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When you are looking forward to living a healthy lifestyle, weight loss might be one of your goals. You can lose weight using different methods and diets, and one of the diets used for weight loss is a low glycemic diet.
A low-GI diet’s main aim is to consume foods containing carbohydrates whose digestion and absorption won’t result in a large increase in your blood sugar levels.
We shall look at a low glycemic diet for weight loss, practice this diet, and the benefits and drawbacks.
What is a Glycemic Index Diet?
A diet based on the glycemic index of a meal is one whose eating plan is rooted in how the food you eat affects your blood sugar level.
Research shows that a low Glycemic diet may lead to weight loss, lower risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and a reduction in blood sugar levels.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a measure created in the early 1980s by Dr. David Jenkin, a Canadian professor, that categorizes food according to how they affect your blood sugar levels.
To measure the glycemic index (GI) of food, the level at which different meals affect your blood sugar is compared with the absorption of pure glucose weighing 50g. Fifty grams of pure glucose has a GI value of 100, and glucose is used as the reference food.
To get a better understanding of the glycemic index, here is an example. Bread, cereals, dairy products, and vegetable contain carbohydrates.
When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, they are broken down into simple sugars, and these simple sugars enter your bloodstream.
All carbohydrates are not the same. Different types of carbohydrates affect your blood sugar differently.
There are carbohydrates whose consumption will result in a higher increase in blood sugar levels than other carbohydrates.
Foods containing carbohydrates are the only ones assigned a GI value.
There are three GI ratings:
• Low: 55 or less
• Medium: 56-59
• High: 70 or more
The preferred choice is foods with a low-GI value. Foods with low Glycemic index values are slowly digested and absorbed, resulting in the rise of blood sugar levels that is slow and smaller.
It is recommended that you consume foods whose GI values are high in limited amounts as they are quickly digested and absorbed, and this fast process leads to a quick rise and fall of blood sugar levels.
What Affects The GI value of Foods?
Several factors determine the GI value of a meal. These are:
• The type of sugar
It is not true that all sugars GI values are high. The range of GI values in sugar can range from 19 in fructose to 105 in maltose. Therefore, the type of sugar in a meal plays a role in the food’s GI value.
• Structure of the starch
Amylopectin is digested easily, while amylose’s digestion is difficult. Foods that have a low GI value are high in amylose content.
• Amount of refinement on carbohydrates
How refined carbohydrates are determined by their GI values? Processing methods like rolling and grinding raise the GI value of meals since they disrupt amylopectin and amylose molecules. The general rule is, the more processed a meal is, the higher its glycemic index.
• Composition of nutrients
The rate of digestion and absorption is slow when you consume foods rich in fats or acid. When digestion and absorption of food are delayed, the resulting GI value is lower. To lower your meal’s GI value, add some healthy fats like avocados or useful acids like lemon juice.
• Method of cooking
The GI value of a meal can change depending on the preparation and cooking method employed. In general, the GI value of food is higher when the meal is cooked for a longer time.
This is because the meal’s sugars are digested and absorbed faster, causing a spike in blood sugar levels.
• How ripe is the food?
In general, the GI value is higher is riper fruits. Unripe fruits are rich in complex carbohydrates. As the fruit ripens, these complex carbs break down into sugars.
An example of how GI value range depending on the fruit’s ripeness is; an unripe banana’s glycemic index is 30, whereas the GI of an overripe banana is 48.
• The number of carbs
Three factors determine the rate at which meals affect blood sugar levels. These factors are the food’s nutrient composition, the type of carbs in the food, and the amount you consume.
The GI is a measure that does not take into account the amount of food consumed. The glycemic load (GL) was developed to solve this problem.
The glycemic load measures how a particular carbohydrate affects your blood sugar levels by using the quantity of the carbs consumed and the type of carbohydrate.
Classification Of Glycemic Load
The GL has three classifications, like the GI.
• Low: 10 or less
• Medium: 11-19
• High: 20 or more
Although the most vital factor to consider in a low-GI diet is the Glycemic value of the food, it’s crucial that you also monitor your glycemic load. The recommended total daily GL is under 100.
There are databases that you can use to identify the GI and GL of common foods. If you cannot access these databases, you can still consume the recommended 100 GL by eating low-GI foods in moderation.
Foods With Low a GI Index
The following foods have a glycemic index value of 55 or less:
- Whole or skim milk
High-calorie or high-fat foods may also have low GI values. Such foods are like Snickers bars, corn chips, or some cakes.
Example of foods with moderate glycemic index values (56 to 69)
- Brown rice
- Grain bread
High Glycemic Foods
High glycemic foods have a glycemic index value of 70 or above. Some of these foods are white bread and instant noodles.
Consumption of these foods results in a quick spike in your blood sugar, followed by a dip.
The sudden rise and fall in your blood sugar levels result in a decrease in energy, hunger, and the need to eat again.
Some foods have few to no carbohydrates but can be incorporated into a low-GI diet in moderation. These are:
- Eggs and meat such as chicken.
- Herbs and spices like garlic and basil.
- Fish and seafood such as prawns, tuna, and sardines.
How to Observe a Low Glycemic Diet For Weight loss
Having looked at what a low glycemic diet is and the foods with low GI values, the next step is to look at how you can follow this weight loss diet.
• Prioritize eating plenty of beans and non-starchy vegetables. Also include a lot of fruits in your diet like peaches, pears, apples, and berries. There are tropical fruits whose glycemic index values are low.
These fruits include mangoes, papaya, and bananas. You can swap these fruits with your usual desserts whose GI values are mostly high.
• Eat the grains that are least processed. Remember, we mentioned that there are processing methods that disrupt amylopectin and amylose molecules, and the more processed carbohydrates are, the higher their GI values.
Therefore, consume grains such as brown rice, whole-kernel bread, millet, whole barley, and wheat berries.
You also consume traditionally processed foods like natural granola, stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and breakfast cereals like muesli.
• Consume white potatoes and refined-grain products in limited amounts. When eating white pasta, consume them as a side dish instead of making them the main course.
• Check your sweet tooth. When it comes to concentrated sweets, eat them in small amounts and not regularly. Also, limit your consumption of high-calorie foods whose GI value is low, such as ice cream.
Eat ice cream as an occasional treat since its glycemic index is low is high in calories and not particularly filling. Consuming high-calorie foods in large amounts can lead to weight gain.
Limit your fruit juice intake to a maximum of half a cup per day. Try to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.
• Include a good amount of healthy protein in all your meals, such as skinless chicken, fish, and beans.
• Go for foods that contain healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts such as pecans, almonds, and walnuts but remember to eat these foods in moderate amounts.
Put a limit on animal products like dairy that are high in saturated fats. Eliminate trans fats (hydrogenated fats) present in most of the packaged foods and fast foods.
• Eat three meals in a day and include a maximum of two snacks. Avoid skipping breakfast.
• Eat your food slowly, and when your full, stop eating.
What Are The Results of a Low GI Diet?
There are mixed results on the benefits of low GI diets.
One of the main reasons people choose a low GI diet is to lose weight. In 2015, a 16-year study that monitored the diets of 120,000 men and women was published.
The research found that high GL diets from eating refined starches, sugars, and grains increased weight gain.
Blood glucose control
Studies indicate that blood glucose response is significantly determined by the total amount of carbohydrates in food. According to research, people living with diabetes can best manage their blood glucose by keeping track of their carbs.
There are clinical studies that indicate that a diet whose GI is low may help control blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes.
Low glycemic diets may lower the total cholesterol in the body and reduce lipoproteins that are considered “bad” cholesterol.
A combination of a low-GI diet with a high intake of dietary fiber works perfectly to combat cholesterol. You can get fiber from foods with low to moderate GI values, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
One of the effects of low-GI diets is appetite control. Consuming foods whose GI values are high results in a rapid increase in your blood glucose, fast insulin response, and finally, a drop in glucose levels.
The sudden spike and dip in your blood sugar levels result in you feeling hungry within a short period from your last meal.
When you want to lose weight, the last thing you need is a constant hunger that will make you eat more to come down the hunger. Therefore, to get a grip on your appetite, low-GI foods are recommended.
Foods whose GI values are low are slowly digested and absorbed, causing low spikes in blood glucose levels and delayed feelings of hunger.
A low-GI diet suppresses your appetite, and the long-term effect of this diet is that you’ll choose to eat less since you’re not constantly hungry, and overtime, you will manage your weight loss.
Managing to lose weight is a combination of several factors and eating a low-GI diet is one.
You can manage your weight by choosing foods whose glycemic index or glycemic load values are low since most low-GI foods are low in fats, and they undergo no to minimal processing.
To manage your weight, you need to eat a well-balanced diet, and most foods whose glycemic index values now form part of a balanced diet.
However, you need to understand that the glycemic index shouldn’t be applied in isolation.
It would help if you considered other factors such as calories, fiber, fat, vitamins, and other nutrients to successfully lose weight and sustain your weight loss journey.