What Is the Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index Defined

Glycemic Index (GI) is a way to measure glucose levels after carbohydrate consumption. Glucose is a medical term meaning sugar that is produced from carbohydrate intake.

For strength of body and mind, carbohydrates are a necessary component to give the body the fuel it needs to tackle each new day, but it’s easy to exceed carbohydrate intake, and like so many other vices, too many carbohydrates will eventually lead to physical challenges, most assuredly obesity. It is therefore important to manage carbohydrate intake to keep the GI in check and blood sugars from exceeding moderate levels.

It should be noted that carbohydrates are a necessary and important part of any diet and should not be discarded, but, consumed with practicality.

Pasta, bread, rice, grains, potatoes, anything with sugar, including chocolate, are all sources of carbohydrates and are foods that people often overindulge in because sugar and food laden with sugar are what many refer to as “comfort food.” It takes personal resolution to practice discipline when maintaining a steady, healthful diet and moderate carbohydrate intake.

To keep the body running optimally, blood glucose levels should be given consideration. It’s not often, however, that when most people sit down to eat a meal they are considering GI levels, but it is something to certainly keep in mind when planning meals because sugar levels rise after food is consumed, which immediately signals the pancreas to release insulin. It is the pancreas’s job to release insulin so blood sugar levels do not exceed normal levels.

Over years of overindulgence, the pancreas eventually stops producing insulin as it should and this is when real health problems can begin such as kidney damage, resulting in Type 2 diabetes that could eventually lead to permanent damage of the eyes and nerves. When blood quits circulating at optimum levels, it can even lead to digit or limb amputation.

No one of course, especially the young, want to consider the hazards of growing old, but if people were to be more conscientious of their health in their youth it can mean a difference when middle and old age turn into a reality.

It is therefore never too early to begin giving GI levels consideration. Tests for the GI delve a little deeper when checked by a health practitioner, revealing the actual influence food has on blood sugar levels.

The Importance of Maintaining Steady GI Levels

Diets have come and gone over the years, many that have focused exclusively on low carbohydrate intake, which is equivalent to one that keeps GI levels in check.

Headlines have consistently been made over the years to educate the public about diet maintenance. People are now aware more than ever that a diet high in fat and carbohydrates has been linked to a host of medical conditions once the GI is no longer manageable, such as, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease and the list goes on.

GI Rating System & GI Values

Since the GI has become an integral part of how healthcare professionals measure blood sugar or glucose levels, healthcare organizations have classified foods in categories as “high,” medium,” “low,” and “very low.”

  • 0 to 55 is considered “low”
  • 56 to 69 is considered “medium”
  • 70 or higher is considered “high”

Examples of Food Impact

Carbohydrate intake and GI go hand in hand but not all carbohydrates have the same effect and are unique when it comes to measurement, and although people may not want to believe it’s true there is a difference when it comes to a slice of whole wheat bread versus a slice of plain white bread.

Both share equal amounts of starch but starch from the white bread when broken down by the digestive system releases more starch, turning into more sugar than the whole grain bread. The pancreas therefore has to work harder to maintain sugar levels than it would if the same person had made the whole-wheat choice instead.

Using the simple example above to measure GI, different foods, such as white and whole wheat bread, break down differently once digested. It would then be fair to say that whole grain foods have a lower GI value than those made from processed white flour.

The lower the GI level, the easier it is for the pancreas to keep blood sugar levels low, which in time if not kept low, but, consistently high can then overtax the pancreas, which, again, can lead to devastating health related issues later on in life.

It is fair to assume that foods that are less processed will have a lower GI than those foods that are “over processed,” as so many of the foods are that we tend to overindulge. If you tend to shun foods that have the words “whole grain” or “natural” as a part of their description, you may want to reconsider.

Your diet will be better all-around and the less stress you put on any of your organs, especially ones as hard working as the pancreas and the kidneys, the less chance, possibly, there is of promoting future health problems associated with kidney or pancreatic decay.

And the less impact you put on blood sugar levels, the better you can control your weight, curb out of control cravings, and prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Several diets follow this theory, including, the Zone Diet and Nutrisystem.

Bottom Line

Diet modification, especially when people are set in their ways, is never easy. It takes time and above all discipline to acquire new habits, but, giving more introspection to the GI, blood sugar levels and the overall effects that over consumption can have on the main organs of the body is an excellent way to acquire good habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.