Understanding the glycemic index

The glycemic index is a scientific look at how the carbohydrate content of individual foods affects blood glucose, or sugar, levels. This index ranks foods based on their potential for raising blood glucose, as compared to a standard such as sugar or white bread.

Glucose, for example, has a base rating of 100. All other foods are ranked in comparison to glucose — from 0 to 139 — based on how they increase your blood sugar levels over the two or three hours following a meal.

In theory, the glycemic index provides a basis for controlling blood glucose levels and weight. But what works in theory may not necessarily work when we apply it to our general food intake. Multiple factors affect digestion and absorption of foods such as grams of carbs consumed, food ripeness, and the combination of foods eaten. If you consume a variety of foods from the major food groups at each meal, the glycemic index may not be right for you.

It’s yet to be proven that foods low or moderate on the glycemic index have a significant impact on weight loss or blood glucose control. Most of us can achieve better blood glucose and weight control by following the proven guidelines set forth by the American Diabetes Association.

A healthy diet must meet our body’s nutrient requirements while providing:

  • Adequate calories to meet energy needs and avoid malnutrition.
  • Adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, especially those foods providing adequate amounts of fiber, while controlling total carbohydrate intake.
  • A limited amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugars, with a moderate amount of protein.

Although all of us would like a quick fix to get rid of excess weight or regulate blood glucose levels, we must provide our bodies with necessary nutrients while following the guidelines for a nutritious diet: calorie control, adequacy, balance, moderation, and variety.

For more information or to make an appointment with a specialist, call 423-778-2564 or visit www.erlanger.org.