Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is not only important for your health, it's also a critical component in your effort to lose weight. While your body breaks down all digestible carbohydrates into blood sugar, some are converted into blood sugar faster than others. Thus, some carbohydrates cause a spike in your blood sugar level causing you to feel hungry faster and to crave more sugary foods. Other carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar more slowly, leveling out your blood sugar and resulting in less hunger and food cravings.
For this reason, the Glycemic Index (GI) was developed to classify how quickly
your body converts carbohydrates into blood sugar as opposed to pure glucose. Glucose has a GI of 100, and all other carbohydrate-based foods are ranked against it. Foods with a score of 70 or more are considered to as have a high GI, while those with a score of 55 or less are considered low.
Eating lots of food with a high GI causes spikes in your blood sugar level, which can lead to many health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Eating low GI foods causes your blood sugar level to stay steady thus keeping your energy level balanced and causing you to feel fuller longer between meals. The following are some additional benefits of eating low GI carbohydrates.
- Helps you to lose and manage weight your weight.
- Increases your body's sensitivity to insulin.
- Decreases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces your risk of heart disease.
- Improves your blood cholesterol levels
- Reduces hunger and keeps you fuller longer.
- Helps you prolong physical activity.
- Helps you to refuel your carbohydrate stores after exercise.
The GI is interesting because some of the foods that you think would have a high rating actually do not. For instance, fructose, or fruit sugar has a minimal effect on blood sugar, while white bread and French-fried potatoes are converted to blood sugar nearly as fast as pure glucose. In other words, you can’t classify foods as having a high or low GI based on the sweetness of taste. Many factors affect a foods GI such as:
- Processing: Grains that have been milled and refined have a higher GI
- Type of starch: Starches come in many different configurations. Some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. For example, starch in potatoes is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly.
- Fiber content: The sugars in fiber are linked in a way that is hard for your body to break down. Thus, the more fiber a food has, the less digestible carbohydrate, and consequently, the less sugar it can deliver into your blood stream.
- Fat and acid content: The more fat or acid a food contains, the slower its carbohydrates are converted to sugar and absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Physical form: Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested, and so has a higher GI than more coarsely ground grain.
The basic technique for eating the low GI way is simply a "this-for-that" approach:., swapping high GI carbohydrates for low GI carbohydrates. You don't need to count numbers or do any mental arithmetic to make sure you are eating a healthy, low GI diet. Follow these easy to implement suggestions.
- Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
- Use breads with whole-grains, stone-ground flour, or sour dough
- Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
- Enjoy all types of fruit and vegetables
- Use brown rice
- Enjoy whole-wheat pasta and noodles
- Eat plenty of salad vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing
Building and maintaining your muscle mass is one of the most important things you can do for your health as you age, and regular strength training (weight lifting) is the most effective way to accomplish this. If you are over the age of 40 I recommend that you begin weight lifting 2 to 3 times each week. You can download some of my favorite strength training programs by clicking on this link: Forever Fit and Firm.