Why Low GI Foods Are Good for You

There's no doubt that eating low GI foods is good for you: Not only it crowds out empty calories, but also it helps fight many of today's major health problems.

Here I've listed 16 good reasons why eating more high-fiber, low GI foods is good for your health.

1- Lower your Risk of Diabetes

Constantly high blood levels of glucose - a consequence of a diet rich in high-GI foods - cause the cells to eventually ignore insulin (insulin resistance) and gradually leading to diabetes.

Many studies indicate that eating low-fiber, high-GI foods can double the risk of type 2 diabetes.

According to a Harvard study of nearly 43,000 men, you can reverse the threat of diabetes by swapping white bread, white rice and sugary breakfast cereals with whole grain breads, brown rice and oatmeal.

2 - Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Persistently high levels of blood sugar increases the threat of heart attacks. How so? Researchers believe that it raises the levels of destructive compounds called "free radicals". These compounds "oxidize" cholesterol present in the blood vessels, making it more dangerous.

People with insulin resistance also have high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides (a type of blood fat linked to cardiovascular disease), high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. These problems, along with obesity, come together in insulin resistance, also called metabolic syndrome.

A recent study, by researchers at several hospital in Boston, found that overweight people who adopted a diet rich in slow carbs had lower insulin levels, triglycerides and blood pressure than those who simply adopted a low-fat diet.

3 - Reduce Risk of Stroke

A low-GI diet can reduce the risk of stroke. High levels of glucose in your bloodstream can cause furring of the arteries which can lead to atherosclerosis and, as a consequence, increase the likelihood of strokes.

Women who switched just one serving of refined carbs to whole grains each day cut their risk of stroke by 40%, say researchers at Harvard University.

4 - Curb Inflammation

When cholesterol assaults artery walls, the immune system responds with inflammation. By choosing low GI foods, rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, you can actually reduce inflammation in your body.

In a study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, researchers followed a group of more than 50 people for a little over a year, measuring their blood periodically for levels of CRP (the marker of inflammation).

The people who ate the most fiber - more than 20 g. per day, which is the minimum amount most experts recommend - had 63% less inflammation than others who ate low-fiber diets.

Also, many dermatologist believe that refined carbohydrates trigger inflammation of the skin.

This creates high levels of free radicals which attack the collagen and elastin fibers that keep skin firm, causing poor skin tone and wrinkles. So, by cutting sugary foods out of your diet, you will look younger.

5 - Reduce Acne

According to research done at Colorado State University, high insulin levels lead to the release of higher levels of androgens (or male hormones) in the system, which trigger excess sebum production. So reducing insulin levels can help reduce acne and oily skin.

6 - Strengthen your Immune System

Sugary foods attack your immune system. When fighting illness, the average white blood cell can destroy about 14 germs per hour.

However, when exposed to 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of sugar, that number falls to 1.4 germs per hour, and stays that way for two hours.

Low GI foods will potentially cut the risks of ailments such as colds and flu.

7 - Help You Loose Weight

Population studies have shown that people who eat low GI foods tend to weigh less than those who prefer sugary or starchy foods.

By slowing down digestion, low GI foods keep you full for longer, which helps curb appetite later in the day.

Researchers at the University of Sidney in Australia carried out a study that showed that people who had low GI foods in their diet were twice as likely to lose 5% of their body weight - and keep it off - than those who followed a conventional high-carb, low-fat diet that doctors have been recommending for years.

Although 5% may seem like a small amount, if you're overweight and have have even a hint of insulin resistance, that modest amount of slimming can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.

For some reasons, low GI diets seem to be particularly effective in women. Compared with women who ate a typical high-carb, low-fat diet, women who filled up on low GI foods lost 80% more body fat and retained more muscle. Their LDL cholesterol dropped, too.

8 - Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

A diet rich in high-GI foods may increase the risk of breast cancer, according to researchers. The reason is that high insulin levels trigger an increase in insulin-like growth hormones, which can encourage breast cancer cells to grow.

9 - Help You Increase your Fiber Intake

Health experts recommend eating 25-30 g (about 1 oz) of fiber a day. A high-fiber content is a contributing factor in making a food low GI, so by increasing your intake of low GI foods, you are more likely to achieve this.

10 - Reduce Homocysteine

High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are linked to serious problems such as heart problems, strokes, diabetes and the development of Alzheimer's disease in later life. By taking simple measures, such as swapping refined foods for whole grains, your levels of homocysteine can fall dramatically.

In a study at Yonsei University, in Seoul, South Korea, a group of men swapped white rice for whole grains and their levels of homocysteine fell by 28% in just six weeks.

Low GI foods are rich in B vitamins which help the conversion of homocysteine into two very beneficial compounds, glutathione and a methyl donor called SAMe.

11 - Increase Energy Levels

Your energy levels rise dramatically when you go on a low-GI diet. The reason is that high-GI foods cause sudden peaks, then falls, in blood sugar which cause your energy levels to crash. The gentle rise that occurs with low GI foods creates a more steady energy flow.

As a consequence, you will have more stamina. Many exercisers think they need high sugar bursts to fuel their bodies, but in fact exercisers who stick to a low-GI diet throughout the majority of their training actually have better endurance.

12 - Lift Your Mood

A major mental benefit of carbohydrates is that they boost levels of the calming hormone serotonin.

High-GI carbs create a quick mood boost followed by a mood crash soon afterwards, leaving you grumpy and jittery. Low GI foods prevent this roller coaster effect.

13 - Improve Brain Performance

Steady energy levels are good for your brain. In an average day, 40% of the glucose you make is used to power your brain.

Slow, steady doses of glucose from low GI foods, help to improve attention span and memory, according to a research at the University of Wales.

14 - Improve PMS and Other Female Problems

Women can dramatically benefit from slow carbs as PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) has been linked to erratic blood sugar levels.

Also, high-GI diets are thought to be related to the condition Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) that can cause infertility problems. The ability of high insulin levels to increase levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body are believed to play a part here.

Infertility problems can be made worse in women who have a high-GI diet because imbalances in blood sugar can reduce the body's ability to handle progesterone, the hormone that is vital for a successful pregnancy.

15 - Children Benefit Too

Research at Massachusetts Institute Technology found that children raised on diets high in refined carbs had lower IQs than those raises on low GI foods. So it's extremely important that they're given low GI foods starting with their breakfast.

High-GI eaters of any age have been shown to be lacking zinc, iron, folate and calcium.

16 - Help You Live Longer

Studies show that people with high levels of vitamin C in their blood live up to 6 years longer than those with lower levels.

A high GI diet can decrease the amount of vitamin C you absorb from your body by 25%. This is because glucose and vitamin C enter cells in the same way and if there is too much glucose around, less vitamin C is absorbed.

For a list of common low GI foods follow the link or go to the Whole Grain Foods main page to choose your next topic.



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Articles in The Whole Grains Series

Whole grain Foods (Main Page)

Benefits of Whole Grains

What Are "Whole Grains?"

Whole Grain Cereals

Slow Carbs vs Fast Carbs - What Makes Some Carbs Better than Others?

Glycemic Index of Foods - What is It?

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load -What is the Difference?

Low GI Foods

Low GI Food List