How The Glycemic Index Can Be Used In Dieting

By Betty Brown

Diabetes is a leading metabolic disorder related to both genetics and lifestyle. The main underlying problem is insufficient production of insulin hormone or inability of the body to make use of this hormone (also known as insulin resistance). Diet modification is one of the ways that can be used to reduce the risk of developing diabetes as well as minimize associated complications. You need to understand the glycemic index of foods in order to make good dietary decisions.

The value of the index is expressed as an absolute number. Foods that have a high value have a higher potential to increase the level of blood glucose. Those that have a lower value, on the other hand, increase the levels of marginally. The general advice is that persons that are at risk of suffering from diabetes or have already been diagnosed with the condition should have foods that have a low value.

Foods that have a value of 55 or less are considered good. Those whose values fall between 56 and 69 are in the medium category and those that have a value of 70 or more cause the highest spikes in the levels of blood sugars and are therefore, considered unhealthy. Note that even for foods that have the same amount of carbohydrates, this value may differ.

There are a number of factors that determine the final value of indices. Among them is the manner in which food is prepared. Addition of fats, fiber and acids lowers the value and a longer period of cooking (for starches) increases the value. Another determinant is the ripeness of fruits. The riper a fruit is, the higher is its index. Others include the level of physical activity and the rate of digestion.

Note that the index is not the sole determinant of food choice. The nutritional value of particular foods also need to be looked at. Remember that while some foods may be deemed harmful due to a relatively high value, their nutritional value is equally high due to the presence of minerals and vitamins. Another factor that may affect the choice is the size of portions. Larger portions are more likely to increase blood sugar levels.

Nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables are among the foods that have been shown to have the lowest values of the index. High values will be seen with most starch-based foods such as cakes, cookies and candy. Even higher values result after the intake of highly processed and sugary foods such as cookies, cakes and candy. This group increases the levels of glucose sharply after they have been consumed.

Naturally occurring foods and those that are very close to their existence in nature tend to have lower values that those that have been through some form of processing. Even with this knowledge, one needs to always read the food labels and make sure whatever they are buying is healthy. In the event that you have any doubts then the wisest thing to do is to contact your nutrition counselor.

Even as you strive to have a proper diet be careful not to starve yourself. The changes in blood sugar levels among diabetic patients can swing in either direction and lead to potentially life threatening complications. Denying yourself much needed calories can lead to episodes of low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia). Severe hypoglycemia can cause loss of consciousness and even a coma if not addressed in time.

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