The Importance of Low Glycemic Impact, Part 1

When you make smart carbohydrate choices, you need to know which ones have the greatest impact on your blood sugar and which do not.

A controlled carbohydrate way of eating provides you with a powerhouse of nutrients to support your health and your newly stabilized blood-sugar levels. You will need to make certain trade-offs, but that basically means selecting nutrient-dense foods over processed foods devoid of nutritional value and choosing smart carbs over poor ones. To help you learn how to make these choices, let’s take a quick look at the science of food.

The Glycemic Index is a numerical scale that tells you how fast glucose enters your bloodstream after a specific food is eaten. (This is a tool for measuring only carbohydrate foods because fat causes virtually no blood-sugar elevation and protein causes very little.) Most versions of the index, including the one on this Web site, assign pure glucose the number of 100 and measure the effects of other foods in descending order from there. It’s a highly effective system. Note, however, that the glycemic index doesn’t tell you how much carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food—that is why the glycemic index works hand in hand with a carb gram counter. Since there is no single standard glycemic index yet, the numbers may vary in different versions, but the relative order of foods in the various indexes is pretty consistent.

For someone controlling his or her intake of carbohydrates, the implication of such an index is obvious. By using the index you get to know, before eating it, how a given food will affect both your blood-sugar levels and your insulin response. By choosing low-glycemic foods you can ensure a stable, smoothly running, metabolic engine. That translates into plenty of energy and lays the foundation for both long-term health and disease prevention.

When you browse through the list, you’ll notice that a baked potato ranks exceptionally high. Starch converts to glucose in the bloodstream with great rapidity. White rice, white bread and many cereals are well up there. Bananas and pasta are in the mid range. Your objective is to choose foods that supply the maximum nutritional bang, while they cost you only the very smallest metabolic price. When you combine your own personal preferences with the information here, you will be ideally situated to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Selected References:

1. Liu, S., Willett, W.C., Stampfer, M.J., et al., “A Prospective Study of Dietary Glycemic Load, Carbohydrate Intake, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in US Women,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71, 2000, pages 1455-1461.

2. Franceschi, S., Dal Maso, L., Augustin, L., et al., “Dietary Glycemic Load and Colorectal Cancer Risk,” Annals of Oncology, 12(2), 2001, pages 173-178.

3. Song, E.Y., Banerjee, M., Du, W., et al., “Diabetes but not Obesity is a Prognostic Factor for Disease-Free Survival in Women With Stage I, II, or III Breast Carcinoma Receiving Tamoxifen,” December 6-9, 2000, Program and Abstracts of the 23rd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Abstract #120, San Antonio, TX.

4. Goodwin, P.J., Ennis, M., Trudea, M.E., et al., “Prognostic Effects of Circulating Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Proteins (IGFBPS) 1 and 3 in Operable Breast Cancer,” December 6-9, 2000, Program and Abstracts of the 23rd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Abstract #118, San Antonio, TX.

5. Davison, R.M., “New Approaches to Insulin Resistance in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,” Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10(3), 1998, pages 193-198.

6. Nestler, J.E., Jakubowicz, D.J., Reamer, P., et al., “Ovulatory and Metabolic Effects of D-Chiro-Inositol in the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome,” New England Journal of Medicine, 340(17), 1999, pages 1314-1320.

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