The glycemic index is a tool used to measure how much a carbohydrate-containing food will raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. Your blood glucose response varies considerably after consuming complex carbohydrates, and the glycemic index serves as a more accurate indicator of these changes. If you have diabetes, the glycemic index can be a useful tool for fine-tuning your glucose management in addition to other methods.
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Glycemic Index and Blood Sugar
High glycemic index foods may cause your blood sugar levels to spike, according to Harvard Health Publications. A rapid rise in blood sugar levels sends a signal to your pancreas to produce more insulin, a hormone that helps metabolize glucose so that it may enter the bloodstream. Over time, an overactive pancreas can weaken the body's ability to regulate blood glucose levels and eventually lead to diabetes. Conversely, low glycemic index foods allow sugars to enter the bloodstream gradually, giving your body more time to produce insulin and effectively regulate blood sugar levels.
Foods with complex carbohydrates tend to have a lower glycemic index. According to the "Journal of Nutrition," low glycemic index foods may help decrease your appetite and promote weight loss. Monitoring the glycemic index of the foods you consume may help regulate blood sugar and lower your risk of heart disease, reports the Linus Pauling Institute.
Low Glycemic Index Foods
Foods with low glycemic indexes include those that are high in fiber, raw, fresh and unprocessed. Low glycemic index foods include whole wheat and whole grain breads, low-fat yogurt, milk, and fruits such as cherries, grapefruit, apples, pears and plums. Some foods with high glycemic indexes include watermelons, potatoes, corn chips, candy and corn flakes. Like fiber content, the fat content of a food can also lower its glycemic index score, making a candy bar look like a healthy choice. Cooking and ripeness also affect a food's rating, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Flax seeds have gained popularity for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which have beneficial implications for heart health. Along with their high concentration of healthy fats, flax seeds are high in dietary fiber and have a relatively low glycemic index. A study published in 2005 in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" found that the ingestion of flax fiber in healthy individuals led to improved blood glucose levels.
It may not be easy to know any particular food's glycemic index, as it is not listed on packages. Furthermore, a food's glycemic index also does not take into account its total nutritional content, so it is important to take other nutrients into consideration, such as a food's fiber and fat content. Eat a variety of fresh fiber-containing foods daily.