Understanding the glycemic index
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Carbohydrates are an important part of our diet. They provide the body with the energy it needs to function. Knowing how carbohydrates release this energy can help you plan your diet better.
When we eat carbohydrates, they break down and release sugar (glucose), which is supplied to the cells through the blood stream. The rate at which this sugar is absorbed into the blood stream is called the glycemic index (GI). GI is thus the blood glucose response to a given food item – measured against that of the same amount of carbohydrate in white bread (or glucose) used as reference.
In other words, GI is a numerical scale that indicates how fast and high a particular food raises the level of sugar in the body. When we eat foods with low GI, they break down slowly, releasing glucose slowly and induce only moderate rise in blood sugar.
In contrast, foods with higher GI are instantly broken down to release the glucose contained in them. Only some of this is burnt as fuel by the body, while the surplus gets stored in the body as fat.
The abnormal spike in sugar levels caused by high GI foods also forces the body to step up its insulin production. Eating GI foods regularly not only encourages unhealthy eating patterns, but over time, is also associated with the development of serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Why choose low GI foods?
Making it a habit to choose mainly low GI foods helps you to:
- Regulate energy levels: Low GI foods release sugar gradually, thus regulating energy levels. In contrast, high GI foods cause a drastic surge in blood sugar, followed by a drop causing fatigue and even hypoglycemia.
- Guard against obesity: Low GI foods prevent food cravings and tendency to eating disorders, thus helping you maintain an ideal weight.
- Prevent disease: Low GI foods prevent excessive insulin release. It improves cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease and guard against certain cancers.
- Manage diabetes: Low GI foods are especially important for the control and management of conditions such as insulin resistance and diabetes.
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