Glycemic Index

The glycemic index, or GI, measures the response of blood sugar when carbohydrates are eaten. Blood sugar, or blood glucose level, is how much glucose is circulating in the bloodstream at any given time. A high level of blood glucose is called hyperglycemia. A low level is called hypoglycemia. Blood sugar levels out of the normal range may mean there is a medical problem. The glycemic index is helpful to determine which foods release carbohydrates slowly and which ones are quickly released. Slowly released carbohydrates, or low GI foods, do not raise blood glucose levels quickly and help to maintain the proper glucose levels. The body regulates blood glucose levels by secreting insulin into the blood. The glucose is then transported to the cells for energy. If there is too much blood glucose or there is impairment in insulin production, health issues can result. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity can result from uncontrolled blood glucose issues.

The GI is based on the nutrient glucose. Glucose is at the top of the scale at 100. Other carbohydrate foods are ranked based on the body’s reaction to glucose digestion. Examples of low GI foods are vegetables, some fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. High GI foods are white bread, white potatoes, white rice and watermelon. The GI is based on the measurement of a single food. Combinations of food can change the GI of the food. For example, adding a fat like butter to white bread will slow the digestion of the carbohydrates. However, a food’s rank on the glycemic index does not indicate how healthy it is. Potato chips rank lower than white potatoes, but the potatoes are certainly healthier. The GI is helpful for people suffering from diabetes and those who want to prevent it. All carbohydrates are not the same when it comes to blood glucose levels. Maintaining a proper intake of low GI carbohydrates is essential to staying healthy and preventing disease.

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