Carbohydrates are the most widely consumed substance in the world, after water. It is cheap, plentiful and often sweet. Sweetness has an important evolutionary bearing on our food choices as it was a signal that the food was safe to consume. This evolutionary programming returns to haunt us in these modern times as excess refined carbohydrate consumption is one of the causes of obesity.
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Insulin is the hormone secreted by the body to transport glucose into cells when energy is required. Insulin is the key that unlocks the door in the cells to allow glucose to enter. In the absence of insulin, glucose cannot enter cells and accumulates in the blood stream.
Insulin resistance is a condition where the body becomes desensitized to insulin. Imagine that 2 units of insulin can drive 100 grams of glucose into your blood cells. As your body becomes insulin resistant, you will soon need 3 units and later 5 units and so on. The more resistant the body becomes to insulin, the more insulin is required to drive glucose into your cells. Insulin resistance cannot be picked up by your doctor unless your doctor specifically tests for fasting insulin levels. This test is very rarely done.
With insulin resistance, there is excess insulin circulating in your blood. Excess insulin causes a host of health problems. It also contributed to central obesity.
The Glycemic Index is a scale to measure how fast carbohydrates are released into the blood stream after being eaten. Carbohydrates that are quickly digested and rapidly release glucose into the blood stream, have a high GI.
High GI carbohydrates very quickly flood the blood stream with excess sugar. This requires a larger dose of insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels.
The Effect of High GI Food on Weight Loss
As mentioned earlier, insulin promotes the storage of fat. Insulin spikes caused by consuming high GI carbohydrates make weight loss extremely difficult. Insulin is also a very potent fat storage hormone. In its presence, it promotes the storage of fat. Fat burning is almost halted. Anyone wanting to lose weight should normalize their insulin levels by minimizing food that cause insulin spikes.
The Correlation Between GI and Satiety
Satiety is the measure of fullness after eating a particular food. Low GI food have higher satiety levels and create a feeling of fullness. This reduces hunger pangs and reduces excess binges.
Typical Range for GI
Low GI is typically 55 and below – This consists mostly of fruits and vegetables (except potatoes and watermelon), grainy breads, pasta, legumes/pulses, milk, yoghurt, products extremely low in carbohydrates (some cheeses, nuts)
Medium GI is typically 56 to 69 – Whole wheat products, basmati rice, sweet potato
High GI is typically 70 and above – Corn flakes, rice krispies, baked potatoes, watermelon, croissants, white bread, extruded breakfast cereals, most white rices (e.g. jasmine)
Your diet should be based on food that have a GI of 60 and below. This will help to reduce insulin resistance and aid in weight loss.
The Glycemic Load (GL) is a ranking system for a particular carbohydrate’s portion size on blood sugar levels. It is based on the food’s glycemic index (GI) and the portion of carbohydrate that the food contains.
In other words, GL = GI x carbohydrate contained in the food (measured in grams)
As an example, Kellogs corn flakes has approximately the same GI as a French baguette. The GI of these two items is typically in the 90s. But the GL of corn flakes is almost twice as much as that of the baguette even though each serving has the same approximate weight. Corn flakes has a longer sustained rise in blood sugar levels. As such, not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Download an extremely detailed list on the GI and GL of a wide variety of food from Mendosa’s website.
Understanding the Glycemic Index
Most high GI food consist of refined carbohydrates. These include white bread, white flour, pastries, sweets and pastries. Adding protein or fat to a meal, reduces the GI of a meal.
Anyone wanting to lose weight should understand insulin, insulin resistance, glycemic index and glycemic load. This will create an increased awareness of one’s dietary habits. Increased awareness of dietary habits is essential to lose weight and keep it off.
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