The human body is a marvelous system. It is very good at dealing with diseases, digestion, healing, thinking, perceiving, and much more. Systems are up and running non-stop. But our bodies can’t do the whole job, right? We need to make sure we exercise, get enough sleep, breathe clean air, and eat well. Yes, but how do you eat well? We explore a useful tool you can use when planning your meals: the glycemic index.
In this article, you will find a basic guide to the glycemic index. What is it? What should you eat to maintain healthy GI levels? How does the glycemic load impact your health? And which diet should you follow for balanced eating habits?
A measure that ranks carbohydrates: the glycemic index
When we eat food, the digestive system separates the food into vitamins, minerals, fats, and carbohydrates. Your body transforms carbs into glucose to be carried into your cells with the help of insulin. And lastly, glucose is burned with oxygen. This is how your body produces energy.
What is the glycemic index?
Each item of food and drink contains a different level of carbohydrates – meaning that your blood sugar level can change depending on the food or drink you consume. And there’s a ranking system called the glycemic index (GI) that can help you see the change. It measures how quickly a certain food affects your blood sugar after you consume it. In this context, there is a direct proportion between the GI and digestion speed:
When you use GI as one of the primary factors for creating balanced nutrition, you are less likely to have health issues in the long run. By being aware of this and making conscious choices, you can put yourself at the helm of your life. We’ll see how this digestion speed has glycemic impacts on health later on.
Glycemic Index Levels
GI is a measure that is ranked on a scale of 0-100. The reason for the scale being between 0-100 is based on pure glucose, which has a glycemic index of 100. As we mentioned above, each food and beverage has a different index. These indexes even change according to how much the food is cooked, and whether you eat it hot or cold.
There are three levels of GI value: low, medium, and high. While you need to control your blood sugar, you shouldn’t plan your meals around only low-glycemic foods. A good plate should contain a range of value groups, because a food’s GI can change when eaten with side dishes.
High glycemic foods cause glucose to be released into the blood quickly, which isn’t healthy. Due to your body’s rapid digestion, you are tempted to eat again and again. Meanwhile, eating low glycemic foods allows glucose to be released gradually, which is more healthy. You also feel fuller after eating, due to the slow speed of the digestion process.
Below you can see the three different levels:
Low GI / 55 or less
- Sweet potatoes
Medium GI / 56-69
- Brown rice
High GI / 70 or above
- Fried chicken
The relationship between the GI and our health
Consuming foods with a high GI increases blood sugar levels rapidly and causes sleepiness and hunger even after eating. Studies have also shown that eating this kind of diet over a long period leads to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart diseases.
However, you can control your blood sugar, have a healthy diet, and reduce cholesterol levels by eating low-to-medium glycemic foods.
It’s important to understand that a number of factors have a meaningful impact on the glycemic index. Is your food:
- Raw or cooked?
- Fried or boiled?
- Processed or unprocessed?
- Eaten with something or on its own?
- Overripe or under-ripe?
- A big portion or a small portion?
Even when you think you’re eating the same food on two different occasions, there’s often a difference in these factors.
The role of intermittent fasting on GI
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a scheduled eating plan based on eating only during specific time periods. During the period of fasting, your body burns fat as a source of energy. This fat has been stored earlier as a result of extra glucose and is burned instead of sugar since you haven’t eaten anything for a period of time. This helps you to control your blood sugar, improves weight loss, and lowers insulin levels, which are directly related to GI.
With low glycemic foods, digestion takes place more slowly – meaning your blood sugar increases gradually, while for high glycemic foods digestion happens quickly, resulting in rapid increases in blood sugar.
These changes in blood sugar demonstrate that GI-based meals allow you to achieve balanced eating habits. In the long term, GI helps you avoid becoming obese and developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, just like Intermittent Fasting does.
To help control your blood sugar levels, get Fasting Kompanion and find out the most suitable intermittent fasting plan for you.
To sum up
Now you’ve learned how to control your blood sugar by being careful about glycemic foods and their impacts on your health. But you shouldn’t forget that GI alone can’t solve everything.
When planning your meals you should also consider the time at which you eat, any side dishes, quantities, and cooking options. And if you choose foods with a low glycemic index while fasting, the benefits of your IF diet will be multiplied!