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When it comes to health and dieting, there are certain terms that we hear repeatedly and one of these is glycemic index. What exactly is glycemic index and how does it affect our health?
Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Different types of carbohydrates that we get from different foods will have differing effects on our bodies, and the glycemic index attempts to categorize these effects by assigning numbers to foods from low, medium and high glycemic index.

Basically, people who want to watch out for their weight and overall health should consume more foods with low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods contain and release less glucose into the bloodstream, keeping energy levels balanced while keeping a person fuller for longer. This feeling of fullness helps a person keep a balanced weight since it keeps them from having hunger pangs which can lead to binge eating. A low glycemic index diet also increases a person’s sensitivity to insulin, and this is particularly useful for people who are suffering from prediabetes or diabetes. Not only that, it decreases an otherwise healthy person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease while maintaining a balanced cholesterol level. In fact, a study conducted in Harvard has pointed to regular consumption of high glycemic index foods to type 2 diabetes and coronary heart diseases.

Foods with low glycemic index are assigned the numbers 55 or less. Medium glycemic index foods are those from 56-69. Foods that have a glycemic index of more than 70 are best avoided or taken in moderation.  The reason for avoiding high glycemic foods is that these are rapidly digested which causes high fluctuations in blood sugar levels. In order to include more low glycemic index foods in your diet, consider the following tips:

  • Eat whole grain cereals in the morning for breakfast
  • Avoid refined grain products, opting instead for whole grains. This applies to breads, pastas, crackers and other similar foods.
  • Limit the amount of potatoes and similarly starchy foods you eat per meal.
  • Eat more green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, lettuce, kale, collard greens etc.
  • Eat more fruits for dessert like apples, bananas, kiwi fruits, berries
  • Choose brown rice over white rice
  • Choose a vinaigrette dressing over creamy dressings in your salad
  • Add legumes (except broad beans which has a high glycemic index rating) as a filling or as a substitute for high glycemic index foods

Are you wondering what foods exactly fall into the low glycemic index? Here are some examples:

Drinks: fruit juices and soya milk, non-cream smoothies, tea, skimmed milk, low fat milk

Breads: whole grain breads, multigrain breads

Cereal grains: cracked barley, parboiled rice, rye, quinoa

Root crops: carrot, sweet potato, yam

Vegetables: artichokes, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, snow peas, eggplant, broccoli