a part of your diabetes treatment plan to maintain your blood sugar levels.

Change In Glycemic Index

The Ingredients you get from the grocery store and the meals you get on your plate, both have a different glycemic index.

The only reason behind this is that the glycemic index of an ingredient constantly changes due to several aspects. Let’s have a look at these factors.

  • Ripeness

    As you all know, with[9]time fruits like bananas and apples may ripen. However, as the fruits get ripened, their glycemic index also increases.

  • Preparation

    When you cook different ingredients, they undergo a chemical as well as physical change due to which the glycemic index of these ingredients may alter.

    If you cook starches like pasta, then the more you cook them, the more will be their glycemic index.

    On the other hand, fire, acid, or fats like juice, vinegar, or lemon could[10]lower the glycemic index of different ingredients.

  • Eating Different Types Of Foods

    You could also bring change in the glycemic index of your entire meal by pairing different types of foods together.

    This means when you pair a high glycemic index food with a low glycemic index food, then you could reduce the overall glycemic index of the entire meal.

    Thus, these are the different ways through which you could bring about a change in the overall glycemic index of the meal you eat.

    Other than this, different factors like your age, the metabolism of your body, and the activity level of your body also affect the way your body absorbs the carbs.

    Your body may absorb foods slowly in case you have complications like gastroparesis.

Let Us Wrap It Up

Thus, this was all you need to know about the glycemic index.

Though the Glycemic Index is a very crucial factor that you should consider for your health, you may also make sure that it is not just the only thing to focus on.

This is because if a food item has a low glycemic index, then it does not necessarily mean that it is filled with different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

So the portion sizes and the type of ingredients you eat matter too. Hopefully, this article has helped you to know the different aspects of the glycemic index.

Good luck with your healthy eating journey!

References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.
 
  1. Amin Esfahani,Julia M W Wong,Arash Mirrahimi,et al. The glycemic index: physiological significance Review J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28 Suppl:439S-445S. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2009.10718109. Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20234030/
  2. Sonia Vega-López,Bernard J. Venn,and Joanne L. Slavin Relevance of the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Body Weight, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease Nutrients. 2018 Oct; 10(10): 1361.Published online 2018 Sep 22. doi: 10.3390/nu10101361
  3. Philip Mathew; Deepu Thoppil. Hypoglycemia Last Update: July 23, 2022. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534841/
  4. MIchelle Mouri; Madhu Badireddy. Hyperglycemia Last Update: April 28, 2022. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430900/
  5. D S Ludwig,J A Majzoub,A Al-Zahrani,et al. High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity Clinical Trial Pediatrics. 1999 Mar;103(3):E26. doi: 10.1542/peds.103.3.e26. Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10049982/
  6. Jiacan Lu, Wenqi Zhao, Linlin Wang,et al. Apple Preload Halved the Postprandial Glycaemic Response of Rice Meal in Healthy Subjects Nutrients. 2019 Dec; 11(12): 2912.Published online 2019 Dec 2. doi: 10.3390/nu11122912
  7. Donna M. Winham,Andrea M. Hutchins,and Sharon V. Thompson Glycemic Response to Black Beans and Chickpeas as Part of a Rice Meal: A Randomized Cross-Over Trial Nutrients. 2017 Oct; 9(10): 1095.Published online 2017 Oct 4. doi: 10.3390/nu9101095
  8. Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar Available from:https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
  9. Bananas Avaiable from:https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/
  10. Bukola C. Adedayo,Adeniyi A. Adebayo,Esther E. Nwanna,et al. Effect of cooking on glycemic index, antioxidant activities, α‐amylase, and α‐glucosidase inhibitory properties of two rice varieties Food Sci Nutr. 2018 Nov; 6(8): 2301–2307.Published online 2018 Oct 11. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.806

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