How to Reduce Your Glycemic Index (GI) and Lose Weight

How to Reduce Your Glycemic Index (GI) and Lose Weight

We eat in order to get the necessary fuel for our body functions and day to day activities. But not all fuels are created equal. Some meals send us on a crazy roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows, while others manage to disturb our chemical balance less. This is where the glycemic index (GI) comes in. It can help you understand how what you eat affects your body, and guide you to make better food choices.

What is GI and Why does it Matter?

The GI system was developed at the University of Sydney, where a database of foods’ GI values and all research on this topic is being kept and maintained.

There are three basic groups of carbs:

  • Sugars
  • Starches
  • Fiber

While fiber passes through your body undigested and leaves no caloric imprint, sugars and starches break down into glucose the body can use. Glycemic index rates carbohydrates based on how much or how little they boost your blood sugar (glucose) levels.

In the GI system, sugars and starches from foods are compared to the effect of pure glucose and assigned a GI number. For example, if a food item has a glycemic index of 15, this means that it affects blood sugar only 15% as much as glucose. This item would be considered to have a low GI and would most likely be a healthy food choice. On the other hand, glycemic index of 100 signals that the food acts just as glucose and is at the extreme end of the table.

Looking at foods in this way has many health benefits. The general rule is to consume more low GI foods and drop the high GI foods. This approach can be very useful for weight control, diabetes management and has also been connected to reduced risks of cancer, stroke, heart disease and depression, to name a few.

GI values

The food’s GI is based on consuming 50 grams (1.8 ounces) of digestible carbohydrates from this produce. Foods are divided into:

Low GI: 1 – 55

Examples: most fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts.

Medium GI: 56 to 69

Examples: potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice, breakfast cereals.

High GI: 70 and up

Examples: white bread, bagels, cakes, packed breakfast cereals.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

There are some limitations to the GI value. For some foods, especially those low on carbs, consuming 50 grams of digestible carbohydrates amounts to eating an unrealistically big portion. Just think of a watermelon. Its watery content assures that it has a very low effect on blood sugar. Yet, watermelon has a GI of 80, which is very misleading and might make you think watermelon was unhealthy. The reason for this is that in order to consume 50 grams of watermelon’s carbs, you would need to eat a huge amount of this fruit, which is not very likely to happen. There are other similar examples.

So, scientists came up with another system of ranking food: glycemic load (GL). GL is a number that indicates the change in blood glucose levels when you eat a typical serving of the food. It can often be a more realistic measurement. For example, watermelon’s GL for a 120 gram serving is a modest 5, which confirms watermelon as a healthy food choice (you can also read more about the 13 healthy reasons to eat watermelon).

The GI Diet

GI diets usually use GI index as a primary guide for meal planning. The aim is to eat foods that will not cause large sugar spikes, followed by the infamous sugar crashes.

As mentioned above, the approach urges you to swap high GI foods for lower ones. Generally speaking, foods known as ‘healthy foods’, such as vegetables, whole grains, beans and high-fiber foods rank low on the GI.

Also, the effect your meal will have on sugar levels often depends on the food combinations you eat, and the way your food is prepared. By designing your meal in a certain way, you can lower the GI and reduce the meal’s impact (see more about this below).

Who can Benefit From the GI Diet?

This diet can be helpful to anyone wishing to:

  • lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight;
  • eat a healthier diet and prevent chronic diseases;
  • control blood sugar levels as a part of a diabetic regimen.

Principles and Tips that will Help you Reduce your GI

Here are some basic guidelines that can help you reduce your foods’ GI and lose weight:

Limit your intake of refined grains, such as white bread, white rice and pasta. Instead, choose the unrefined (whole grain) version and buy whole grain bread and pasta, and brown or purple rice. Refined grains are also one of the foods to avoid to keep belly fat away.

Increase your fiber intake. Don’t remove the peel from fruits and veg if it’s edible and go for high-fiber morning cereal (they should provide you at least 8 grams of fiber per serving). Lightly steam your vegetables to preserve as much fiber as possible or eat them raw. Light steaming is also one of the best cooking methods to keep vitamins in food.

Increasing your fiber intake is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.

When choosing fruits, don’t buy overly ripe ones, as they contain more sugars. Also, berries are a better choice compared to bananas or pineapple.

If you mix your carbohydrate meal or snack with a bit of protein, this will lower the GI. Put a bit of chicken in your pasta or add some peanut butter or almond butter on your toast and make it digest slower. For breakfast, eat a protein-rich hard-boiled egg together with your cereal.

The glycemic impact can also be reduced by adding a drizzle of healthy oil to your meal or salad. Think extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and enjoy the extra health benefits (but don’t get too heavy-handed with the oil).  Coconut oil by itself can be extremely useful for weight loss when consumed in moderation.

Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and tomato juice also lower your meal’s GI, so use it to flavor your food.

And, it doesn’t mean you have to now go without any treats:

  • Eat dark chocolate (which which has many benefits) instead of milk chocolate and enjoy less sugar and more antioxidants.
  • If you go for a pizza, order one with whole-wheat thin crust (and extra tomato sauce).

If you want to learn more about healthy eating and how to lose weight – read my other related articles:

Find more information on how to lose your belly without counting calories or starving yourself in my e-book “Blast Your Belly Fat” – this is the ultimate guide for losing belly fat.

Medical Resources

Healthy and Natural World