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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/10/09

What's the Buzz on Glycemic Index Diets?

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Message Denise McKinley

There has been lots of talk lately regarding low glycemic diets and the glycemic index. It has become the topic of conversation from magazine articles to TV weight loss program advertisements. We have seen many different diet plans boasting counting carbs to low carb and no carb diets like the Atkin’s Diet for those looking to lose weight. Traditionally diabetics used the American Diabetic Association (ADA) diet, a diet primarily of counting carbs. Many have found that this not the most beneficial way to control weight, blood sugar or good for general health. Controlling their blood sugar levels is a top priority for Diabetics. Out of control blood sugar levels cause diabetics to suffer from kidney, visual, nerve and vascular diseases. You may have even known someone that has had an amputation or became blind due to diabetes. Anyone can be at risk to developing pre-diabetes and type II diabetes.  Research has found that you don’t necessarily have to have the genes to predispose you to pre-diabetes but it can be triggered by poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity. A healthy diet is our best defense to keeping our weight intact and to avoiding diseases like diabetes and the complications it can cause.

Today through research and a better understanding of nutrition the low glycemic diet or Glycemic Index diet (GI) has now emerged, a generally new concept in the world of good nutrition. Even the ADA diet has incorporated this new concept into their meal planning guidelines. The GI diets have now superseded low carb diets. The GI diet can not only help you to lose weight, lower cholesterol levels which will improve heart function but also help diabetics avoid most of the complications brought on by the disease. Just by losing weight many pre-diabetes and Type II Diabetics are better able to manage their diabetes. The GI diet is one of the healthiest diets and can be used by anyone.  By eating low glycemic foods you feel fuller longer and more satisfied.

Some general rules of healthy eating apply with the GI diet. Doctors recommend that we avoid processed and refined food and avoid saturated or trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils). Now more than ever doctors are encouraging people to eat diets rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and high-fiber that contain alpha lipoic acid, folate, B6, B12, chromium, omega-3, magnesium and zinc. Doctors also recommend trying Stevie and xylitol, natural sweeteners that don’t raise blood sugar instead of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. The use of aspartame can precipitate diabetes; it simulates and aggravates diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy, destroys the optic nerve, causes diabetics to go into convulsions and interacts with insulin. The free methyl alcohol in aspartame causes diabetics to lose limbs. Even sweeteners like Splenda have an ingredient that makes it very dangerous for diabetics or anyone for that matter because it’s a chlorocarbon poison. Chlorocarbons adversely affects human metabolism. Once the metabolism is destroyed you no longer can control blood glucose levels along with many other bodily functions like body temperature or control your weight. These sweeteners also have an additive aspect to them, once you use them they keep you longing for more.

Incorporating daily exercise is still an important part of any diet. By starting a regular cardiovascular exercise routine you can control blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity which means less insulin is needed to get sugar out of the blood and into the cells. This is why most experts agree that exercise works best for people not only with diabetes but the rest of us as well. Exercise helps with the utilization of sugar being converted into energy and keeps it from being stored as fat.

So why should we care so much about how carbohydrates and their impact on insulin & blood sugar? A high sugar or high carbohydrate diet will raise blood glucose and puts you at risk of obesity by how carbohydrates convert to glucose in the body. The glycemic index (GI) is an easy tool to use and it ranks how certain food raise your blood sugar level after digestion. Knowing and understanding the GI will help you to select foods wisely especially when there are such a huge variety of foods in supermarket aisles and restaurant menus. The GI is one of the keys to looking and feeling younger than your years. Meals can be created that are low, medium or high GI. The GI responses of various foods and drinks will depend on a person's needs. Low GI foods promote a slow to moderate rise in blood sugar and insulin as they're digested. This reduces appetite and even encourages the body to dissolve fat. The best choice for a diabetic is low glycemic foods because of their slow-release of energy over an extended period of time. Any foods that are more refined or processed have a higher GI. The higher the food ranks on the GI scale the greater its effect on your blood sugar level. An athlete wishing to rapidly replenish muscle-glycogen stores after training or competition would be better served by initially choosing a high GI food or combination of low and high foods to achieve this effect.

The GI ranks foods from 0-100 on how they affect our blood glucose levels. Glucose and white bread are the standard having a GI of 100 because they break down quickly.

Low GI foods that rank < 55 are 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli, pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgur, sweet potatoes, yams, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils, most fruits, non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, kale and carrots, meats and fats.

Medium GI foods (56-69) are whole wheat, rye and pita bread, quick oats, brown, wild or basmati rice and couscous.

High GI foods (70 or more) are refined grains like white bread or bagels, corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal, short-grain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix, russet potato, pumpkin, pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers, melon and pineapple.

A GI diet may help you:

•    Lower blood sugars (especially 2 hours after eating)

•    Lose weight  

•    Reduce insulin resistance

•    Reduce symptoms of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome - annoying and uncomfortable.)

•    Improve endurance training and sports performance

•    Reduce heart disease

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Denise McKinley R.N., Vice President Head of R&D, Medical Advisory Board Member of Internal Creations, Inc. Featured Expert at on Health Products and Services. Denise has always had a strong interest in biology and health care. She (more...)
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