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So You Want to Eat Carbs with a Low Glycemic Index

Sep 16, 2008
All carbohydrates are not created equal. A food's glycemic index, or GI, describes this difference in the way carbs act in your body, by ranking them according to their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly during digestion, causing a rapid blood sugar response, have the highest GI.

Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have a lower GI.

Choosing carbs that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels, low GI carbs, is the secret to long-term health. Low GI carbs help to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and promote sustainable weight loss.

How We Can Use Our Knowledge of the Glycemic Index

* A diet rich in low GI foods can help control established diabetes.
* A diet rich in low GI foods can help prevent the onset of diabetes later in life.
* In fact, a low GI diet can improve the body's sensitivity to insulin, reversing the risk for Adult Onset Type-II Diabetes.
* Low GI diets help people lose and control weight.
* Low GI diets can help people control blood cholesterol.
* A low GI diet reduces the risk of heart disease.
* Low GI foods reduce hunger and let you feel fuller longer.
* High GI foods can help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after exercise.
* High GI foods can provide energy for immediate high energy needs such as sprinting or powerlifting, but...
* ...low GI carbs provide energy for prolonged physical endurance.
* Help kids to choose low GI foods over high GI foods. This will make them less likely to be obese or develop diabetes, and their teeth will be healthier too.

Foods to Choose

Breads:

* Coarse European style whole grain wheat or rye pita bread
* Cracked or sprouted whole wheat

Cereals:

* Compact noodle-like high bran cereals (All-Bran, Fiber One)
* Uncooked oatmeal
* Porridge
* Whole Grain Cereal (Kashi) mixed with Psyllium (Fiberwise)

Pasta, Grains and Starchy Vegetables:

* Whole grain or whole wheat pasta
* Barley
* Bulgur
* Buckwheat (kasha)
* Couscous
* Kidney beans (not canned)
* Lentils
* Black-eyed peas
* Chick-peas
* Lima beans
* Peas
* Sweet Potato
* Yam
* Soybeans
* Most vegetables

Dairy Products:

* Skim or 1% milk
* Cottage cheese (lowfat or regular)
* Buttermilk
* Low-fat plain yogurt
* Low-fat fruited yogurt
* Low-fat frozen yogurt with artificial sweetener
* 2% cheese

Fruit:

Most fruit and natural no sugar added fruit juices are low to moderate GI foods. Choose fruit in moderation, but these are the best. All fruit must be fresh or frozen. No canned fruit in syrup!

* Apple
* Berries
* Cantaloupe
* Grapefruit
* Honeydew
* Oranges
* Pears
* Grapes
* Peaches
* No sugar added applesauce
* Fresh cherries
* Plums and...
* ...grapefruit are the lowest

Meats:

* Shellfish
* "White" fish (cod, flounder, trout, tuna in water)
* Chicken (white meat no skin)
* Turkey (white meat no skin)
* Cornish hen
* Venison (white meat no skin)
* Egg substitutes (cholesterol free)
* Eggs

Foods You Should Eat in Moderation

Breads:

* 100% stone ground whole wheat
* Pumpernickel
* 100% whole grain rye crackers

Cereals:

* Grape-nut cereal
* Medium-fine grain oatmeal (5-minute variety)
* Uncooked oatmeal

Pasta, Grains and Starchy Vegetables:

* Rice
* Boiled Potato
* Corn
* Navy beans
* Kidney beans (canned)
* Baked beans
* Beets

Dairy Products:

* 2% milk
* Cheese
* Regular plain yogurt

Fruit:

* Banana
* Kiwi
* Mango
* Papaya
* Orange juice

Meats:

* Higher fat fish, (salmon, herring)
* Lean cuts of beef
* Lean cuts of pork
* Veal
* Low-fat imitation luncheon meat

Foods You Should Avoid

Breads:

* White bread
* Most commercial whole wheat breads
* English muffins
* Bagel
* French bread
* Most commercial matzoh

Cereals:

* Corn flakes
* Puffed rice
* Puffed wheat
* Flaked cereals
* Instant "Quick" or pre-cooked cereals
* Oatbran
* Rolled oats
* Shredded wheat
* Muesli

Pasta, Grains and Starchy Vegetables:

* Instant rice
* Brown rice
* Instant precooked starchy foods
* Baked potato
* Micro-waved potato
* Instant potato
* Winter squash (acorn, butternut)
* Carrots
* Parsnips

Dairy Products:

* Whole milk
* Ice milk
* Ice cream
* Yogurt sweetened with sugar
* Low-fat frozen desserts with sugar added
* Low-fat and regular frozen yogurt with sugar added
* Tofu ice cream

Fruit:

* Pineapple
* Raisins
* Watermelon
* Fruit juices sweetened with sugar

Meats:

* Most cuts of beef
* Pork
* Lamb
* Hot dogs (including "low-fat" versions)
* Regular cheese
* Luncheon meats
* Regular peanut butter

Choosing the right carbs at the right time will help you in all aspects of your life. Eating low GI carbs in the morning and at lunch will help you stay awake and maintain a linear energy state. Eating or drinking high GI carbs during and after a workout will give you quick energy and help you recover from intense workouts. Eating low GI carbs for dinner will help you to avoid late-night snacking.

When you time your carbs and minimize high GI foods, you are living a healthy lifestyle.
About the Author
Steve Hanson has 10 years experience in the fields of exercise science and sports nutrition. He writes articles on all forms of athletic training and nutritional theories. View the blog to learn more about your favorite exercise and nutrition topics.

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