Glycemic Index: What It Is and How it can Help You Lose Weight
Quite simply, your blood sugar level is an indication of how much glucose (sugar) is in your blood. When most of us hear or read anything about ‘blood sugar levels’, we generally relate it to diabetes. But all of us experience increases and decreases in our blood sugar. Generally speaking, your blood sugar will go up after eating and go down between meals and after exercise.
The Problems of High Blood Sugar
Insulin is the ‘key’ that allows the transfer of glucose from your blood to your cells to be used as energy. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, which means the glucose remains in your blood and cause complications. But the rest of us can suffer consequences from consistently high blood sugar too. When you overeat or don’t get enough exercise, the spike in blood sugar can cause a number o negative health effects.
• Contributes to weight gain and obesity
• Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels
• Damage to large blood vessels can lead to more plaque build-up, which increases your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke
• Damage to smaller blood vessels can lead to loss of vision, kidney disease and nerve problems throughout your body.
The Problems of Low Blood Sugar
When there is not enough glucose in your blood, your cells might not get the energy they need to function properly. Low blood sugar can result from skipping meals, exercising too much, consuming too much alcohol and taking certain medications. Symptoms of low blood glucose include:
• Feeling weak and/or shaky
• Confusion and unhappiness
• Hunger and headaches
Generally speaking, you should take steps to correct low blood sugar quickly, mainly by eating or drinking something that has high sugar levels.
Blood Sugar Levels and Your Weight
One of your body’s defences against high blood sugar levels is to store the unused energy in fat cells, which is a direct cause of weight gain. By keeping the amount of glucose you consume to a minimum, you can help to avoid the weight gain and, ultimately, promote weight loss.
You need to get a certain amount of energy from the glucose in your diet every day. Of the three main macronutrients in a healthy diet; fats, protein and carbohydrates; carbs, which include actual sugar, are the biggest source of glucose for your body.
Carbs are sometimes grouped into two main ‘types’: simple and complex. Sometimes simple carbs are called ‘bad’ carbs and complex carbs are called ‘good’ carbs. But really the only difference between them is how quickly your body converts the energy in the two carbs, doing so much faster for simple carbs than for complex carbs.
The problem for managing your weight is, unless your diet is balanced, you can get too many simple carbs, like the sugars in processed foods, which leads to blood sugar spikes after you eat and weight gain later on.
But there are times when you might want or need a quick boost of energy, like after exercise or when your blood sugar is low.
So the relationship between simple and complex carbs is more complicated than can be explained by simply describing one as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’.
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures the extent to which certain high-carbohydrate foods raise your blood sugar levels. Using a scale of 1 to 100, foods low on the GI scale do not spike your blood sugar levels as much as foods that are higher on the GI scale.
Generally speaking you can use a food’s GI to help you decide whether it’s OK to eat it. If you are planning on some strenuous exercise, you may want to include a high GI food, like a baked potato in your meal. But if you’ve had a fairly inactive day, you should definitely opt for low GI foods like lentils or steel cut oats.
It’s important to know that the GI of some foods can change depending on how the food is prepared. Pasta, for example, is a low GI food unless it’s overcooked, which increases its GI.
Properly maintaining your health and weight is not so simple. The GI of foods is just one way to help you make the right food and nutrition choices. Your local Herbal One nutritional consultant can show you how to manage your diet to help you lose weight healthily.