How to use the Food Glycemic Index and What is Important to Know
(Last Updated On: September 20, 2017)
Learn what is important about using the glycemic index chart
An important part of diabetes management is to have a good idea of what glycemic index is and how it relates to the foods you eat. There are different ways to use it without having to be very technical about it. You might not need to take your calculator everywhere you go. There are more simple ways to use and understand glycemic index.
I also don’t think is necessary to know these charts by heart; there are a gazillion sites on the net which will go into amazing detail about every single aspects of the glycemic index. It would be boring to just re post it again when you can always get it in the next site. Its fine to browse this information but it can get boring and counterproductive very quickly if you don’t know how to use it in real time. We have to become familiarized with the foods we eat, in a very personal level.
The most important is to have a “quick and dirty” way in order to adjust or combine foods to lower our glycemic index; a instant way to search a food shelf or select the foods you are about to eat without having to turn the whole thing into a science project. Glycemic index can be understood as how much glucose certain foods contain but most importantly how fast this glucose is released into your blood and why that might happens slow or fast.
We have to learn how foods are composed just like we know what’s inside a cake (which by the way is pure glucose). They have layers and properties, starches, proteins, oils, but the big player here is fiber. We know that carbohydrates are associated with glucose and fructose production but some carbohydrates are absorbed slower because of their high fiber content. When fiber is attached to a carbohydrate or starch our digestive process has to work harder to break it down and this requires energy and time to occur. It’s a mechanical process like any other. To burn energy in the process is good because it helps you not to accumulate fat; but time is the best because your body doesn’t need all that glucose at one time in the first place. Having glucose in installments is what the body needs to function optimally and so it has for thousands of years.
Unfortunately we remove the fiber of most foods; it is considered sophistication and refinement. We grew up eating this way and it is not so easy to switch unless you live close to big centers where whole foods are available. Even though this practice has been going on for many decades
It is a relatively a new event. Our bodies have been eating whole foods for hundreds of thousands of years and our genetic makeup is set to eat this way. Once we remove the fiber out of foods the absorption is immediate. With the large volume of glucose in the blood at one moment the pancreas goes on overdrive releasing vast amounts of insulin trying to use all the sugar thus leading to insulin resistance and diabetes. So what foods have fibers? How can you identify fiber?
One quick way to identify fiber is to simply know what fiber is, what it looks like, what it taste like. Putting it simply fiber is less digestible, harder and less tasty, generally of darker color. Know where fiber is located in the food is also important. For example in fruits fiber is mostly on the outer skin but also as pulp in the center hence juice has less fiber and a higher glycemic index. In rice is the outer shell (which we remove). So is best to know what starch and fiber are and focus our attention to what really matters rather than blindly looking at charts and numbers. It may sound over simplistic but there is whole world in there. It’s like learning to play an instrument by ear; you can just play without having to look at a sheet because you know where the sounds are in the keys; but doesn’t hurt to have a cheat sheet in our minds.
First let expose the most offensive fiber-less foods out there. White rice, white potatoes, pasta, white bread, fruit juice, any refined flours of all kinds and of course the big glucose heavy weight: sugar. Basically all foods that have been stripped of their outer shell or skin which are called: refined foods. Special attention goes to bread. Many people feel safe to eat “whole wheat” bread but if you have ever made bread and actually had the chance of grinding whole wheat grains to make a real whole wheat bread out of whole wheat flour, you probably notice that it does not look like the breads in stores. The ones in the stores are usually a mixture of whole wheat with white flour at best, and at worst are pure white flour tinted with some kind of dye so it looks like whole wheat. Also try to find bread that was not baked with sugar (good luck). In a nut shell all foods that have not been processed can be considered whole food and specially grains that have not been stripped of their outer shell. In addition to having the slow absorption effect when we eat whole foods we also gain extra vitamins and minerals by ingesting the outer skin and fibers.
The other less talked about fiber is the fruit pulp in juices. You might say; don’t you touch juice that is a perfectly natural food I have just squeezed out of a perfectly natural fruit. Yes but remember fructose is perfectly natural too. Again once we strip the fiber out of fruit we unleash the true power of fructose and that’s powerful (juice is what we give to people who are having a hypoglycemic event right?). If you drink juice you might as well drink soda. Fruit juice has the same or more glucose than soda and you can look this information with more detail here. If you eat 10 oranges rather than squeeze them into juice is a different story, fiber or pulp will do its wonderful work of slowing down the process of absorption. Try eating some foods with and no fiber and then foods with fiber and compare how your blood sugar reacts. Remember we do need glucose in our blood, we need to eat carbohydrates but is the rate in which they are absorbed that matters. What has in great part contribute to the condition of diabetes is the fast absorption of sugar in your blood over a long period of time and this increased rate has even affected our genetics; babies are now being born obese. So it is crucial that we understand how fiber affects the absorption of glucose because this simple fact is one of the single most contributing causes of this metabolic syndrome we call diabetes.
Marcos is an RN. Thanks for stopping by and reading my posts. I hope you are able to get something useful out of this blog. Take good care of yourself and don't worry about anything until you have something to worry about.