The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how high blood sugar levels rise when people consume about 50 grams of carbohydrate from various foods. The GI is useful for people with diabetes to help them predict the effect a food or meal will have on their blood sugar levels. It ranks individual foods on a scale of 1-100 relative to the impact of pure glucose, which has a GI of 100.
The glycemic index has become the centerpiece of fad diet books such as The Zone, The South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet Revolution and Sugar Busters. It has recently received media attention from the Associated Press in an article titled, “Good Carb, Bad Carb.”
We decided to ask our nutrition scientist, James Kenney, PhD, RD, LD, FACN, for his opinion on using the glycemic index as a weight loss tool. Dr. Kenney advises, “The GI indexis not really a good tool for weight loss because there is a drawback to using it exclusively for this purpose. Foods that are higher in fat, such as meat, chocolate and nuts, take longer to digest. Their impact on blood sugar levels is less and they have a lower GI. But, higher fat consumption has clearly been linked with excessive calorie intake and weight gain.
The bottom line:
Forget about using the glycemic index for weight control and focus on eating more lowfat foods that have a high fiber and high moisture content. These include fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley and whole wheat), and legumes/beans. Foods such as white breads, baked goods, cookies, crackers and chips as well as foods with a lot of fat and/or sugar have little fiber and provide less satiety per calorie.
Example #1 – M&Ms versus baked potatoes:
If we took only the glycemic index into consideration, we would be tempted to assume that it is better to eat Peanut M&M candies (33) than baked potatoes (67). However, Peanut M&M candies contain more fat and much less fiber per calorie than a baked potato (with lowfat toppings). You would have to eat many more calories of M&Ms versus baked potato calories to feel satiated.
Example #2 – Snapple versus an orange:
Although an orange (43)?is double the score of Snapple (20) it is a much better nutritional choice because the Snapple contains no fiber and fructose, which has been shown to raise triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol. By contrast, the orange has a very high satiety value and slightly lowers “bad” cholesterol due to its soluble fiber. It is also rich in potassium and many other nutrients.
www.foodandhealth.com – Click on CPE courses in the top orange bar and then scroll down to Weight Loss for an article titled, “Do High Glycemic Index Foods Cause Obesity?”
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.