Carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood sugar levels, but the much-vaunted glycemic index doesn't really tell us which. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast the human body converts the carbohydrate in a food into glucose relative to either pure glucose itself, which is something most dieters don't eat, or white bread, which is also something dieters don't eat.
The Glycemic Index: To compute the glycemic index, scientists recruit a group of volunteers who agree to fast and then eat a 50-gram serving of the reference food, either glucose or white bread, and nothing else. Blood is drawn to see how fast blood sugar levels rise. Then they come back a second time, when they have had a chance to fast again, and eat a 50-gram serving of the test food. Once again, blood is drawn to see how fast blood sugar levels rise.
The 'Real' Glycemic Index: The problem is, nobody eats that way. Blood sugar levels, and therefore the 'real' glycemic index act very differently when foods are mixed, or served at different temperatures. And the fact that these measurements require groups of test subjects belies another important truth: your glycemic index may not be the same as the next person's.
White bread that is eaten by itself has a GI of 100, but a sandwich made with white bread and a pickle has a GI of 45. Hot instant mashed potatoes have a GI of 110, but steamed new potatoes have a GI of 83, and cold mashed potatoes with butter have a GI of 58.
There are also systems of GI measurement that give glucose a value of 100. The really interesting thing about these systems is that white bread, instant mashed potatoes, and a few other foods may have a glycemic index over 100. That seems to be saying that food can be digested into glucose and absorbed as glucose faster than glucose itself can get into your bloodstream.
Your Personal Glycemic Index: You can't rely on the glycemic index to tell you what foods will do to your blood sugar levels, but you can observe how the meals you enjoy... and eat again and again... affect your blood sugar levels.
Just make a note of what you are eating and make a point of taking your blood sugar reading a few hours later. If your blood sugar levels don't go up very much, you've found a safe meal. If your blood sugar levels go up a lot, you'll know that to eat these foods safely, you'll need to limit your portions. Over a period of a few months, you'll know your personal glycemic index in a way that will help you keep your blood sugar levels in good control.
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Beverleigh Piepers RN... the Diabetes Detective.
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