The simple answer is, low glycemic foods are the ones that appear on the Glycemic Index with a value of 55 or under, but that is only part of the story. The real story is the one that tells us eating these foods over the long-term can help protect us from life threatening diseases such has diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even cancer.
This was never envisaged in 1981 when Dr. David Jenkins and his colleagues at the University of Toronto were studying which foods were best for people with diabetes. They studied the effect of different foods on people blood sugar levels. They then set up a table to rank various foods to gauge how quickly certain carbohydrates break down into glucose and increase the blood sugar level. The table ranges from 100 to zero, with 100 being the foods that increased the blood sugar level faster. Foods rated 55 or under are low GI, those at the next level, 56-69, are regarded as medium and 70 and over are said to be high GI.
Low GI foods often form an important part of many modern diets to help with weight loss. This is because they do a number of things:
- They make you feel more satisfied after eating them. In other words, you feel fuller. Which means you tend to eat less food and you are not looking for snacks
- They help control the amount of insulin you body produces
- They help to make sure that insulin functions efficiently
On the other hand, high GI foods do not give you that same feeling of satisfaction and you find yourself looking for food a little while after eating. The reason for this is they cause your blood sugar level to spike, which triggers the release of insulin to control the level of blood sugar. Insulin does bring down the blood sugar but in the process it stimulates your appetite, which is part of its function. In addition to that, insulin is a storage hormone that stores fat around the abdomen.
It is important to control the amount of insulin your body produces because if is continually called on to deal with increased blood sugar it has to produce more and more to be effective. Eventually, the body can develop insulin resistance, which means the blood sugar is not controlled as it should be. This can lead to diabetes, cause inflammation in the body and, among other things, weaken the immune system, leaving your body open to infection and disease.
That is why there is so much emphasis placed on a healthy diet based on low glycemic foods. There is no doubt, if you want to be healthy, you need to be aware of where foods stand in the Glycemic Index. This does not mean you have to carry the GI around in head, but you should know which foods are high on the index and make sure you are not eating mainly from that group. Strive to eat mainly from the low GI group to help balance the effect of eating foods high on the index, which we all do from time to time. Eating healthy foods that are low GI helps control our weight and has a positive effect on our general health. This affects our well-being and longevity, which is what being healthy is all about.