Avoiding the Glucose Rollercoaster

Food, Geeky stuff, Lifestyle

Several types of white sugar - refined sugar and granulated suga

We are all aware that Glucose is a primary source of energy for the body. it requires no further digestion and is available in your blood. Carbohydrates (carbs) is one such food group that breaks down into glucose during digestion.

The type of carbs that you consume will determine the amount of glucose present in your blood. The Glycemic Index (GI) is one such indicator which scales from 0 to 100, telling you the glucose level in your blood. The lower the GI, the better the food is for your body during the energy conversion process. Foods rich in protein and fats usually don’t have a GI value. While they do cause an eventual increase in blood sugar level, the process is slow unlike carbs/sugars which can cause an immediate spike.

Generally, when eating high GI foods together with proteins and fats, it slows down the body’s ability to convert the sugar as quickly. Slower sugar conversion results in a lower blood sugar spike. What this means is, if you ingest a fast-absorbing protein like casein which is found in milk, even though you will increase overall sugar levels, you decrease the effect of insulin and delay excessive absorption of the sugars in your blood. This in essence lowers the GI load on your body.

GI Standard Values (GI Low- less than 55, GI High- above 70)

Most fruits, vegetables and whole wheat foods  that we consume are on the lower side, with values in the 30s and 40s. On the other higher side of the scale, potatoes rank way up in the 80s, and white bread falls in the 70s.

White Pasta vs White Bread – Both made from Refined flour

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Non-whole grain bread and pasta noodles both contain similar amounts of starch. Their starches are similarly composed of long chains of the simple sugar, glucose. The structure of bread allows more of the starch to be exposed to enzymes in our saliva and in our digestive tract. This greater exposure to enzymes allows more of the starch to be broken down into sugars giving white bread a higher GI value than white pasta. Effectively, both are still high on the GI value scale so moderate consumption will be recommended.

Insulin Insensitivity

The problem with ingesting foods with a high GI load over a prolonged time  can cause your body to become insensitive to a hormone called insulin. In the early stages (pre-diabetic) this can be reversible by making dietary and lifestyle changes. If no changes are made, and the person continues to eat high quantities of GI rich foods, it can lead to type II diabetes.

Know the GI but also the nutrient profile of your foods 

While a very high intake of GI rich foods should be avoided, you must remember that GI load does not measure nutritional intake. The body needs more than sugar for health and some foods while high in GI values, may have benefits that outweigh the disadvantages. Like brown rice, bananas and oats are all foods high in GI values, but they are also high in important minerals, vitamins and proteins essential for a healthy body. Balancing the benefits of reducing GI load while also making sure you get your full nutritional requirements is much more important. Portion size also plays an important role when it comes to such foods.

Much research have shown the benefits of low GI diet in weight loss, lowering the risk of diabetes and eliminating the sudden sugar rush and crashes. However, some studies have also shown no difference in hunger, satiety, or energy level after eating high- or low-GI foods. With research, the results of studies can’t necessarily be replicated and generalized for everyone but yes, for people who eat only high GI foods knowing its bad effects is a must.

Eating sensibly is the key!

healthy snacks

Everybody is unique with different metabolisms. Having said that, people’s metabolism also have different effects on blood glucose levels.  And most often, we eat foods in combinations of all different nutritional values. All we have to understand is that even if research trials have shown the benefits of low GI diets, in reality, it is best to only incorporate the knowledge rather than eliminating all high GI foods. That would be impractical and impossible.

Here are some GI values of the most commonly eaten foods.

Enjoy eating healthy and making healthy choices because what makes you feel better on the inside will show on the outside.

High-carbohydrate foods   Breakfast cereals   Fruit and fruit products   Vegetables  
White wheat bread 75 Cornflakes 81 Apple, raw 36 Potato, boiled 78
Whole wheat/whole meal bread 74 Wheat flake biscuits 69 Orange, raw 43 Potato, instant mash 87
Specialty grain bread 53 Porridge, rolled oats 55 Banana, raw 51 Potato, french fries 63
Unleavened wheat bread 70 Instant oat porridge 79 Pineapple, raw 59 Carrots, boiled 39
Wheat roti 62 Rice porridge/congee 78 Mango, raw 51 Sweet potato, boiled 63
Chapatti 52 Millet porridge 67 Watermelon, raw 76 Pumpkin, boiled 64
Corn tortilla 46 Muesli 57 Dates, raw 42 Plantain/green banana 55
White rice, boiled 73     Peaches, canned 43 Taro, boiled 53
Brown rice, boiled 68     Strawberry jam/jelly 49 Vegetable soup 48
Barley 28     Apple juice 41    
Sweet corn 52     Orange juice 50    
Spaghetti, white 49            
Spaghetti, whole meal 48            
Rice noodles 53            
Udon noodles 55            
Couscous 65            
Dairy products and alternatives   Legumes   Snack products   Sugars  
Milk, full fat 39 Chickpeas 28 Chocolate 40 Fructose 15
Milk, skim 37 Kidney beans 24 Popcorn 65 Sucrose 65
Ice cream 51 Lentils 32 Potato crisps 56 Glucose 103
Yogurt, fruit 41 Soya beans 16 Soft drink/soda 59 Honey 61
Soy milk 34     Rice crackers/crisps 87    
Rice milk 86            
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