Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023

Watch your diet on Glycemic Index

I find there is much greater awareness about food and health among the people today.

I find there is much greater awareness about food and health among the people today. I am,therefore,not surprised to find that a reader has requested information on the ‘glycemic index (GI) diets’.

The glycemic index of the carbohydrate content is the measure of the rapidity with which the carbohydrates in that particular food item is broken down in the body,absorbed and released as sugar in the bloodstream. It is increasingly being recognised that there are many advantages of foods that have a low GI. This applies to both healthy and diabetic individuals.

Nutritionists and medical researchers have for long accepted that sudden spikes in blood sugar levels are generally not good. Gradual rise in blood sugar levels cause less stress and strain. It is,therefore,considered healthier to eat foods with a low GI. There is evidence to suggest that low-GI diets help in controlling weight gain too.

The conventional way of keeping blood sugar levels low was to eat high-fibre diets. A very recent study published in a leading research journal in the USA,however,concludes that a six-month treatment with a low-GI diet results in much lower blood sugar levels.

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Most foods have recognised GI values. These numbers may look simple,but the cooking and processing of foods complicates the GI value of the actual meal. In addition,relying purely on the GI values of foods will not be good. For instance,even when all fats have extremely low GI values,an excess of it is certainly not good. The GI of carrots is extremely variable and can range from 16 to 92 while that of sugar candy is likely to be less than that of a potato. Likewise,there are nutritious,high-GI foods,like corn,baked potatoes and fruit juices that can certainly be part of a healthy weight-loss plan.

Sounds confusing? Here is the explanation. Most of the times,foods are eaten in combination with several other items which is why the concept of ‘glycemic load’ of a meal has evolved. The same dish may have different GI values depending on how long it is cooked,the process of cooking and the raw material used. As cooking breaks down the cell walls and allows food to be digested faster,cooked food will have a higher GI. This explains why the GI for a banana increases as it ripens.

To keep a tab on the GI of a diet,it is important to understand the processes of cooking involved and the interactions among various food items. One can then effectively accord a GI to the meal. Not an easy task and best assigned to the nutritionist!

First published on: 24-01-2009 at 22:46 IST
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