What Is the Glycemic Index?
Are all carbohydrates created equal? The latest focus
in the nutrition and weight loss fields is the glycemic index. This is simply
a numerical ranking of foods based upon their immediate effect on blood-sugar
levels, which has claimed to be a much more reliable way to reduce heart disease,
diabetes and obesity risks. Popular diets such as the Atkins Diet are based
on this concept.
Because the carbohydrate portion of a food is what gets
turned into blood sugar, the glycemic index actually measures how the carbohydrate
content of that food gets utilized. The glycemic index does not measure the
fat or protein components of foods, although both of those components certainly
contribute to calorie counts, nutritional value and overall health and wellness.
In addition, calculating the glycemic index of a meal can be very complicated,
since the glycemic index of a particular food can change depending upon how
ripe it is or how it is prepared. For this and other reasons, the American
Diabetes Association (ADA) has not endorsed the glycemic index as a dietary
There does not appear to be any common sense about glycemic
index values of foods. Cantaloupes and ripe bananas, for example are very high,
while cherries are very low. Peas are low on the glycemic index, while carrots
and pumpkins are high. And potatoes seem to be the biggest offenders: they
raise blood sugar as rapidly as pure table sugar! On the contrary, because
fats and protein slow digestion, foods with large amounts of fat-like Reese's
peanut butter cups-have relatively low glycemic index scores.
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Created: 6/20/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.