Even those people who do not normally pay a lot of attention to whether they are eating healthy know that some kinds of carbohydrates are good for the body while others are not. ‘Simple’ carbs, such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup etc are not considered healthy for us. ‘Complex’ carbs such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and grain like seeds such as buckwheat and quinoa, etc are deemed highly beneficial to our bodies. However, if you are avoiding all these ‘simple’ carbs and loading up on the ‘complex’ ones, you may be actually making a big mistake!!
Think High or Low GI Carbs Instead of Simple or Complex Carbs
The fact is that to figure out which carbs are good for your body it is just not enough to know whether they fall in the ‘simple’ category or the ‘complex’ one. What really makes a difference is the way in which the carbohydrate impacts your body’s blood sugar levels. The degree to which a carbohydrate impacts this level is represented by its GI or Glycemic Index. Carbs (or foods) with a high GI cause your blood sugar level to go up more than those with a low GI. Before we get any further, do you know why the GI value is so important?
What is Glycemic Index (GI) and Why is it Important?
GI is a scale that shows how quickly and by how much any food can raise the body’s blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Being aware of the GI values of various foods you take allows you to keep a tight rein over your blood sugar levels, which is great news for those who have problems with fluctuating sugar levels. Plus, by ingesting foods that have the right GI for your body, you can also avoid heart disease, keep insulin resistance at arm’s length, lower the risk of some types of cancer and derive several other benefits. What you should also know is that there is an impressive amount of research to show that low GI foods are the way to go if you want to stay fit and be disease free. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (study by Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al) has revealed that a low GI diet is perfect for weight watchers too. Remember that high GI foods spark off a vicious cycle within our body that ends with excess glucose floating around in the blood which is very likely turned into fat stores. In the raw food arena pioneers Dr Gabriel Cousen’s and Hippocrates Brian Clement both offer low GI raw food programs that have helped thousands of people completely reverse serious illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
Putting Together a Low GI Diet
Knowing how beneficial low GI food is for your body and actually sticking to a low GI diet are two very different things. The main issue here is that a low GI food is not automatically healthy just as a high GI one is not always bad for your body. For example, organic sugar has a relatively low GI (46) whereas watermelons have high GI (80). Does that mean that you can replace your watermelon shakes with sugar in the name of better health? Definitely not! The point to note here is that you need to take the GI value into consideration along with several other factors, including a good look at what other nutrients the food has to offer. In this case, candies have a whole lot of empty calories that will do you no good whereas watermelons contain vitamins, fibre, minerals and other good stuff.
Looking at the Big Picture
Experts recommend that to make up the perfect low GI diet you need to look at the big picture. No food item should be a part of your diet simply because of its low GI value. Only if it is low in calories and it also has some nutrients to offer does it make a good inclusion in your diet. A great website for discovering a food's nutritional value and glycemic index is The University of Sydney's http://www.glycemicindex.com/
If you still eat processed and packaged foods, you should also go through the food’s ingredients list which usually gives you a great deal of information about the kind of carbs it has.
Now, how do you put together a meal that is low GI without sacrificing taste or nutrition? According to Joanna McMillan-Price, the Sydney nutrition scientist who also co-authored ‘The Low GI Diet book’, low GI food should be the focus of two meals a day. However, she reassures that it is not necessary to keep a close watch on the GI of every single fruit and vegetable that you use. These have so many other nutrients to offer that irrespective of GI values, these make an excellent addition to most diets.
However if you still eat processed grains, keeping a close eye on the GI values of the carbs portion of your daily diet- mainly breakfast cereals, bread varieties, rice and similar products and sticking to low GI ones here is sure to pay off handsomely. The portions of various foods that you take are also to be taken into consideration. On a cooked diet a small portion of high GI food like basmati rice will not do you any harm if you pair it with a low GI lentil soup. Similarly, on a raw diet when you mix leafy greens with fruit in a green smoothie the low GI greens balance the higher GI fruit so you don’t get a blood sugar spike.
McMillan-Price explains, the GI values should not be the sole
determinant of what goes on your plate and what doesn’t. However,
looking at GI values helps you pick and choose the most beneficial
carbohydrates from the many choices you have.