Your blood sugar has highs and lows throughout the day. Typically, blood sugar increases after meals but will drop lower later on. What you eat can lesson the intensity of the blood sugar swings.
Glycemic Index (GI)
The glycemic index is a tool to rate carbohydrate containing food by how much they boost the blood sugar in your body. Many people who are diabetic use this tool to help keep their blood sugar under control and to keep the high peaks and low valleys in their blood sugar from affecting daily life. Not only is a low glycemic diet good for moderating blood sugar but it has also been shown to reduce the risks for cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Index Values
There are many foods that contain carbohydrates which are basically made up of sugar molecules such as glucose and fructose. There are other types of carbohydrates that are considered starches and can be found in potatoes, corn and wheat which are just chains of glucose. When we think of food with carbohydrates we typically think of bread, pasta, cereals, beans, etc., but carbohydrates are in many foods.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is an indicator of how a carbohydrate containing food affects the blood sugar levels. It is determined by how quickly the food type breaks down in the digestive system, releasing the sugar molecules. The index measures how the food will boost your blood sugar as compared to digesting pure glucose. For example, a slice of white bread has a glycemic index of 71 so it would increase your blood sugar as much as 71% as compared to 100% if you ingested pure glucose. The higher the glycemic index the higher it can raise your blood sugar as would eating straight glucose. Naturally, you want to keep the glycemic index of the food you eat in a lower range or you can add some fat or acid to offset the impact on your blood sugar. For instance, if you eat bread with olive oil or something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice, can slow the conversion of starch to sugar, and so lower the glycemic index.
The internet has many charts that will provide the glycemic index of common foods and you should use this as a tool when eating or planning meals.
Low Glycemic Index for Diabetes and Other Health
A low glycemic index diet can help regulate blood sugar but there are other health benefits. Since most low glycemic index foods are low in carbohydrates, are not processed, contain whole grains, and vegetables, it helps with other health issues. Studies have shown that high glycemic index diets have been linked to increased risk of certain cancers: prostate, colorectal, breast and pancreatic. It has also has been linked to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to Incorporate the Glycemic Index in Your Diet
- Try to substitute high glycemic index food items with low glycemic index foods.
- Choose low glycemic index foods with values of 55 or less
- Eat low glycemic foods more frequently throughout the day to avoid blood sugar lows and highs
Some easy substitutes for common foods include:
Ditch the instant oatmeal and opt for slow cooked or steel cut oatmeal
Ditch the white rice and opt for brown rice
Ditch the white bread and opt for whole-grain bread
Ditch the corn and opt for lettuce, cooked greens or leafy vegetables
To see the long term impact of blood sugar levels, it is recommended to have your Hemoglobin A1c tested every three months. The Hemoglobin A1c provides an average of your blood sugar control over a six to 12 week period and is used in conjunction with home blood sugar monitoring to make adjustments in your diabetes regimen.
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Medical Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider. Please visit www.HealthOneLabs.com for more information.