Glycemic Index: Why does it matter?

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

In the last few posts, we learned about nutrition, healthy living, and carbohydrates. But, there is another important thing we need to learn about to prevent diabetes and obesity. Diabetes is primarily caused by frequent spikes in blood glucose levels over a long time. Therefore, to prevent diabetes it is essential to avoid foods that immediately increase glucose levels. Carbohydrates generate energy by converting food to glucose. Some foods do it quicker than others causing an immediate rise in glucose levels. The rate at which foods convert into glucose is known as the glycemic index. Foods that have a high glycemic index value convert into glucose faster and must be consumed in moderation to avoid lifestyle disorders. Similarly, low glycemic index foods convert into glucose over an extended period of time thereby keeping the glucose levels balanced. Super carbohydrates or complex carbohydrates are examples of these low glycemic index foods.

As it can be observed in this graph, foods that are low in glycemic index, cause only a marginal spike in glucose levels. Foods low in GI foster weight loss. But, GI cannot be merely determined by the ingredients in foods. Various factors such as cooking and processing methods impact Glycemic Index. Porridges for example, (including millet porridges) have a high glycemic index compared to cooked grains. Similarly, a mashed potato has a high GI compared to a boiled potato.

A low glycemic index diet has many other health benefits than just managing glucose levels in the blood:

  • Reduces cholesterol: Some research has found evidence that a low GI diet can reduce bad or LDL cholesterol.

  • Improves metabolic health: Low GI foods like whole grains usually contain a higher amount of fiber. This fiber adds bulk to the stool and eases constipation or other metabolic disorders.

  • Better heart health: A low GI diet can help in healthy functioning of heart by minimizing the sugar to fat conversion

Despite the myraid of benefits a low GI diet has to offer, it is often ignored as it is assumed that it is difficult to adhere to. However, simply dietary changes like swapping refined grains with whole grain can prove to be transformational.

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