Saturday, June 30, 2012


Carbohydrate is an essential food nutrient. When we consume too much carbohydrate, it suffers one of four fates: it is either used as an immediate energy source (such as a runner using Gatorade to increase glucose levels in the blood), stored as carbohydrate (in a form called glycogen), excreted (especially when it has a high fiber content), or converted to and stored as fat. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of your body’s blood sugar response to eating carbohydrate foods and was originally developed for use by type II diabetics. Foods such as white bread and table sugar (sucrose) are at the top of the index, meaning that they have a value of 100. Eating these foods causes a sharp increase in blood sugar. With a sharp increase in blood sugar, comes a corresponding increase in the hormone insulin; the presence of insulin makes us prone to store food as body fat. A chronic high level of insulin, hyperinsulinemia, is associated with type II diabetes, most of America’s obesity, and even heart disease. So our goal is to keep our insulin levels moderate by ingesting moderate- to low-GI foods.

Typically, foods that break down soon after you eat them get a high-GI number, while those that take longer to digest get a low-GI number. That’s why a low-GI snack like cottage cheese and an apple will keep you from snacking again before dinner three hours later, while a couple of slices of white toast, or even worse, a bagel (which is also a calorie bomb), will soothe your hunger for only half that time or less. Going with low-GI meals helps your belly feel full earlier and stay full much longer, resulting in less overeating and better food choices. Because it doesn’t cause blood-sugar spikes, you also get a steady supply of energy. With two brothers who are type I diabetics, I can tell you that if they don’t have their regular small meals they get easily agitated, become irrational, and can’t focus on anything! This is also what happens to low-carbohydrate dieters.

Many of us are almost as strongly affected by the low blood-sugar phenomenon and may exhibit similar behavior when we’ve gone too long without food. Just as protein and fat bring the GI number
down, sugar increases it, which means that you must reduce your sugar intake if you want to lose fat. Not only does sugar contain many unnecessary calories, it raises your insulin levels and satisfies you only for a very brief period. You can’t fool your body into treating 100 calories worth of lollipops the
same way it handles 100 calories worth of an apple, just as you have always suspected.

While the glycemic index may appear complicated, principles that govern it are very simple. In particular, the following factors help keep the GI down and your blood sugar stable: •

Fiber: It prevents carbohydrates from being digested too rapidly.

Ripeness:  Ripe fruits and vegetables have more sugar content than unripe ones (one of my favorite dishes at Thai restaurants is a green, or unripe, mango salad with chicken breast).

Type of starch: Whenever you can, replace highly processed grains and cereals with minimally processed whole-grain products. Protein-enriched grains take half as long to convert to sugar in your blood compared to regular grains. To sugar in your blood compared to regular grains. (Lentils, wild rice, and quinoa are some of my favorite grains.)

• Fat and acid: The more fat or acid that a food contains, the more slowly carbohydrate convert to sugar and are absorbed into the bloodstream. (It’s why grapefruit and cherries are two of the lowest GI fruits.)

• Firm, not soggy: Cook vegetables and a starch like sweet potatoes to the point that it is just cooked i.e., still a bit tough and chewy.

Here’s a sampling of high, moderate, and low-GI foods. Again, the lower the GI, the better the food is for you in terms of weight management

Good GI foods ( Low to Moderate GI):

Steel-cut oats

Protein-enriched cereal

No-flour bread



Vegetables (almost all )

Nonfat plain yogurt

Bad Gl Foods (High GI )

Cream of wheat

Puffed rice cereal

White bread


Dried fruits

White potato

Tofu frozen dessert

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