Why Coenzyme Q10?
Handling Food Safely
Make it Low Carb: Saucy!
A Time of New Beginnings
5 Ways to Beautiful Skin
Food and Wine Pairings
Time Management Tips
Recipes from Dreamfields
Panel: Exercise & Weight Loss
GL, GI? Oh My!
Top Picks: Low Carb Books
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
SIGN UP TO SUBSCRIBE
In a recent issue of Low Carb Luxury, experts weighed in on the concept of GI, or Glycemic
Index. Not surprisingly, a variety of opinions were manifested. As with any concept, some
people are advocates, and others are skeptics. Some of you readers, however, may have been
intrigued by the concept. You might be curious about how to put the glycemic index principle
into practice. Once you have an understanding of the glycemic index and its partner in
crime — glycemic load — you will also have a more clear understanding of why low carb diets
work for weight loss and blood-sugar control, why some foods are ok for low carbing and others
are not, and why portion control is emphasized in all sound nutritional plans.
Glycemic index is a measure of the rate at which the carbohydrates of a food are mobilized into
blood sugars. How fast can the food produce those demon sugar carbs that worm their way into
your poor body to wreak havoc? The standard by which foods are evaluated is our old friend,
glucose — it is given a score of 100 on the GI scale. So, in comparison to a straight glucose
cocktail, how quick are the food's carbohydrates to mobilize into the system? Foods with a GI
value less than 55 are considered low GI. They move slowly into the blood and cause a slow,
minimal insulin increase. Foods with a GI between 55 and 70 are considered medium GI. They
promote moderate increases in blood insulin. Foods above 70 are high GI — they race into your
system like long lost relatives after you've won the lottery.
Not surprisingly, the foods that are highly touted on low carb plans generally fall on the
low end of the GI scale. Fats, beef, chicken, pork, fish and seafood fall nearly at the zero
point. They have no carbohydrate to set in motion. Cheese, eggs and nuts are also very low.
Salad greens, fiber-y vegetables, avocadoes, and olives all fall in the low GI range. Upon
reflection, these are the foods that are considered suitable for all low carb plans and for all
stages within the plan (with the possible exception of nuts.) Eat foods with a low GI value
and your blood sugar will behave itself.
How do you know the GI value of a food? There are many tables available online and some books
also provide this information. Not every food in the world has had its GI evaluated to date,
but more and more foods are added as time goes by and the databases are growing in response
to consumer demand for this type of dietary information.
So, you head to the store armed with your lists, tables and books. Spinach? 15. That goes in
the cart. Eggplant? 15. Lobbed like a 3-point shot into the cart. On and on you go, down your
GI list loading up on those low GI foods.
Cheddar cheese, broccoli, almonds, macaroni... SCREECH!!!!!!!!!!
You slam on your shopping brakes and stare at your list in disbelief. There must be some mistake.
Regular old villainous refined-flour pasta is right there on the low GI list of foods. Have the
low carb advocates been playing some cruel joke on you? Laughing behind your back as you forego bowls
of fettuccine alfredo, bagels with cream cheese and potato chips? No, but here is where strictly
adhering to a diet governed only by GI values will get you into trouble.
Remember that the glycemic index only states how quickly the carbohydrates in a food are mobilized
into the bloodstream. Well, the carbs in pasta are starches. The body has to first break the starch
into simple sugars for the insulin train to leave the station. That takes time. In fact, many fruits
have GI values equal to or higher that most pasta. So, why can't low carbers eat pasta if the GI is
so gosh-darn low? Well, that brings us to another idea — glycemic load or GL. Glycemic load is based
on the glycemic index, but also takes into account portion size and the amount of carbohydrate a
portion of a food actually contains.
Many feel this is a far more important value for low carb dieters and diabetics to assess when
planning their meals. Think of it this way — glycemic index is like the mobilization time for an
army. War is declared; how quickly can an army hit the enemy's beaches, ready to fight tooth and
nail? High GI foods would make that beach assault, while the low GI foods were still in bed. Consider,
however, the impact of that lightning-fast attack if the size of the army was 8 people. Sure, they got
there fast, but even armed to the teeth, they aren't going to do much damage. The low GI army may still
be snoozing, but if that army is 10,000 persons in size, even showing up late to the party, they are
still going to do a lot of damage.
That's the difference between GI and GL. GI is mobilization time; GL reflects the actual impact of the
food on the blood sugar through the amount of carbohydrates the food contains. Pasta has a low GI, but
a high GL. The carbs are pretty slow to get into the bloodstream, but there are a LOT of carbs hitting
your system in each portion you eat. The total effect is significant. Now, look at the example of the
watermelon. Watermelon has a high GI value (72). The carbs in watermelon sprint into your system and
start hammering away at you with all their might. But, per serving, watermelon only delivers 10 net
carbs/ cup, diced. So, they are hammering away, but to what overall avail?
Many foods prohibited to low carb dieters, at least until later maintenance phases, have a low glycemic
index value — legumes, grains, and fruits. The reason they are red-flagged is their glycemic load.
Foods with a low GL have values between 0-10, medium runs between 11-19 and high GL foods fall 20 and
above. If you examine the glycemic load values for the legumes, grains and fruits, you see that run in
the high range, regardless of their GI value. Many currently available tables list both values for you
to use in planning your diet.
Glycemic load also explains the importance of portion control in weight and health management. Whether
you eat 1 serving of cherries or 8 servings of cherries, the GI value will always be 22, nice and low.
However, 1 serving of cherries has a GL of 2, but 8 servings of cherries has a GL of 16. And a serving
is a measly half-cup. Remember that GL reflects not only a food's GI value, but also the number of
carbohydrates the food releases. Well, 1 serving of cherries may release 8 net carbs, but 8 servings
would yield 8 times that value — 64 net carbs. Glycemic load will increase with increasing portion
size and, depending on the food's glycemic index, this can make a very large difference in the
blood-sugar impact. For many, this is the reason for their weight-management problems.
Many vegetarians eat a diet solely based on whole grains, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, beans,
etc. Good carbs. But they are overweight. Why? The amounts they consume are too large and the overall
glycemic load per day is very, very high. The insulin impact promotes conversion of the sugars into fat
and we know where that ultimately leads.
So, how can you put GI and GL into practice to manage your weight and health? First, on Induction or
other 1st–stage phases, stick to the rules of that phase without exception. You'll be following a low–GI
plan if you do this anyway. As you move on to later phases, keep GI and GL in mind as you make your food
choices and portion food for your meals. You are not restricted to only eating low GI and GL foods; you
can still consume medium and high-range items within limits. One factor in your favor is food combining.
Like many things, highs and lows can balance each other. Eating a high-GI or GL food in combination with
one that is low will give you a more medium insulin effect. Ever wonder why low carb experts recommend
adding peanut butter or cheese to an apple when you get that "I have got to have an apple, darn it; it
is October for pity's sake," craving? Well, peanut butter has a lower GL than the apple and will help
moderate the apple's effects. A meal can feature a higher-valued item, as long as the other items are
low. These are just basic low carb cooking principles; just remember to control portion size.
Anything else? Well, cooking increases a food's GI and GL values. For the carbs to get into your system,
they have to punch through the food's cell walls. The walls are stronger in raw form than when softened
up by heat. So, raw or less-cooked foods release their carbs more slowly. Strict adherents of raw diets
often complain of excessive weight loss, even with a high daily carbohydrate intake. So, consume higher
GI and GL foods in their raw states — a few slices of raw mango as opposed to mango simmered in a sauce
— or cook only until crisp-tender. Get out that wok for some stir-frying!
Further, milling increases GI and GL. The smaller the particles, the easier it is for the body to get
to individual cells to break their walls and release the carbs. Whole-wheat flour and white flour have
almost identically high GI and GL values because both are milled so finely. Wheat flakes have lower values
and wheat berries are lower, still. And, although acids such as lime/lemon juice and vinegars add carbs
to the diet, they also work to lower the GI of foods in a meal. Adding these to a dish will reduce the
overall values of the dish as a whole and this may benefit you more than the extra gram or two of carbs
added will hurt you.
The glycemic index and glycemic load have been used often for nutritional management of diabetes and do
have applications for low carb dieters. As you move from initial low carb phases to that final nirvana
of lifetime maintenance, these concepts will help to keep you on track. Eat low GI and GL foods as often
as possible. When you indulge with higher-value items, do so in conjunction with low-value items to
moderate the effects. Always exercise portion control, even with low GI and GL items. Choose raw fruits
and veggies often and reduce the number of times per week you pull out your crockpot or pressure cooker.
Shop with your GI/GL chart in hand to check your food purchases and never be afraid to try something new.
Low carbing is not about deprivation. It is about enjoyment, exploration, health, taste and happiness.
GI and GL may help you achieve these goals. GL? GI? Oh My — Give em' a Try!
Copyright © April 2005 Cerise Cauthron and Low Carb Luxury