Food glycemic indexes are they truly relevant to health?

Sugar is one of the worst dietary ingredients when it comes to healthy eating, according to the nutrition community. Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, and other long-term consequences of excessive sugar intake can be connected to excess sugar consumption, and most of us consume far too much of it. Nutrition experts frequently mention the glycemic index when discussing ways to reduce added sugar intake.

According to the glycemic index (GI), various foods with carbohydrates are categorized according to various factors that could impact blood sugar levels. In regard to blood sugar, this system shows that not all carbs are created equal – some cause minimal spikes, while others can make your blood sugar crash throughout the day.

While some nutritionists swear by the glycemic index to promote healthy blood sugar management, it’s not just about determining which foods are good for blood sugar levels and which are bad. Here are the essential points to know about the nutrition buzzword.

Glycemic index – what does it mean?

Diabetics of both types 1 and 2 originally developed the glycemic index. According to Robert Glatter, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health and attending emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, it created a numerical index or ranking of carbohydrates according to their impact on blood sugar levels without any other foods.

A food’s GI indicates how much carbohydrates it contains per 50 grams. Suzanne Dixon, MPH, RD, an epidemiologist and dietitian, says that 50 grams of carbohydrates are the amount of food consumed for this measure. In order to determine the GI of carrots for example, the amount of carrots that provide 50 grams of carbs would be compared against the 50 grams of carbs for a GI standard (sugar or white bread), then a score is determined.

How can you find out the glycemic index of foods?

Foods with GI scores of 55 or less are generally low GI foods. GI scores for medium foods range from 56 to 69, while GI scores for high foods range from 70 and above.

You may think that all low-scoring foods are healthy, and all high-scoring foods are not. Yet Dixon points out that some healthy carbs might have a similar GI score as less healthy items. Examples include:

  • Bread: 73 grams
  • Sugar (white table sugar): 65
  • The cantaloupe is 65.
  • 61 Honey
  • Cinnamon: 52
  • 51 mangoes
  • 46 corn tortillas
  • Oatmeal steel cut: 42 g
  • Juice from apples: 41 g
  • 41 rye breads
  • 40 chocolates
  • 39 cooked carrots
  • Chicken: 28
  • Sixteen grams of soybeans
  • Glucose: 15

Consider the fact that cantaloupes, despite their benefits of hydration, vitamins, and fiber, have the same GI as white table sugar. In terms of the effects on your blood glucose, honey and sugar are about the same.

Is the glycemic index reliable?

The glycemic index, according to Dixon, can be a useful tool for consumers to consider when making dietary choices, especially if they have type 1 diabetes or another illness that necessitates regular monitoring of carbohydrate consumption, but it comes with certain drawbacks. “GI might be deceiving because it doesn’t take into account serving size,” she explains. Remember that meals are scored based on how much will provide 50 grammes of carbohydrates, not on how much people consume in a typical portion. She claims that watermelon, for example, has a fairly high GI of 80. However, a two-cup serving size has 23 grammes of carbs, so the 80 represents what would happen to your blood sugar if you ate more like four and a half cups—which most people aren’t doing.

Another way to assess how a food may affect your blood sugar is to consider the serving size. “This is referred to as glycemic load,” Dixon explains. “It’s a more accurate picture of how these meals affect our blood sugar and insulin response when consumed in a typical diet,” says the researcher. It basically considers how quickly a food impacts your blood sugar as well as how much glucose it adds to your bloodstream. Dixon cites watermelon as an example, saying that while the fruit has a high GI, it’s largely water and doesn’t have a lot of carbs per serving. “With this in mind, the glycemic load is relatively modest at 5,” Dixon explains.

There’s also substantial evidence that not all foods have the same effect on everyone, especially when it comes to GI issues. The blood sugar of 63 healthy persons was measured several hours after they were given 50 grammes of glucose, either in the form of white bread or in a glucose solution, according to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This test was repeated among study participants in order to determine the bread’s glycemic index. “However, the researchers discovered some startling results. There was a 20% difference in the measured glycemic index of the exact same food across tests in the same person, and a 25% difference between individuals. The overall line is that the glycemic index was inconsistent and unreliable, even when the food was consumed alone in controlled conditions, according to Dr. Glatter.

People may oversimplify favouring certain foods over others as a result of the hard numbers. “Pure fructose [the sugar most commonly found in fruit] has a GI of 15,” Dixon explains. “However, while fructose has no effect on blood sugar levels, it can cause fatty buildup in the liver.” She goes on to say that too much fructose from a high-processed food diet (think soda and baked goods, not whole fruit) is associated to a higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). So, while fructose isn’t as bad for your blood sugar, it might be bad for your liver if you eat too much of it—yet another reminder that eating healthy is all about balance.

What value do these figures have in terms of a person’s health?

For the most part, not much. “It might be useful in the sense that a whole-foods, less processed food diet tends to have lower GI overall,” Dixon says, but it shouldn’t be your deciding factor when it comes to what to eat.

Furthermore, while it may be beneficial to diabetics, Dixon claims that it is also misleading to them. “As I previously stated, fructose, as a sweetener or a type of sugar, has little effect on blood sugar levels. On the other hand, it can encourage fat storage in the liver, which isn’t good for anyone, especially diabetics,” she notes. “This is why I always advise anyone with a chronic, diet-related health problem like diabetes to get dietary advice from a trained health practitioner.”

“While using the glycemic index or glycemic load to manage diabetes may be beneficial, there is no consistent evidence that adopting a glycemic index-based diet for non-diabetics may consistently achieve weight loss or prevent chronic disease,” Dr. Glatter adds. “Rather of using the glycemic index or load, persons without diabetes should simply limit their intake of added sugars by avoiding refined or processed foods as well as sugar-sweetened beverages,” he advises. That’s helpful to know.

Yes, sugar is bad for your health…but being afraid of it too much might be just as bad. And here’s what occurred when one editor opted to eliminate processed foods from her diet completely.

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