Carbohydrate-rich Foods & the Glycemic Index
All nutrients are not created equal especially when it comes to their effect on our health.
So shifting our focus from nutrients to foods can help us develop better eating habits that
will support our long term health.
Let's look at an example of how focusing on nutrients rather than food can leave us confused and potentially consuming a diet that's dangerous to our health. In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on the fact that many of us are eating too many carbohydrates. There are lots of popular diet trends that encourage us to drastically reduce
the carbohydrates in our diet, even to the point of limiting our intake of fresh fruit. At the same time, some of these low-carb diets seem to suggest that protein and fats can be eaten freely. But a diet that's very high in animal protein and contains no whole grain or not enough fruits and vegetables could leave us with serious problems in the long run. In fact, the category carbohydrates includes a wide spectrum of foods. Some of which
are really important for our health. And some of which can compromise it. Whole grains like unpolished rice and rolled oats are carbohydrates that provide our bodies with
a usable source of energy and bound together in that very same food is a significant amount of fiber, which slows the release of glucose from that food into the bloodstream. The glycemic index of a food is the measure of the speed at which glucose is released
into the blood stream after it's digested.
A whole grain like unpolished rice or quinoa will result in a slower release of glucose and a more muted insulin response. On the other hand, a food that's high in refined carbohydrates, like white bread or soda, will lead to a more rapid release of glucose into the blood. And in response to this, the body releases a large amount of insulin, the hormone in our bodies
that lowers blood sugar. Because of spike of glucose and insulin lead to less stable blood sugar levels, eating foods that are refined,especially highly processed carbohydrates, can result in an earlier return of hunger and a tendency to overeat. The glycemic index of a food
is lower when the food contains fiber or when it's eaten in combination with protein foods or foods containing some dietary fat.
For people who are struggling to manage their weight, or their blood sugar levels, eating foods that have a low glycemic index is especially important, but choosing low glycemic foods is generally a good idea for all us. So when we talk about dietary carbohydrates we're actually talking about a very broad family of foods. Some that can be harmful to our long term health, and some that can support it. Learning how to choose the right foods within each nutrient category is one of the keys to long term success.
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