Sunday, September 4, 2011

Understanding the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load

Are you interested in maintaining a healthy weight and a high energy level? Do you want to avoid feelings of hunger and fatigue? Have you noticed that you become lethargic after eating certain foods?

Eating healthy... can be confusing and a frustrating task. Many people know the difference between a simple (sugar, honey and fruit) and complex carbohydrate (whole grain bread, oats and brown rice). They may even try to consume plenty of complex carbohydrates and smaller amounts of simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates - thus providing a gradual stream of energy throughout the day.

Creating a healthy eating program is not as simple as just knowing the difference between a simple and complex carbohydrate. It's understanding how quickly a specific carbohydrate becomes metabolized into sugar (the body's source of energy for most activities) and how it impacts blood sugar (glucose) levels.

The glycemic index and glycemic load provide information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The glycemic index is a numerical scale to specify how quickly and how high a specific food can raise our blood glucose level. A food that raises blood sugar levels moderately - is considered to have a low glycemic index, while a food that raises blood sugar levels above the optimal level, will have a high glycemic index.

Utilizing the glycemic index, foods are based on pure table sugar (glucose) with an index of 100, and then categorized by their ability to raise insulin levels - high (70 and above), medium (56 - 69) and low (55 or less). Interestingly, certain cereals can have index values above 100 (pure sugar) due to processing, which requires very little digestion.

The glycemic load - a ranking system for carbohydrate content in food based on their glycemic index and portion size, combines quality and quantity of a carbohydrate in one number. The glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the weight of the food in grams and dividing the total by 100. A food with a glycemic index over 20 is considered high, between 11 - 20 is considered medium and if under 11, is considered low.

After consuming carbohydrate-rich foods, digestion begins - breaking down and turning food into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream - triggering the production of insulin (hormone that helps glucose get into cells) to be used for energy. Once energy needs are complete, remaining glucose can be stored in the muscles and liver for later use. However, if these areas are full, insulin helps the body store excess sugar as fat! That is why... you are what you eat!

Eating healthy - consuming foods that have a low to medium glycemic index, have the potential to help prevent and treat chronic diseases - heart disease, insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, as well as improve cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight. Foods with a high glycemic index include white bread, watermelon, corn chips and donuts. Foods with a medium glycemic index include raisins, rye flour bread and wild rice. Foods with a low GI include whole wheat pasta, sour dough rye, chickpeas, broccoli and apples.

At the AIMS Clinic, our Board Certified, Clinical Nutritionist - together with our Medical Team can customize a healthy, glycemic index diet for you.

Matthew Speesler, MD treats patients as a whole - mind, body and spirit, with a holistic approach to uncover root causes for many medical conditions. The focus is to build health from the inside out, giving the body what it needs to heal, recover and restore itself. Our Team of Experts and friendly staff at your local East Brunswick, NJ AIMS Clinic will help you reduce or eliminate pain and improve function.

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