17 December 2014 Using Glycemic Index to Your Advantage
The food industry has successfully stocked the grocery shelves with an abundance of convenient foods that are ready-to-eat right off the shelf or after just a few short minutes in the freezer-to-microwave evolution. Yes, we are lucky to have the availability of convenient foods for our busy lives. The downside is that these foods are more processed. As a result, they may make it easier to gain weight and ultimately lead to health issues that may be difficult to manage. Not only are these foods often laden with sodium and stripped of antioxidants, but food processing usually impacts the foods’ glycemic index (GI).
The GI is a measure of how a carbohydrate-containing food causes blood sugar levels to rise(1). Both the physical and chemical properties of a food determine how the food is absorbed and used by the body(2). Food processing can destroy the physical structure of the fruit, grain or vegetable, making them more easily digestible, thus a higher GI. Most nutrition experts advise that GI and Glycemic Load, a formula using GI and portion size, should not be used as an isolated approach to managing your nutrition plan (3). However, GI can be a useful tool if you are looking to better control your glucose response after meals, and it may also help with weight loss and insulin resistance.
Try a few of these strategies to help control the glycemic response after meals and snacks.
1. Using the GI table(1), look up the GI of foods you enjoy. Substitute lower GI foods for higher ones.
apple instead of candy pear instead of chips
rolled oats instead of instant oats
Greek style yogurt instead of ice cream
2. As a general rule, choose whole, less-processed foods. Choose shredded wheat instead of puffed wheat or a baked sweet potato instead of instant mashed potatoes.
3. Using the GI table, combine a low GI food (<55) with a high GI food (>70) to help balance the glycemic response.
strawberries and rice chex
red beans and white rice
broccoli and baked white potato
4. Add lean protein sources (poultry, fish, egg whites) and heart-smart fat sources (nuts, seeds, avocado) to the high GI food at mealtimes or for snacks.
egg whites with white toast
nuts with pretzels
5. Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables to meals and snacks since they have a low GI. Choose fresh and frozen as best choices.
6. Fiber, fiber, fiber…Seek it out! Beans, peas, barley, oats, nuts, seeds, whole grain
7. Try not to overcook starches. For example, have pasta al dente (firm). Do not cook vegetables to a mush.
You may not use all of the tips each and every day, but these smart strategies may help you meet your health goals with our abundant and convenient food supply.
- Schatz S. Glycemic index and glycemic load: A new look at an old topic. On the Cutting Edge: Diabetes Care and Education. 2014;35(2):20-27.
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