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Glycemic Index: Balancing the Sweetness in your Life

Which raises blood sugar more, a potato or a fudge brownie?

The answer: A plain old potato actually raises your blood sugar slightly more than a rich, gooey brownie, according to the American Diabetes Association. In fact, a white potato breaks down into sugar immediately upon entering your body.
Glycemic index (GI) is a value assigned to a food depending on how much it raises blood sugar. A white potato actually has a higher glycemic index than a brownie.
Don’t you wish you knew that yesterday?

The awareness of glycemic index in foods is not a diet, but a balanced way of eating. It has nothing to do with a food’s nutrients. I have used it for years with my diabetic clients. And recently I have been applying the same principles to weight loss.

When a person consumes food with a high glycemic index, the tail of the pancreas secretes a hormone, insulin, to lower the glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin also aggressively promotes the accumulation of body fat and, even worse, a raise in insulin also tells the body not to release any stored fat, so excess carbohydrates not only make you fat, but keep you fat.

Let’s picture the typical American consuming refined carbohydrates at every meal. Let’s start with breakfast: cereal, bagel, doughnut or muffin; a soda in the afternoon for a pick me up, a sandwich at lunch (on white bread); pasta with protein for dinner. Don’t forget the evening snacks: chips, cookies, crackers and such.

Sound familiar? I see it with my clients every day — it’s fast, convenient and cheap. Just eating three meals a day comprised of high glycemic index foods keeps insulin in the bloodstream for 18-24 hours before it drops Besides your pancreas becoming stressed, you become fatter and the fat sticks around!
The World Health Organization now recognizes the importance of foods with low GI.
Okay, what if you are insulin resistant? This is a condition of decreased sensitivity to insulin in fat, liver and muscle cells. Normally a small amount of insulin is required to do the job, but in insulin resistant individuals, a lot more is needed. This overproduction over a long period of time will exhaust the pancreas tail. And again, this overproduction of insulin will be stored in fat cells. An obese individual with elevated insulin levels without diabetes will probably be well on their way to becoming diabetic.

How do we change the way we eat to keep this from happening? Just look at the food’s packaging. Is it bleached (white flour, sugar, pasta, bread, etc.)? Is it designed to last several years on a shelf?

A healthy range for GI is 0-55 – then using with caution those foods with a GI of 55-75. Anything over 75 will cause excessive insulin output — keeping fat stored on the body. Let’s look at some examples. A white potato has a GI of 95, white bread is 95, corn flakes 70-85, bananas are 60, and refined pasta carries a glycemic index of 65. On the low end, milk yogurt is 35, dried apricots are 35, beans and peas run 30-40, soybeans 15, green vegetables 0-15, a sweet potato is 50, and pears are 45.

These numbers come from the website, a book called Adrenal Fatigue by James L Wilson, ND, and The New Glucose Revolution Shoppers Guide to GI Values, a book listing the GI values of all the foods you enjoy.
Here are some suggestions to lower the GI of the foods that you enjoy the most. Packaged/processed cereals can be replaced by homemade or raw muesli made from oats, bran, seeds and psyllium with small amounts of dried fruit or barley or oats (not instant). To replace white bread or bagels, use pumpernickel or stone-ground wheat. To replace the easy-to-find white or wheat flour cracker, use stone ground or vita-wheat crackers. Use sweet potatoes, or whole grain pasta or long grain brown rice, or legumes or soybeans. For refined sugar use xylitol or stevia. The latter two can be used without raising insulin levels — a perfect substitute for diabetics.

Stevia has been used for 200 years in Brazil and Paraguay for lowering blood-sugar levels in diabetics. Another benefit of stevia and xylitol is that they cause neither tooth decay nor cavities!

To lower the GI of foods, add a twist of lemon; splash on olive oil or flax seed oil to slow the absorption of carbohydrates when eaten. Add fiber to dishes to slow carbohydrate absorption — quelling insulin surges. Adding at least three different types of vegetables to instant dishes when in a hurry — to pizza, soups, sandwiches and pasta dishes, brings that necessary source of fiber. Adding two or three times more vegetables than meat can be an easy way to balance the meal.

t takes a little work to make the necessary changes, but the payoff can be a healthier, slimmer you. Start with a little guidance, from reference material or your favorite nutritionist. Information is key.

You will never look at a white potato the same again.

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About the Author

Jill Clarey, The Natural Path with Jill Clarey, Classical Naturopath
108 East Bessemer Ave.
Greensboro, NC 27401

If you would like to re-print this article, please contact the author.
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