Glycemic Index Explained

The Glycemic Index (GI) calibrates the impact that carbohydrates have on blood glucose levels.

The GI is key for those who must monitor and manage blood sugar levels - e.g. due to diabetes or hyper-glycemia. Also those with cardiac or blood pressure concerns.

With diabetes reaching epidemic levels in the United States, the development of the Glycemic Index (at University of Toronto in 1981) could not have come at a better time.

Each year, more people are diagnosed with this potentially life threatening disease with potential for several serious complications.

It is important for anyone with diabetes to learn about the Glycemic Index - to understand which foods need careful management to avoid adverse (or even fatal) consequences.

Carbohydrates are a diverse group of foods with differing methods employed to metabolise them into useful inputs to our body cells' chemistry.

Metabolism is our body's system of digestion and management to break down, convert, absorb, and transport food inputs into chemical formulations useful to body cells for energy generation, tissue formation, or for temporary stockpiling.

People with diabetes have difficulty to digest certain foods, specifically those high in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrate digestion is thus slow to complete - but the simpler food forms (like sugars and starches) are absorbed in to the blood stream quickest, causing a temporary excess in blood glucose - a "spike".

Diabetics are often warned to limit their carbohydrate intake because it takes such a long time for most carbohydrates to digest.
For many, this is easier said than done - they find it difficult, or impossible, to sufficiently reduce or eliminate carbohydrates from their diet.

Many diabetics become non-compliant in their treatment - because diabetes does not often cause serious complications immediately at onset, they are lured into unwarranted complacency.
They skip their medication, and/or continue eating foods high in sugar and starch.

The Glycemic Index is helpful because it rates different carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Those foods that digest quickly cause less harm and have a low glycemic index. The carbohydrates that take an extended time to digest have a higher index rating, signifying bigger "spikes" in the blood glucose level.

The Glycemic Index (GI) ranges from zero to 100.

Foods in the GI category "low" have ratings up to 55. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some pastas.

Foods in the (56-69) range are classified "medium" GI. They include sweet bars, croissants and some rices.

The "high" GI category (70-100) includes corn flakes, white rice, white bread and baked potato.

Surprisingly, although a sweet bar scores in the "medium" GI classification, it is not as harmful as those carbohydrates with "high" GI classification. For example, it is simpler for a diabetic to digest a sweet bar than a baked potato.

Knowledge of the Glycemic Index is vital intelligence - understanding which foods have the most impact on blood glucose levels is key to managing diabetes, hyperglycemia, and many other cardiovascular risks.

If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes or hyperglycemia, become familiar with the Glycemic Index. Learn about the different GI categories of carbohydrates and which foods to avoid, reduce or substitute. There are substitutes for high GI rated carbohydrates easily available at grocery stores.

While diabetes is currently without a cure - with food management and medication - diabetics can live long, productive, and otherwise normal lives.

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