Understanding Your Glycemic Index

The glycemic index, or GI, is a measurement of how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels in the body. It is a tool used by diabetics and dieters to monitor their carbohydrate consumption. Monitoring the GI of the foods you eat can help you to regulate your blood sugar levels, lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.

Tests are done to monitor how the body processes carbohydrate foods for 2 hours after consumption. The longer it takes the body to process the food, the smaller the change in blood sugar levels. If the body processes it quickly, there is a sharp rise in blood sugar for a short time, and then it drops drastically. The foods are then given a number from 0 to 100, with 0 having no effect on blood sugar levels and with 100 being straight glucose. There are 3 classifications: low GI, medium GI, and high GI. Keep in mind that foods that are high in protein, such as beef, chicken and fish, are not tested because their carbohydrate content is so low.


Most fruits have a low GI value, so starting your day with a serving of fruit is ideal. Pair it with low-fat yogurt to make it even more satisfying. If you enjoy a bowl of cereal for breakfast, choose varieties that are high in fiber. Rolled oats are also a good choice. If you prefer toast, choose bread that is made with whole-grains. Pumpernickel has a lower GI than most breads because it is made with whole rye kernels and not fine flour. Add a glass of whole milk to your breakfast to round it out with a good source of calcium.


Lunch is an important meal, but it doesn’t need to be large. Your body will need fuel, so it is best to fill up on foods that will keep your energy level up without causing a drop in blood sugar later on. Eat whole-grain breads or pasta. Add some protein, such as fish, eggs or lean meat. Add some vegetables and fruit to help fill you up. For example, your lunch might include a low-fat turkey sandwich on pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes and hummus, some sliced carrots and steamed zucchini, and an apple.


Choose a carbohydrate for you meal, such as rice, pasta, potatoes or grains. Try to choose carbohydrates that have lower GI values, such as whole-grain varieties, instead of white. Add several vegetables to your meal, and include a serving of lean protein. You might try a seasoned fillet of fish with steamed new potatoes. Add some mixed vegetables or a salad. If you decide to have a food that has a high GI value, balance it with at least one low GI food to help reduce the effect it will have on your blood sugar.


Snacks are important as they keep your blood sugar levels from dropping and keep you from being hungry. Nuts make a great snack. They have few carbohydrates and are packed with protein and fiber. You can also enjoy fruit, low-fat yogurt or milk. Try not to reach for a candy bar, because the high sugar content will send your blood sugar levels soaring for a short time and then leave you feeling drained shortly thereafter as the levels plummet.




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