Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The GI of food: How low should you go?

Just as all kilojoules are not equal, so all carbohydrates are not equal. Extensive and in-depth clinical trials and studies over the past decade or so have brought about what has become known as The Glucose Revolution, which also happens to be the title of a world best-selling book by Australians Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, Kay Foster-Powel and Dr Anthony Leeds.

Carbohydrates always used to be regarded as the main reason for obesity. Regrettably that theory has remained stuck in the minds of many people in the medical profession and slimming industry and to this day many dieters are following low-carbohydrate diets - much to their detriment, as you know.

Well, here is what every dieter should know about starch: forget all that tripe you were taught and start eating your starches, but eat them wisely. Eat mainly starches with a low GI (Glycaernic Index).

Diet Start

The GI of food indicates the way it scores according to its effect on your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate foods that are rapidly converted to glucose during the digestive process and therefore rapidly increase your blood sugar (glycogen) levels, have high GI values. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, naturally release their glucose into the bloodstream at a slower rate, therefore raising blood sugar levels at a slower rate. At the school we call this the 'carbo speedometer'. Of all foods, refined sugar (sucrose) and glucose have the highest GI, namely 100. All other foods are rated on a scale from 0 to 100 according to their effect on the blood sugar levels, or to put it plainly, the rate at which they drip into your bloodstream.

Much has been said about the incredible weight-loss benefits of the so-called Mediterranean diet. The popular belief is that it works so well because of the good fats found mainly in the olives and the oily fish prescribed in this diet. Yes, that is true. However, the other main reason for its success seems to have been overlooked. In fact, it is probably the most important reason why it is such an effective, healthy and delicious diet - it also offers loads of (and mainly) low GI starches. That includes beans, pulses and pasta to name but a few, Paradoxically, the one flaw in this diet is the fat: too much of the 'good' fat can make you as fat as bad fat does. And on this diet you are allowed to consume far too much of that lovely good fat! Just think of those tables groaning with tappas and antipasti.

That diet aside, following a low GI eating plan will, in my opinion, be the very best you can do for your weight loss efforts, mainly because of the way in which you are able to manipulate and control your blood sugar levels and consequent insulin production.

The main benefits of low CI foods

  • They cause a gradual rise and fall in blood sugar levels, thereby causing lower insulin levels, which makes it easier for fat to be burnt and less likely to be stored.
  • They assist in lowering blood fats.
  • They are more bulky and are therefore more satisfying.
  • They reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

... andjoyohoxing