Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for most of us. Many nutrition experts recommend that we get 60% of our daily energy from carbohydrates.
But carbohydrates are not all the same. Some raise blood sugar levels very rapidly which is sometimes followed by a decline in blood sugar levels below normal. These carbohydrates have a high glycemic index (GI). Other carbohydrates do raise blood sugar levels less and more slowly, these carbohydrates have a low GI.
Some experts have termed carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels rapidly as “bad carbs”. The rapid rise in blood sugar causes excessive insulin production which may result in increased body fat. These carbohydrates are therefore more likely to cause obesity. Conversely, carbohydrates that raise blood sugar less and more slowly are termed good carbs. But, how do we know the difference between good carbs vs bad carbs?
It is not only the type of carbohydrate that determines GI. The cooking process, as well as the presence of fat and dietary fiber, may affect GI. For example, baked potatoes have much higher GI than cooked potatoes. Ice cream actually has a relatively low GI because its fat slows sugar absorption. Whole grain products usually have a low GI because of the high amount of dietary fiber.
Usually, food with a low GI is considered to be more healthy than food with high GI.
Diets that emphasize low-GI-foods decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve blood sugar control in those already afflicted. Diet with low GI is associated with higher level of HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and with reduced incidence of heart attack. Studies also indicate that the effectiveness of low-fat, high carbohydrate diets for weight loss can be improved by reducing GI.
Therefore, try to eat good carbs rather than bad carbs. This is even more important if you have diabetes. Choose cucumbers, apples, oranges, and carrots rather than potatoes, white bread, and donuts.
Examples of glycemic index of common foods:
High: Baked potatoes 85, Corn flakes 81, Jelly Beans 78, Waffles 76, White bread 73, Raisins 64, Ice cream 61,
Medium: Pineapple 59, Oatmeal 58, White Rice 56, Boiled potatoes 56, Sweet Corn (cereal grains) 53, Popcorn 55, Sweet potatoes 54, Kiwi 53, Bananas 52, Green peas 48, Carrots 47, Macaroni 47, Grape 46
Low: Oranges 44, Spaghetti 42, Black eyed peas 42, Apples 38, Skim milk 32, Dried apricots 31, Lentils 29, Barley (cereal grains) 25, Cucumber 15, Pepper 15, Broccoli 15, Spinach 15, Eggplant 15, Tomatoes 15, Zucchini 15