It sounds boring, glycemic index, but it is another good tool to help understand what to eat, what to avoid. Certainly there are other guidelines as important but everyone should know this topic. For example, a shocking fact: diabetes will soon afflict one out of three Americans. Diabetes is a serious disease requiring medical attention; America should not let its health decline like this. The primary causes for diabetes are not exercising enough and eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugars: what I call the white food diet: white bread, sugar, sweets, pizza, French fries, and the range of junk foods. Many, many Americans are eating poorly, and not exercising. This results in serious weight problems and diabetes–as well as fatigue, mood changes, low sex drive and depression.
In prior columns I have talked about good fats and bad fats. Good fats are good for the joints, heart, moods and brain. Bad fats—fatty meats, fried foods, excess butter and dairy, greasy food—contribute to depression, fatigue, heart attacks and early death.
Carbohydrates are also divided into good and bad. Poor quality carbohydrates include refined flours products like white bread, white rice, sugar and sugary foods, including all cakes and muffins ( what you buy at fast food places are loaded with bad fats/carbohydrates), corn flakes, potatoes (but not all), and processed white foods and cereals.
White rice has the good parts of the rice removed, revealing a poor starch which has a high glycemic index. It raises your blood sugar levels. Now I eat white rice now and then but I try to eat more whole grain foods like the brown rice.
When we eat food our body processes the basic nutrients for bodily work: carbohydrates convert into sucrose, energy for cells. Some carbohydrates contribute TOO much glucose, which increases insulin levels. Insulin is released from the pancreas to control sugar levels. Too much sugar causes hyper-insulism which is the main cause of obesity.
The complex ( and healthy) carbohydrates like lentils, brown rice, carrots and multigrain bread break down slowly and contribute less sugar and a far wider range of nutrients. These contribute to sustainable energy through the day and no weight gain. The famous Pritikin diet is based on complex carbohydrates, good quality lean protein, and lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as the healthy fats (like olive and canola oil). People on this diet are healthy and thinner within weeks, and will need far less medical attention later in life.
It is important to interject at this point that the amount of carbohydrates is important. You could be eating a moderately healthy diet with small amounts of food and be healthier than the health nut consuming huge amounts of super healthy proteins and carbohydrates. We should stop eating before we can completely full. Large meals of any kind spike the blood sugar levels!
But to the crux of the matter. Glycemic index offers a valuable window about what to eat; it measures how much a particular food boosts blood sugar.
FOODS WITH LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX (Also known as GI) INCLUDE: most fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, whole wheat pastas, low fat dairy, and nuts. These are generally rated below 30 % and should be the basis of our daily diet.
FOODS with moderate GI: sweet potato, corn, white rice, couscous and healthy breakfast cereals like cream of wheat and real oatmeal.
FOOD WITH HIGH GI: On a rating of 0 to 100 with one hundred being worse, these foods are 70 or higher: white bread, rice cakes, candies, most crackers, bagels ( the white flour), desert foods, croissants, and most packaged cereals. Can you believe that parents are giving their children the junky packaged cereal? 80% of which would not be fit for the trash—not good for the environment! Instant oatmeal is an insult, by the way, as it ruins a good food, regular oats, and converts it into a junk food. Thanks, food industry! The definition of junk food, by the way, is foods high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and poor quality fats–that is much of the fast foods, many of the aisles in the supermarket, and most of our comfort foods.
People who are eating a diet with high glycemic index every day are headed for a collision with a bad reality: obesity, low energy, depression ( to be happy you need good energy), low sex drive, cognition problems, diabetes, excess medical drugs, and many other problems and diseases. As you can see, this is millions of Americans. The medical profession should be shouting all this from the roof tops. A lot of people, however, make a good living from ill health, obesity and bad diet: that that includes the processed food, fast food and dieting industries.
One last note. People who are sad, lonely or anxious tend to go for comfort foods which include sweets and refined carbohydrates. They are good, and they are tempting. Who can resist a plate of white hot pasta with sugary tomatoes sauce and butter? I occasionally indulge. But for those who indulge every day their weight gain and subsequent health problems will not find them happiness, friends or lovers. In other words, there is a whole other aspect to eating, and that is the psychological drives. One solution for those who cannot say no to sweets and refined carbohydrates: they can take up a regular exercise program, join some interesting groups, and learn to buy good foods and cook their own meals every day. And for those with serious problems around eating issues there are therapists, coaches and support groups.
Question: should we substitute artificial sugars for real sugar? Stay away from artificial sugars, sweet drinks, so called healthy bottled sweet drinks, and seriously reduce sugar in your diet. Also, it is better to eat whole fruits to fruit juices. Many of the fruit juices in the store have added sugars, and less nutrients than the whole fruit. So eat the apple, do not drink it. Of course, a moderate amount of fruit juice is fine now and then.