The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response (i.e. how quickly the food converts to glucose/energy in your body). GI uses a scale of 0 to 100, with the higher numbers given to foods that create a rapid rise in blood sugar. The GI uses pure glucose as a reference point and it has a GI of 100.
When foods convert quickly to sugar in your body (for example, sugar has a GI of 68), you will get a stress response from your body. Your heart rate and energy will rise as your blood sugar levels go up. Now, while that may sound great from an energy standpoint, keep in mind that what goes up, must come down!
Your body doesn’t like to have high levels of blood sugar; in fact, it considers high levels of blood sugar as a stressful situation. Your body will work hard to bring your blood sugar levels back to normal. It does this by alerting your pancreas to make insulin. Think about insulin in this way; insulin is your swat team, running through your blood stream grabbing as much sugar as it can in an attempt to lower your blood sugar levels. So while your body can “handle” high levels of sugar, it doesn’t like to do it and it can set you up for some negative health problems in the process.
One of those negative health problems is diabetes or pre-diabetes. When you consume a high GI diet (foods that are high in sugar) your body can become insulin resistant. What this means is that your body doesn’t process high blood sugar as effectively as it once did. This can move your body into a pre-diabetic state. This is the time to act! By choosing foods that are lower on the glycemic scale (along with other lifestyle changes, such as exercise) you may be able to move your body out of its pre-diabetic state and back into balance.
Another health problem associated with foods that are high on the GI scale is obesity. When you eat foods that are high in sugars or rapidly convert to sugar, it can increase your body fat stores. Here’s how it works, when you eat a food high on the GI (for example; white bread toast with honey) your body will quickly make insulin in an attempt to bring your blood sugar levels back to normal. The only problem is that the quick sugar “spike” followed by the quick sugar “drop” can stimulate your hunger and craving for more sugary and high GI foods. This pattern of eating high GI foods can set your body up to overeat, all day long.
Making small dietary changes (switching from high to low GI foods) can help to prevent food cravings, may help prevent pre-diabetes and in general, increase your energy and health!
But let’s say your have decided to switch to foods that are lower on the GI. So instead of choosing white bread toast and honey for breakfast, you have switched to high fiber bread with a drizzle of agave syrup (a low glycemic sweetener). This meal is low on the glycemic scale because of the fiber in the bread and because agave doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like honey does. The end result? This meal won’t cause the same type of blood sugar “spike” as the white bread with honey. What this also means, is that you won’t experience the sugar “drop,” so you will be less likely to crave more sugary carbs later in the day.