Glycemic Index - July 2018

A new way of looking at carbs

By Brad King

There is a lot of talk these days about a new meal planning tool called the Glycemic Index. But there is also a lot of misunderstanding about the GI, which has actually been around for more than 20 years. It is a good idea to get to know and understand the Glycemic Index, because choosing foods with a low GI rating more often than choosing those with a high GI may help you to:
  • Control your blood glucose levels
  • Control your cholesterol levels
  • Control your appetite
  • Lower your risk of getting heart disease
  • Lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes

The basics The Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to glucose or white bread. When you eat food that contains carbohydrates, the sugar (glucose) from the food breaks down during digestion and gives you energy. After you eat, your blood glucose level rises; the speed at which the food is able to increase your blood glucose level is called the “glycemic response.” This glycemic response is influenced by many factors, including how much food you eat, how much the food is processed or even how the food is prepared (for example, pasta that is cooked al dente – or firm – has a slower glycemic response than pasta that is overcooked).

Good carbs, better carbs Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating recommends eating a high-carb diet with 55% of each day's calories coming from carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrates are the same, however. The Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrate-rich foods according to their glycemic response. Foods that raise your blood glucose level quickly have a higher GI rating than foods that raise your blood glucose level more slowly. In general, the lower the rating, the better the quality of carbohydrate. Not only do low GI foods raise your blood glucose more slowly and to a less dramatic peak than higher GI foods, but most low GI foods are all-around healthier choices. Low GI foods are usually low in calories and fat, while also being high in fibre, nutrients and antioxidants. Choosing low GI foods more often may help you increase levels of HDL (healthy) cholesterol in your blood and might help you control your appetite, as they tend to keep you feeling fuller, longer.

Choose wisely Try to choose low and medium GI foods more often than high GI foods. A GI of 55 or less ranks as low, a GI of 56 to 69 is medium, and a GI of 70 or more ranks as high. Use the chart below to help you make healthier choices. Here are some tips to help you lower the Glycemic Index of your daily meals:

  • Base your food choices primarily on overall nutrition – including vitamins, minerals and fibre.. Don't dismiss healthy foods such as white potatoes just because they have a high GI. Their other nutritional benefits make them good choices.
  • Try to choose at least one low GI food at each meal.
  • If you choose a high GI food, combine it with a low GI food, for an overall medium GI meal. For example, half a bagel (high GI) with a bowl of chili (low GI), or corn flakes cereal (high GI) topped with a spoonful of All Bran (low GI) and some strawberries (low GI).
  • Limit the amount of processed, refined starchy foods, as they tend to be low in fibre and other nutrients and have a higher GI.
  • Try new foods that have a low GI. Experiment with beans, legumes and lentils by including them in dishes such as chili, soups and salad.
  • Eat whole grain, pumpernickel and oat bran bread more often than white bread.
  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have a low GI, so they break down into sugar slowly in your body. Canada's Food Guide recommends five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Enjoy a variety!
  • Choose parboiled, brown or white rice more often than instant rice.
  • Eat pasta, rice, yams, lima beans or baked potatoes more often than mashed, boiled or instant potatoes. Eating potatoes cold, as in a salad, reduces their GI (but go easy on the mayo dressing).
  • Use vinaigrette instead of a creamy salad dressing. It's lower in fat, plus the acidity of the vinegar slows digestion, lowering the meal's GI.
  • Watch your portion sizes; the bigger the portion, the more it will increase your blood glucose, regardless of its GI rank. For more information about healthy portion sizes, see the Handy Portion Guide .
  • Check your blood glucose level before eating and one to two hours afterwards to see how your body handles the meal.
Remember that the Glycemic Index is just one part healthy eating. Don't forget to:
  • Eat at regular times
  • Choose a variety of foods from all food groups
  • Limit sugar and sweets
  • Reduce the amount of fat you eat
  • Include foods high in fibre
  • Limit salt, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Choose heart healthy fats such as canola and olive oil.
Low Glycemic Foods - Rated 20-49 (best choices)

All berries Cherries Apples Oranges Peaches Apricots Plums Grapefruit Pears
Nuts and Seeds:
Almonds, Walnuts Peanuts Flaxseeds Pumpkin seeds Sunflower seeds Sweeteners: Stevia FOS (frycto-oligo-saccharides)
Vegetables: Artichokes Asparagus Black-eyed peas Split peas Bulgur Azuki beans Butter beans Black beans Garbanzo beans Celery All lettuces Navy beans Peppers Soybeans Tomatoes Onions
Grains: All bran cereals Oatmeal/Oat bran Whole grain pastas Barley Beverages: Fresh vegetable juice Tomato juice Green tea Water
Dairy: Organic milk Organic plain yogurt (no added sugar) Low-fat cottage cheese
Moderate-Glycemic Foods - Rated 50-69 (Limit Consumption)

Grapes Watermelons Pineapples Mangos Kiwis Bananas (semi-hard) Figs
Beverages: Apple juice Orange juice Grapefruit juice Black cherry juice Blueberry juice
Vegetables: Beets Carrots Corn on the cob Lima beans Yams Sweet potatoes Potatoes (red, white) Peas
Sweeteners: Unrefined raw honey Organic unrefined brown sugar Unprocessed blackstrap molasses Organic, grade C maple syrup
Grains: Basmati rice Brown rice Wild rice Buckwheat Muesli Most pastas Pita bread Popcorn Whole wheat bread (100% stone-ground) Whole grain breads Pumpernickel bread
Dairy: Custard
High-Glycemic Foods - Rated 70-100 (Eat at your own Risk)

Most dried fruits Bananas (ripe) Papayas
Beverages: Soft drinks and sport drinks (added sugars) Carrot juice
Sweeteners: Corn syrup solids Sucrose (table sugar) Glucose and glucose polymers (maltodextrin-based drinks) Honey Maltose High-fructose corn syrup Barley malt
Vegetables: Parsnips Potato (baked) Cooked carrots French fries Yams Sweet corn Potato chips Dairy: Ice cream
Grains: White bread Whole wheat bread French bread Bagels Cold Cereal Breakfast cereals (refined with added sugar) Corn chips Cornflakes Rice cakes Crackers and crispbread Doughnuts Hamburger and hotdog buns White rice Muffins (due to the processed flour) Pancakes Puffed rice or wheat Pretzels Shredded wheat Toaster waffles
For more information check out these websites: Canadian Diabetes Association Canada's Food Guide and our recipe page

Brad KingBrad's Bio: Performance Nutritionist Nutritional Researcher - Brad King Website

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