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The Glycaemic Index And Your Health

Friday, 22.09.2017

Health is something that we need to keep an eye on for multiple reasons – we want our kids to grow up healthy and smart, and we want to stay healthy for the sake of our kids as well! Through regular exercise and a healthy diet, we can keep our physical health in good shape and possibly ward off some more common health-related issues.

The glycaemic index (GI) of food is something that we should keep an eye on, especially if diabetes and heart disease runs in our family. For those wanting to combat obesity, watching the GI of food that they intake helps (along with exercise)! But what is GI anyway?

Glycaemic Index: it measures the impact of a carbohydrate food on blood glucose, using a scale from 1 to 100 to rank carbohydrate foods based on how quickly and how much they raise blood glucose after eating.

The GI value of a food is determined by feeding 10 or more healthy people a portion of the food containing 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate and then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours. For each person, the area under their two-hour blood glucose response for this food is then measured.

Finding Out The GI Of A Food
On another occasion, the same 10 people consume an equal-carbohydrate portion of the sugar glucose and their two-hour blood glucose response is also measured. A GI value for the test food is then calculated and the final GI value for the test food is the average GI value for the 10 people.

Glucose or white bread is given a maximum GI of 100. All other carbohydrate foods score a GI anywhere from 1 to 100. Foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood glucose are given higher GI values, while those that cause more gradual rise in blood glucose are given lower GI values.

Scientists used to think that sugary foods cause a more rapid rise in blood glucose compared to starchy foods but this is not true. While many sugary foods have high GIs, some starchy foods like white bread and potato score even higher than honey or table sugar.

Eating too much high GI foods causes repeated spikes in blood glucose, and studies have shown that this can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and colorectal cancer. For persons with diabetes, eating lower GI foods helps to control blood glucose levels and improve weight loss.

The table below groups common carbohydrate foods according to their GI value (taken from HealthHub.sg, info was provided by the Health Promotion Board):

Should We Choose Carbs Solely On GI?
In short, no! GI only measures the impact of carbohydrate foods on your blood glucose, but it doesn't represent the amount of nutrients in the food. May nutritious foods have a higher GI than foods with little nutritional value - oatmeal has a higher GI than chocolate. Interestingly, fat combined with carbohydrate tends to lower the GI value of the food since fat slows digestion. Deep-fried potato chips actually have a lower GI than boiled potatoes, but it doesn't mean that those chips are healthier!

We should treat GI as one of the many tools that can help us make sensible food choices. A food's GI vale should not be the only thing to consider when planning our meals - choosing foods lower in saturated fat and salt, and high in nutrients is also important for our health regardless of their GI. To find out more about balanced and healthy meals, and how you can pick up healthy eating habits that can help you better ward off chronic diseases and better manage weight, visit HealthHub's My Healthy Plate at https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/55/my-healthy-plate!

What Affects the GI of a Food?
As a general rule, the more cook or processed a food is, the higher its GI; however, this is not always true. Here are a few examples of other factors that can affect a food's GI:

  • Ripeness and storage time - the more ripe a fruit or veggie is, the higher the GI.
  • Processing - juice has a higher GI than whole fruit; mashed potato has a higher GI that a whole baked potato, and stone ground whole wheat bread.
  • Cooking method - how long a food is cooked (al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta); cooking makes it easier to digest food and raise blood glucose levels.
  • Variety - converted long-grain white rice has a lower GI than brown rice but short-grain white rice has a higher GI than brown rice.

 


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