What You Need To Understand About The Glycemic Index

By Betty Brown

Diabetes is the commonest and most serious metabolic condition the world over. It is a condition whose cause is the total absence, reduced production or reduced effect of insulin hormone. The adoption of healthy lifestyles is one of the measures that can be undertaken to reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. Complications of diabetes are also halted or delayed. The glycemic index becomes important when one is considering the type of foods to be eaten.

The index is expressed numerically. The higher the number, the higher the potential of a given type of food to increase the levels of blood sugars. The general advice is that people who are at risk of diabetes or those already suffering from the condition should have less of foods that will increase their blood glucose levels and more of those with a lower index.

Foods that have a value of 55 or less are considered good. Those whose values fall between 56 and 69 are in the medium category and those that have a value of 70 or more cause the highest spikes in the levels of blood sugars and are therefore, considered unhealthy. Note that even for foods that have the same amount of carbohydrates, this value may differ.

The glycemic value of food is determined by a number of factors. One of them is the method that is used in preparation. If acids, fats and fiber are added to food as it is being prepared its index will be reduced to some extent. Cooking starches for too long has been shown to increase their value. Ripeness is an important factor in fruits with those that are most ripe contributing to the greatest increase in glucose.

Note that the index is not the sole determinant of food choice. The nutritional value of particular foods also need to be looked at. Remember that while some foods may be deemed harmful due to a relatively high value, their nutritional value is equally high due to the presence of minerals and vitamins. Another factor that may affect the choice is the size of portions. Larger portions are more likely to increase blood sugar levels.

Various foods have been shown to have fairly low indices. They include legumes, grains, nuts and vegetables among others. Since carbohydrates are a direct precursor of glucose, they have a high glycemic diet. Examples include white rice, white bread and potatoes. The highest values will be seen with sugary and processed foods such as cakes, candy and cookies.

Natural foods and those that have not been altered much generally have lower values than those that have been processed. Always ensure that you read and understand the labels on food items to know the index of any foodstuff you are buying from the store. If you are not sure about any of them, you will be well advised to consult with a nutritionist.

As you work towards achieving a healthier diet, be careful not to starve yourself. Diabetics not only have to worry about high blood sugar levels but the other extreme as well which is hypoglycemia. If the amount of calories is too low in the diet then the risk of slipping into hypoglycemia increases. This may lead to a reduction in the level of consciousness and even coma.

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