The glycemic index, more commonly known as GI, ranks carbohydrate foods according to their effect on glucose levels in the blood. High GI foods are absorbed rapidly and lead to a quick rise in blood glucose levels.
On the other hand, low GI foods are broken down more gradually. This leads to blood glucose levels that are more stable.This can help avoid a seesaw effect with fluctuations in both mood and energy.
Low GI foods release energy more slowly because they take longer to digest. This can give the feeling of being "full" for longer which decreases the need for snacks.
High GI foods, on the other hand, can lead to wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels, which in turn, can cause the pancreas to overproduce insulin. This can lead to illnesses such as Syndrome X, hypoglycemia, and type II diabetes. There is also research which suggests that lower GI diets help improve levels of 'good' cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Most low GI diets don't restrict you to only eating low GI foods, but usually prompt you to add more foods with a low glycemic index in your diet. Simply adding a low GI food to a meal, has the effect of lowering the glycemic index for the whole meal. In particular, active people should use of balance of high and low GI foods to make sure they have optimal energy stores for exercise.
High glycemic index foods include many carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, serial and baked goods. Low glycemic index foods tend to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. However, within these broad categories there are differences. For example, bananas and potatoes would be classified as having a mid-range glycemic index.
Other factors, such as the methods used to cook food can affect GI levels.
While GI is useful, you need to be sensible. For example, chocolate is a low GI food, but it is not the best food to add to your diet.
Nevertheless, GI can be a useful tool for selecting between foods that have low levels of saturated fat and are nutrient-rich.
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