Low Vs. High GI Foods For Diabetes

With the incidents of type 2 diabetes growing to epidemic proportions around the world, chances are you’ve heard of it and its associated complications--e.g. heart disease, stroke, kidney issues and loss of eyesight, to name a few.  If there was ever a time to understand how to prevent and manage this disease, it’s now.

Do you or someone you know deal with this chronic illness? Have you become curious of your own blood sugar control? Let’s talk low and high GI foods in your diet and the power you have to practice diabetes prevention.

Low vs. high GI

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to how quickly their digestion raises blood sugar levels. Low GI foods sit at a score of 55 or less, intermediate at 55-70 and high at 70 or above.

The relative healthfulness of carbs corresponds to where they sit on the index--e.g. whole grain brown rice sits at 48, while white bread sits at 75.

When it comes to the debate on carbs, a common misunderstanding is that they are all created equal. In truth, there is a big difference between healthy and unhealthy carbs.

Whole grains such as brown rice, the carbs found in legumes and whole pieces of fruit, as well as resistant starches in root vegetables, are examples of carbs with low GI that have well recognised health benefits. Refined flours such as those in white breads and biscuits, along with sugar and sweeteners are examples of high GI, refined carbs that cause issues if over consumed.

Why is low GI better?

Low GI foods contain longer sugar chains such as starches and fibre (indigestible bits that slow sugar release). It takes more time and energy for the body to digest these complex carbs, which results in a slow and steady increase of blood sugar levels--and this is exactly what we want for sustained energy throughout the day!

On the other hand, high GI foods are metabolised quickly and cause blood sugar spikes, which over time can put a strain on our organs.

Love your pancreas

The pancreas acts as the guardian of our blood sugar levels, secreting insulin, a hormone that acts as a key which unlocks our cells, letting sugar out of our blood and into our cells for energy.

Long term strain on the pancreas may jeopardize its ability to cope. This is why including as many low and intermediate GI foods in our diets, while limiting high GI ones, is important for anyone conscious of their long term health.

Diabetes sufferers know better than anyone just how essential blood sugar balance is. Type 2 diabetes manifests when the insulin is no longer effective at balancing our blood sugar levels. With diabetes, careful monitoring of blood sugar and help from a doctor is needed to avoid life threatening situations.

It’s recommended that adults with diabetes avoid consuming too much saturated fat, salt, or alcohol and focus on low and intermediate GI foods, while limiting high GI food intake.

To look up the GI of common foods you eat, use this website here. And here’s a helpful list of the GI’s for 60 popular foods. Always speak to your doctor or qualified dietitian before making changes to your diet that might affect dosage of  your medication.

Luckily, this condition benefits tremendously from lifestyle changes that include making more conscious food choices and getting plenty of physical exercise. Stay tuned for more information and practical tips for prevention during Diabetes Awareness week this July.