The glycemic index (GI) is a system of ranking various foods depending on how much they raise a person’s blood sugar levels. It works on a scale of 0-100, with the lower-ranked foods digesting slower and resulting in more gradual blood sugar fluctuations. These foods are much healthier, improving glucose and lipid levels in the blood as well as reducing insulin dependence. The Glycemic Index Diet is designed to harness the benefits of low GI foods, reducing the risk of heart disease and controlling weight fluctuations. For diabetics, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the diet as one of the best ways to lose weight.
Part of how low-GI foods assist in weight loss is in the fact that they tend to digest more slowly, helping you feel full longer. This decreases the chances of overeating, a prime cause of obesity in adults. The diet is primarily focused on blood sugar levels, however, so there are numerous approaches to the inclusion of sources of fat and protein, as well as exercise regimens. In addition, the GI of various foods can vary greatly, depending on processing, cooking method, and even ripeness. A GI response to a certain food can also vary from person to person, depending on his/her own body chemistry.
The Glycemic Index diet has gone through multiple medical studies, showing the best results for those whose bodies produce more insulin. People who tend to accumulate fat around the waistline usually produce more insulin, and are at a greater risk of developing diabetes. The diet is also very effective in reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering a person’s levels of triglycerides and HDL (bad) cholesterol. For pre-diabetics or those with an increased risk for heart disease, a low-GI diet can be very effective.
Low-GI foods tend to be those that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and fruits. Nuts and real yogurt also tend to be low-GI. Potato-based foods tend to score higher on the GI index, along with sugary drinks, processed food, and sweets. These foods can greatly impact long-term weight gain, so reducing or eliminating their consumption can help you gain better control over your weight gradually. Pairing a high-GI food with a fatty food can reduce the glycemic impact, but it is important to eat healthy fats. Controlling your blood sugar levels can be negated by taking in far too many fats.
Some low-GI foods an adherent of the Glycemic Index Diet would want to include in his/her diet include raw carrots and apples, skim milk, and kidney beans. Moderate-GI foods include raw bananas, pineapples, and raisins. A key part of the diet is to cut out processed foods, particularly white bread and processed noodles. Portion control is also very important.
While there are disadvantages to the diet, including the lack of consensus on its effectiveness, it can be very effective for some. The Glycemic Index diet has been the basis for many other commercial diets, including South Beach and DASH, both professionally-recognized diets that work well for improving overall health and wellness.