The glycemic index is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods, according to how they affect blood glucose levels. The carbs that have a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested and absorbed and contribute to a slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels, while the carbs with a high GI value (56 or more) are more quickly digested and metabolized and therefore cause a faster and higher rise in blood glucose and insulin levels.
But the concept of a glycemic index is a relatively new idea. It was first proposed in 1981 by David Jenkins in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and it’s the best tool we have to distinguish between the carbohydrates that can damage our health and those that promote it. The index was developed by testing the glucose response to a standard amount of carbohydrate against a reference food, usually pure glucose, whose GI value is 100. At the “bad” end of the glycemic spectrum are high-glycemic foods such as white bread baguette (95), cornflakes (93), white rice (89), instant oatmeal (83), French fries (75) and white bread (71). And on the other end we have foods such as spaghetti (46), apples (39), carrots (35), black beans (30), lentils (29), barley (28), grapefruit (25) and peanuts (7), which have a less powerful effect on blood glucose.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that high-glycemic foods should be avoided at all costs. It just means that these foods shouldn’t be in the center of our every meal and are better consumed infrequently and in smaller quantities. Overconsumption of these foods makes it harder for people to control their weight and contribute to development of obesity and diabetes. And thanks to the fast progress in food-processing technology, many of the high-carb foods that are found on store shelves today are stripped of big chunks of the original nutritional value of their ingredients and belong to the high-glycemic type. In recent years, the glycemic index of the average American diet has significantly risen, which is the main reason behind the epidemic of obesity and obesity-related health issues among Americans of all ages and walks of life. And the sedentary lifestyle, that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in our modern societies, amplifies these health risks even further.
Good nutrition is a crucial aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with adequate amounts of physical activity, a healthy, balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of serious chronic diseases. That being said, a balanced diet is a diet that gives your body an optimal amount of all the nutrients it needs to function correctly. And among other things, that means consuming an abundance of high-quality protein, good carbs and of course, plenty of health-promoting fats. At the end of the day, what you eat can either kill you or heal you, so by making the effort to increase your consumption of healthy, unprocessed foods, you can powerfully boost your overall health and well-being in the long run. Start today!