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Glycemic Index

Learn about the glycemic index and how it can play a role in healthy weight loss. The articles in this section will teach you the difference between the glycemic index and glycemic load.

Good Carb vs. Bad Carb in the Glycemic Index

From whole grains to sweet treats, carbohydrates impact the body quite diversely. Specifically, blood sugar fluctuates with not only carbohydrate sources but with the type and quality of each. The glycemic index can aid in what dictates "good" carbs versus "bad" carbs and help weaken carbohydrate misunderstandings.

Good Carb vs. Bad Carb in the Glycemic Index


In the scheme of health, "carbohydrate" is a basic word, as carbohydrate sources are vastly different from one another. From whole grains to sweet treats, their impacts on the body are quite diverse. Specifically, blood sugar fluctuates with not only carbohydrate sources but with the type and quality of each. The glycemic index can aid in what dictates "good" carbs versus "bad" carbs and help weaken carbohydrate misunderstandings.

What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is like a carbohydrate meter, measuring how a carb-containing food affects or raises blood glucose. A number scale (0 to 100) is used to rank how fast carbohydrate in food turns into sugar in the human body - pure glucose or sugar has a glycemic index of 100. The index is broken down in low, medium, and high GI's - a low GI is 55 or less, a medium GI is 56 to 69, and a high GI is 70 or greater.

The glycemic index is an extremely useful measurement, especially for those living with diabetes, to gauge how food choices influence blood sugars. Equally, though, those seeking weight loss or health can benefit from using the GI. Lower GI foods, or good carbs, are digested slower, keeping hunger at ease and blood sugar levels maintained within a normal level. These foods also typically contain more fiber and nutrients compared to higher GI foods.

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs: Glycemic Index List

Although most dietitians and nutrition experts like to stray away from "good" and "bad" food categorization, they commonly agree there certainly are "better for you" options. The chart below helps break down "good" versus "bad" carbs based on their GI score and category, with generally good carbs displaying a lower GI and bad carbs showing a higher GI. It is also important to remember glycemic index should not ultimately dictate food choices. Although sweet potatoes are considered to be high GI foods, they also offer fiber and essential vitamins and minerals - the key is to keep portions and servings in check.

Glycemic Index Factors

Though the GI value reflects the carb type, there are additional factors that may reflect blood glucose beyond the specific food:

Portions
The larger the portion, the higher the glycemic index can rise. Try sticking to recommended portion sizes to reduce unnecessary blood sugar spikes. Additionally, pairing carbs with a protein or fat source can further reduce exaggerated blood sugar levels.

Combination Foods
Stay mindful of combining high glycemic foods and like mentioned above, combine carbs with protein or fat. For instance, though salad is known to be a healthy meal option, adding dried fruits, croutons, and sugar-laden dressings can ultimately increase the total glycemic index.

Cooking
The cooking and preparation of foods can have a significant impact on glycemic indexes. Generally, raw foods have a lower GI than in their cooked form. For example, raw carrots have a GI of 20 while cooked carrots have an increased GI of 50.

Storage
If you have ever stored bananas for a prolonged period of time, you more than likely noticed a change in color and an enhanced sweetness. The riper the fruit, the higher the GI.

References:
Glycemic Index and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html.

Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. Harvard Medical School. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.

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