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The Myth that Glycemic Index is a Big Deal for Most
June 07, 2006

The Myth that Glycemic Index is a Big Deal For Most...
and Why You SHOULD Enjoy Carrots and Watermelon This Summer

Gina here from Home Bodies!

Today I would like to help explain an issue that can be complicated and confusing for many people: Glycemic Index versus Glycemic Load.

The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring the rise in circulating blood sugar triggered from consuming a carbohydrate. The higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. This is why you sometimes read that you should avoid a food like carrots, because the carbs in them are absorbed rapidly. However, there is a catch--glycemic index compares all foods on a calorie-for-calorie basis--which means that higher-calorie foods are in fact much more of a problem than lower-calorie foods. See, the more calories you consume of a particular food, the bigger the problem glycemic index can be. This means that all fruits and vegetables are pretty safe and won't cause a problem for the vast majority of people--fruits and vegetables have so much water and fiber that you would have to eat pounds and pounds of them to rack up enough calories to make a difference.

Let me put it to you another way--I will compare glycemic index of foods to a basketball player. I know this is sort of a bizarre analogy but stay with me here. Say you have a player, Timmy, who makes 70% of the shots he takes, but he only gets the ball once per game. In spite of the fact that he is great at shooting, because he doesn't get the ball often enough, he still won't be a high scorer. On a similar note, the carbs in carrots, for example, are more quickly absorbed than many other foods, but there are so few of them that the overall impact on your body is still very small. medium, and a GI of 55 or less is low.

There is another, less famous (but actually more applicable to real-world results) index called the glycemic load (GL). The GL measures the real-world impact of carbohydrate consumption, rather than an artificial comparison of absorbtion rates. The GI, for example, compares consuming an entire bag of carrots to consuming 3/4 of one plain bagel, because the bag of carrots and the 3/4 of a plain bagel have the same calories. Obviously that's not a real-world comparison, because no one would eat an entire bag of carrots. But it is a scientific comparison because it compares 250 calories of one food to 250 calories of another.

A GI value tells you only how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. But what it doesn't tell you is how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. You need to know both things to understand a food's effect on blood sugar. That is where glycemic load comes in. The carbohydrate in watermelon, for example, has a high GI. But there isn't a lot of it, so watermelon's glycemic load is relatively low. In contrast, the carbohydrate in pasta has a lower GI, but there are more calories per serving than there is in watermelon, so blood sugar is actually more affected with the pasta even though the GI is lower.

Click here to see the GI and GL tables for many different foods.

If you prefer the a simpler list of just the most common American foods, you can find such a list here: Abridged GI and GL list.

Event Announcement: Gina Paulhus will be performing in a Gymnastics Show Sunday, June 11 at 6pm. Gina has been a gymnast for 14 years, although she took a three-year hiatus from training when she launched her business in late 2003. The show will take place in Salisbury, MA and includes Floor Exercise and Balance Beam performances with music and costumes. Most of the routines are group performances, but Gina is performing a beam and a floor solo as well as some group performances. There is a nominal door fee and the show lasts approximately 2 hours. Click here for directions to All Around Gymnastics in Salisbury, MA. We hope to see you there!
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