Have you ever heard of the Glycemic Index? It kind of sounds important – doesn’t it? Like maybe something you should be aware of! Well, if you’re looking to drop a few pounds, or even maintain your weight, then you definitely should know about the Glycemic Index. So, what exactly is the Glycemic Index? And how can it help you lose weight? Let’s take a closer look . . .
Have you ever heard of the Glycemic Index? It kind of sounds important – doesn’t it? Like maybe something you should be aware of! Well, if you’re looking to drop a few pounds, or even maintain your weight, then you definitely should know about the Glycemic Index.
So, what exactly is the Glycemic Index? And how can it help you lose weight? Let’s take a closer look . . .
The Glycemic Index Defined
Invented in the early 1980’s by researchers at the University of Toronto (originally as a tool to help control diabetes), the Glycemic Index (or GI for short) is a numerical system that ranks carbohydrates by their effect on your blood sugar levels.
The GI assigns foods containing carbohydrates a number based on how they affect your blood sugar (or blood glucose) after you eat them. The ranges of the scale include the following:
• Foods with a GI less than 55 cause a tiny rise in blood sugar and are considered “low GI”
• Foods with a GI of 56-69 cause a moderate rise in blood sugar and are considered “medium GI”
• Foods with a GI more than 70 cause a severe rise in blood sugar and are considered “high GI”
Foods with lower GI carbohydrates are healthier than those with high GI carbohydrates.
A good look at where specific foods fall on the Glycemic Index sheds insight into the items that are surprisingly high or low in glucose. Many of the foods that you’d expect to be high on the scale, such fruits, table sugar and honey, are where you think they would be, but many things rank even higher—starchy foods, including white bread, white rice and potatoes, for example.
How the Glycemic Index Affects You
Knowing where foods fall on the Glycemic Index is important because your body performs most efficiently when blood sugar levels remain constant. If your blood sugar drops too low, you can feel dizzy, tired and unusually hungry. When blood sugar rises too high, your body creates more insulin to bring it back within a normal range. However, if your body secretes too much insulin, then blood sugar levels will below an ideal range.
Because the foods you eat can affect your blood sugar levels, you may feel an initial elevation in energy and mood when you eat foods that cause your blood sugar to rise. Unfortunately, this “high” is immediately followed by lethargy and hunger, which leads to increased fat storage and excess weight over time.
And, according to Susan Roberts, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston, high-GI carbohydrates may be behind America’s epidemic levels of obesity, including children. In one study, overweight children of the average age of 10 spent four months on either a low-GI diet or a low-fat diet of equal calories. The clear winner was the low-GI diet, with an average weight loss of 4.5 pounds compared to 2.8 pounds on the low-fat diet.
“GI is not the complete answer to everyone’s weight problem,” says Roberts. “But aside from the research, I am personally convinced that low-GI diets help people lose weight, myself included. My husband and I were eating a relatively high-GI instant oatmeal or low-GI Irish oatmeal for breakfast, and I’d call and ask how he felt two hours later. Both of us noticed a big decrease in hunger with a low-GI oatmeal. Now I’ve become very aware of the GI of what I eat and quite consistently find myself hungrier after very high GI foods such as bagels, mashed potatoes and the like.”
If you’d like to see where your favorite foods fall on the list, you can visit any number of websites simply by doing a search for “Glycemic Index.” It’s OK to indulge in some high-GI foods every once in awhile, but by following a diet of mostly low-GI foods, you can be on your way to losing those pesky pounds and achieving overall better health!