What is Glycemic Index and Why It is Critical for a Weight Loss Diet

  • Usman 

Your weight loss efforts are almost entirely dependent on your diet. There are certain foods which are all healthy but not the best for losing weight even if you prepare these with the healthiest recipes.

One of the determining factors is glycemic index of foods. Seemingly healthy foods may have cause quick spike in blood sugar level but then you feel hungry all the time, munching on even more of these foods. The result will be a bulging belly because you overshot your daily calories recommendations.

What is glycemic index

Glycemic index (GI) is a scale that determines how various carbs influence blood glucose. It can be a pretty handy indicator for planning and prepping food. It can aid in directing your dietary choices when you have diabetes. Here is how it works: foods based on carbs are assigned a number from 1 to 100. You can see a chart here. The greater the figure, the higher your blood glucose will rise when you eat that food.

Food items with 1 to 55 numbers classify as minimal GI. For example, beans, vegetables that are non-starchy, and bran miller’s cereals are low GI. Foods between 56 & 69, like maize, orange juice, bananas, honey & whole wheat, are medium GI. High GI foods, including white rice, bread and potatoes are foods from with Glycemic index from 70 to100.

Carbs that are digested rapidly discharge glucose quickly into the circulatory system and have a high GI. While carbs that are digested at a slower rate discharge glucose all the more steadily into the circulatory system and have a low GI.

You will be able to control your blood glucose levels if you prefer low-GI items above high-GI items. For example brown bread rather than white bread. Moreover, the Glycemic Index is not the sole way to ensure a healthy balanced diet. You should pay even attention to calories, fats, vitamins & other nutrients.

The quantity of food you consume also impacts the blood sugar. If you eat too much, your blood glucose levels will shoot up. Ensure what your serving size is moderate.

Why is your GIycemic Index important?

If your blood sugar remains comparatively steady, your body operates well. On the off chance that your glucose drops excessively, you become lazy, fatigued and you feel starved.

If it goes excessively high, your brain flags your pancreas to discharge more insulin. Insulin brings your glucose down, fundamentally by the conversion of the overabundant sugar to harvest fat.

People who have types 1 & 2 diabetes are either incapable to emit or process insulin, which causes their glucose to shoot up excessively, prompting a high risk of medical conditions. 

Research has indicated that the individuals who eat items with a low GI for numerous years are at a fundamentally lower chance of being diagnosed with diabetes, coronary illness, and AMD (muscular degeneration).

Is glycemic index different from glycemic load?

Majority of people can confuse the two terms; Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load. Here is a simple comparison between the two:

Glycemic load is a quantity that measures to what amount the food will increase an individual’s blood sugar. A single unit of GL is equal to a gram of glucose. 

GL below 10 are regarded as low glycemic load and they have minimal blood sugar affects. Foods with 10 to 20 are considered medium-level glycemic load with mild effect on blood glucose, and foods that cross 20 falls in the high glycemic load category which can increase your blood glucose. 

The glycemic index shows the rapid digestion and discharge of carbs into the blood as sugar. A high glycemic index intake increases blood glucose faster than a moderate to low glycemic index meal.

Carbs in a food are not taken into account by the glycemic index. Glycemic load is, therefore, a greater indication of just how blood sugar levels can be influenced by carbohydrate products.

Foods that rank higher on the glycemic index may depict a large quantity of that food since glycemic index isn’t grounded on the general serving size. Basically, high ranking foods on the glycemic index have different portion sizes. Therefore, portion sizes of two different foods with same glycemic index may have different glycemic load. A low glycemic load can assure that the food will not have a significant effect on blood glucose level.

How to calculate glycemic load?

The priority is to be aware that low glycemic index products are safe to add to your diet. However, it’s difficult to know the products that fall under the category of low-GI. It might seem challenging if you don’t know much about ingredients. It can also be daunting if you’re confused about which product to prefer over the one you usually purchase. Another issue that arises is to know which manufactured and refined items fall under low-GI.

But here’s how you can solve this problem. You can estimate the glycemic index on any product label using a quick and easy formula.

Locate the carbs percentage on the packaging, deduct grams of sugar, alcohol and fiber to determine how much a processed food will impact your blood glucose. The digestible carbs grams will be the outcome. The greater the result, the greater the impact on your blood sugar. Here is a simple glycemic load calculator equation.

Carbs – grams of fiber & sugar alcohols = grams of digestible carbohydrates

How glycemic index affects weight

For better understanding, we will answer this question by giving you two examples. Watermelon comes with a glycemic index of 72 yet a comparatively less glycemic load of 7.21. A five cup serving of watermelon though having a glycemic index of 72, yet has a comparatively less glycemic load of 7.21. A serving of one cup of watermelon will vary accordingly. Watermelon’s single serving comprises of a low glycemic load which means it has very fewer carbs since all of it is water. A portion of watermelon will have no great effect on your sugar levels, as a low glycemic load reveals.

An additional source of a low glycemic load we can talk about is carrots. Several individuals assume carrots can signal sugar levels to increase substantially, although this isn’t the truth. Since carrots contain a glycemic index of 71, most people ignore the glycemic load without knowing that the GL is just 6.

Knowing the glycemic index & glycemic load of certain foods can help you make better eating decisions. Through having a healthy intake of proteins and fats, & items which are low in glycemic load & glycemic index, anyone can improve or preserve their health. Eatables with a lower glycemic index and load are usually great in fiber & nutrients. They keep you more energized during the day as well.

Additionally, if you know the glycemic load of the foods you are consuming, you can easily judge whether the item will result in raising your sugar levels or not. The body produces additional insulin to get your sugar levels lower when the sugar in your blood increases.

In case this happens on a consistently, your body starts to develop insulin resistance which leads to diabetes. This can particularly be a case if diabetes has been in your family genes.

In case you’re wondering if the GL of foods can help you lose weight then the answer is yes. Eating foods with low GI means that you will remain satiated for longer duration because our bodies take more time to break down these foods and covert these to ussable glucose in blood. Resultantly, you will feel having a feeling of fulless for comparatively longer durations between meals.

On the contrary, there is quick blood sugar spike after eating high Glycemic index foods which provide immediate feeling of satiety but this blood sguar raise is temporary and very son you start to crave for food again because your blood sugar quickly goes down. This puts you in a cycle of eating more food, with the result that you gain weight.

High glycemic index foods to avoid for weight loss

People who are diagnosed with diabetes are advised to eat low glycemic index foods because foods that have a high GI can lead to a quick spike in blood sugar levels which can result in various other health problems. Therefore, it is essential that people who are susceptible to diabetes or already living with the condition refrain from high glycemic index foods as much as possible.

Here are some high GI foods you can avoid if you are trying to lose weight:

Foods that are processed

Highly processed foods that are rich in carbohydrates have the highest glycemic index value, such as grains that have been stripped off of their fiber content. Fiber is efficient in slowing down digestion, thus lowering the effect of its higher glycemic load. But highly processed foods like white bread, donuts, and many processed breakfast cereal do not contain fiber.

High GI Fruits & Vegetables

Even though most vegetables are low in glycemic index, a few such as pumpkins & parsnips contain a glycemic index topping 70. Most veggies are rich in fiber which helps slow down digestion and thus preventing sugar spikes in the blood. However, almost all vegetables are high in GI value in their ripened form. This is almost universally true in case of fruits

Starchy Foods

Foods that have a high starch content, such as boiled white potatoes, french-fries and white rice have a high glycemic index. The blood sugar level is affected in different ways by the 3 kinds of carbohydrates; sugars, starch, & fiber. Therefore, consuming high GI foods along with foods rich in fiber is an excellent way to lower the GI of the given food.

Soft Drinks

Beverages and drinks sweetened with added sugar and syrup are very high in GI. They cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels & may result in insulin resistance eventually which is a cause of type 2 diabetes. Although juices extracted from ripened fruits do have a high GI, using fruit pulp in these juices can possibly lower their GI.

We’re listing names of foods, which are high on the glycemic index and which you can try to avoid:

  • Watermelon (With a GI of 72)
  • Doughnuts (With a GI of 75)
  • French fries (With a GI 76)
  • White Rice (With a GI 89)
  • Cereals (With a GI 76)
  • White bread (With a GI of 71)
  • Cheerios (With a GI of 74)
  • Pumpkin (With a GI of 75)
  • Instant oatmeal (With a GI of 83)
  • Rice pasta (With a GI of 78)
  • Parsnips (With a GI of 97)
  • Corn syrup (With a GI of 73)
  • Table sugar (With a GI of 75)
  • Soda (With a GI of 74)
  • Puffed rice (With a GI 78)

As dangerous as high glycemic index foods for people with diabetes are health expert’s advice again is to completely cut out high GI foods from your diet. They suggest you work towards eating foods with a low or medium GI to balance your diet out.

Even though some foods may be high in glycemic index, they are low in calories and highly nutritious at the same time. Therefore, you must not eliminate such foods completely. A good example of this type of food is Watermelon.

Best Low glycemic index foods

Foods that are low GI increase the sugar levels relatively slowly compared to food items with medium/high GI. Here are some good low GI food options to consider: 

Milk – Milk is a low glycemic index dairy option and a nutritious complement to your breakfast. For skimmed milk the GI score is 37; for total-fat milk, 39. Milk is significant for your bones as it is immensely rich in calcium. Medical research has shown that daily consumption of milk can lower knee arthritis in women.

The GI level can be within 17 to 44 of minimum fat soy milk, while the total fat soy milk will value 44. The glycemic index may vary among different brands of milk. Most people prefer to drink milk in the morning or sometime after dinner. It can also be consumed as a smoothie with low glycemic index fruits like bananas, apples, mangoes and raisins.

Chickpeas – Chickpeas are a GI-low legume with a value of 28. They are also known as garbanzo beans. Chickpeas are a strong protein & fiber supply. They provide essential nutrients as well, for example potassium, calcium & folate (B-9 vitamin). Chickpeas can be used as a direct replacement for white rice or potatoes that have elevated GI levels. Chickpeas can be roasted to make a simple and quick snack. Hummus is another great way to enjoy eating more chickpeas. The famous dip from the Middle East is easy to prep.

Carrots – Carrots have a glycemic index of 39. They are a healthy substitute to bread for using them to dip in hummus. Beta-carotene is found in carrots which is helpful for the optimum health of eyes. Carrots are a significant provider of antioxidants that prevent damage to the body’s cells. As a side vegetable with any meal, people can savor steamed carrots.

Beans – Kidney beans are a polymorphic low glycemic index food with level 24 GI. Beans of 13.36 gram & 11 grams/cup are high in fiber & protein. They are potassium-containing and extremely low in fat as well. Kidney beans complement meat or vegetarian chili with great added value.

However if you find yourself hungry between meals, following are a few healthy snack ideas that are minimum in glycemic index:

  1. Unsalted nuts
  2. Fruit salad
  3. Carrots dipped in hummus
  4. Berries or grapes
  5. Greek yogurt
  6. Hard-boiled egg
  7. Apple with side dippings of peanut butter or almond butter.

Low glycemic index vegetables

Here’s a list of low glycemic vegetables varying from 10 to 15 to start your journey to a healthier you!

  • Asparagus (15)
  • Broccoli’s (10)
  • Cauliflower (10)
  • Celery (15)
  • Cucumber (15)
  • Eggplant (15)
  • Mushrooms (15)
  • Onions (10)
  • Bell peppers (15)
  • Tomato (15)

High glycemic fruits

If you want to keep your blood sugar down, you don’t have to quit everything sweet and tempting. Fruits tend to affect your sugar levels moderately and in many ways are beneficial for you. You do not need to eliminate every fruit for maintaining your blood sugar considering your serving quantities are kept in mind.

Nevertheless, you may only eat a few kinds of fruit in small amounts if you suffer from diabetes.

Dry fruits

Dried fruit is an ultra-concentrated type of actual fruit through a drying procedure which means that the carbs are higher each serving than fresh whole fruit. Added sugar can also be included and the fiber can also be lesser once the peels are scrapped. Two tablespoons of raisins consist of about 100 calories, 18g of sugar, & carbs of 23g. Which means it’s approximately five sugar teaspoons. A full cup of fresh grapes, however, comprises 62 calories, 16g carbs & 15g sugar.

Juiced Fruits

Glucose rises can even occur in 100% fruit juices. Due to the elimination of all fibers via juicing, the body needs not much effort to turn sugar into water. Juice is thus easily metabolized and in minutes increases blood sugar levels.

Low glycemic fruits

As our bodies need energy for cells, we need carbohydrates. But we need insulin in order for the body to use it for energy.

We are at chance of increased blood sugar levels if our bodies do not contain or cannot use insulin or if the body does not generate enough insulin. Increased levels may cause chronic problems including damage to the nerves, eyes or kidneys.

Following are some low GI glycemic fruits that can help you reduce the risk of these chronic diseases:

  1. Cherries – With a GI of 20 & GL of 6, cherries are ample in potassium and have loads of antioxidants. The antioxidants in cherries can boost the immune system as well. Since cherries grow for a brief while, it is often difficult to find them freshly plucked. Moreover, canned cherries, with a GI of 41 and GL being 6, are a better replacement as long as they are not high in added sugar.
  2. Grapefruit – Grapefruits have a GI of 25 and a GL of 3. It is a strong fruit that provides well over 100% of the daily vitamin C intake you need. 
  3. Pears – Pears are better eaten without peel. They provide above 20% of your daily prescribed intake. The glycemic index of pears is 38 and glycemic load is 4. 
  4. Oranges – Oranges come with 40 GI & 5 GL. There is ample vitamin C & fiber present in oranges. 
  5. Plums – With a GIycemic index of 40 & GL of 2, plums often rot quickly, making it difficult to sell. You may like prunes, but be mindful of portion size, the nutrition advantages of plums in their dried state. Water is separated from the dried fruits and therefore they have more carbohydrates in dried form.
  6. Strawberries – They have a low GI of 41 & a GL of 3. Strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges. Strawberries are easy to grow at home as well. 

Summary

A low glycemic index and energy-restricting diet with low amounts of carbs can be more beneficial for minimizing excess weight as well as regulating glucose and insulin metabolism than a high-GI & low-fat diet.

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Muhammad Usman

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