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 The Low Carb Luxury Online Magazine  
    April 2005    Page 12       > About LCL Magazine     > Cover Page      > Inside Cover    Feature Pages:   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11  12  13  14     


Feature Articles
 Why Coenzyme Q10?
 Handling Food Safely
 Make it Low Carb: Saucy!
 Springtime Recipes
 A Time of New Beginnings
 5 Ways to Beautiful Skin
 Food and Wine Pairings
 Time Management Tips
 Recipes from Dreamfields
 Living Authentically
 Panel: Exercise & Weight Loss
 GL, GI? Oh My!
 Top Picks: Low Carb Books
 Perfect Scrambled Eggs



  Megan's Pecans from The Low Carb Connoisseur

                 GL / GI: Oh My! by Cerise Cauthron

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



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