What you need to know about the Glycemic Index

What is a glycemic index?

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index, or GI, is one tool you can use to choose your carbohydrate sources. It can guide you towards selecting healthier foods, and following a diet based on the GI may help you lose weight, control your blood sugar, and improve energy levels. This article will introduce you to the GI and how to use it, and point out the ways that Lark Health Coach can help you maximize the benefits of a GI diet.

Many foods have types of carbohydrates known as sugars and starches. When you eat foods with any of these types of carbohydrates, your body breaks down the carbohydrates into a type of sugar called glucose. The glucose goes into your bloodstream. Insulin helps the cells in your body remove glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy, while excess glucose eventually gets stored as fat. 

Fast and Slow Carbs

The glycemic index is a measure of how fast the carbohydrates in food enter your bloodstream. Some carbohydrates are more difficult to break down, and the glucose enters your bloodstream more slowly. These carbs have a low GI and are considered “slow-acting carbs.” Other carbohydrates are quick to break down, and the glucose enters your bloodstream sooner after eating the food. These carbs have a high GI, and are “fast-acting carbs.” A low-GI diet is often considered “better” than a high GI, but there are some circumstances when a high-GI food can be helpful.

Blood Sugar Management

Since the GI describes how quickly your body processes carbohydrates from food and turns them into blood glucose, knowing about the GI can help you manage blood sugar. High-GI foods can be more challenging for your body, since they lead to rapid spikes in your blood glucose levels and demand a lot of insulin. If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, these bumps in blood glucose can be more than your body can handle properly.

On the other hand, low-GI foods can help you prevent these intense spikes, since blood glucose rises more slowly after eating a low-GI food. By choosing lower-GI foods, you can help your body’s insulin, and any insulin you may be taking from medications, keep pace with the demand.

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Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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