The Glycemic Index of foods or GI - also spelt Glycaemic Index in Britain - could be the tool you need to make the right choice as far as carbs are concerned.
The Glycemic Index of foods was developed at the University of Toronto in the early 1980s as a way to determine how fast and how high a particular food raises your blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrates are the foods that raise blood sugar, as they get changed into glucose in the digestive tract.
Glucose per se is not the problem, as it's the preferred fuel used by all the cells in your body. The problem arises when certain carbs turn into sugar very rapidly, causing blood sugar levels to rise very suddenly.
Foods high in fats or proteins don't cause much rise in blood sugar levels as they contain very little carbohydrates if any.
Some foods contain more carbohydrates than others. Beans, for example, are about 25% protein and 75% carbohydrate. Rice, on the other hand, is more than 90% carbohydrate.
It's the quantity of carbohydrate in foods (and of course, how much of the food you eat) that primarily affects blood sugar, but the type of carbohydrates also has an effect.
Usually high increases in blood sugar are followed by rapid declines. These highs and lows are often the reason why some people find it very difficult to lose weight or to keep to a low calorie diet.
Chronically elevated blood sugar can also cause a lot of damage to organs and tissue throughout the body, leading to all sorts of health problems, especially diabetes, heart disease, obesity and more.
Read about what low GI foods can do for you by following the link.
It's a clever way of determining the effect of food on people's blood sugar levels.
To determine the glycemic index value of various foods, people are fed whatever serving size of the food that equals 50 g. of carbohydrates and compared against the effect of 50 g. of pure glucose. Glucose is used for comparison and is given a GI value of 100. Then their blood sugar levels are measured.
Another version of the glycemic index uses white bread as a comparison.
Foods are scored in a scale of 0 to 100. If the food given causes an increase in blood sugar levels of 60% as high as glucose, for example, then that food is given a GI value of 60 and so on. The closer to 100 a food is ranked, the more it raises blood sugar.
Some foods, such as Jasmine rice and some baked potatoes, actually rank higher than pure glucose!
As a rule, a GI value under 55 is considered low, 56 to 69 moderate and 70 or more is high.
Does this mean that you should never eat foods with a high GI value? No, it doesn't. What it means is that you should choose foods with a low GI value most of the time to help you keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Not completely. The problem is that most people will eat a combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fat in any one meal and this tends to blunt the rise of blood sugar.
So, for example, you could look up the GI value of a baked potato but if you eat it with a steak or top it with butter and sour cream, it will have a different effect on your blood sugar.
However, in one recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers asked a group of volunteers to eat 14 different typical meals (such as bagels and cream cheese with orange juice, for example) then measured the change in their blood levels.
They found that the GI value of the foods in each meal were about 90% accurate in predicting how much their blood sugar levels would change.
Find out some of the problems the Glycemic Index of foods presents and why the Glycemic Load could be a better guide.
Or you can go to the Whole Grain Foods main page to make your choice or click on Next.