We often hear about the glycemic index of food but what does this mean exactly? The glycemic index (GI) was originally developed to help improve blood sugar control for diabetics.
It is a numerical index ranging from 0 to 100 that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods according to their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods are considered low on the scale if the GI is 55 or less, medium if it's 56 to 69, or high if it's 70 to 100. The reference point is pure glucose or a slice of white bread, which is ranked at 100.
The higher the GI number, the greater the rise in blood sugar; this leads to a mid-day crash, at which time you'll grab another high glycemic food for energy and this in turn exacerbates the high-glycemic cycle.
A low glycemic breakfast will cause a slow, stable rise in blood sugar, which will help you feel energized all day long, instead of needing a quick shot of energy at 3 p.m. Here's what you need to know to get started with the right bite.
The GI Facts
There are a number of variables that go into cooking a low glycemic breakfast:
- GI values are available for a very small percentage of foods and only for those that contain carbohydrates. The GI of these foods isn't set in stone; rather, it's affected by ripeness, storage time, how it was processed, where it was grown, and its variety, as well as, preparation methods, including how it was cooked.
- When you combine foods with other ingredients that contain fiber, protein or fat the GI is affected because the other items may reduce the total GI of that meal. When creating a low glycemic breakfast, consider the indexed rating of every ingredient you're using.
- The rate at which carbohydrates are digested varies from person to person and even in a single individual from day to day. Your body's response or conversion of carbohydrate into glucose depends on both the type and amount of carbohydrate consumed, which means the index rating can vary for you.
- It's not recommended to rely solely on the GI of foods, which could lead to high-calorie and/or less nutritional choices. Use the GI as a guide, but remember to focus on eating a high-fiber, nutritionally balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables and avoid highly processed foods.