Carbohydrates and Diabetes: Breaking it down
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Using the glycemic index and the glycemic load
The glycemic index can be used as a tool to help you choose the right carbohydrates
Originally developed as research tools, the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) can also be used to help predict how different types of carbohydrate foods will affect blood glucose levels. The term "glycemic" means "sugar in the blood". The GI and GL rank carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, based on their immediate effect on the "sugar in the blood" after eating. This is called the glycemic response.
Foods with a high GI/GL are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low GI or GL foods produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. However, keep in mind that for diabetes and weight control, portion size is also vital, regardless of a food’s GI/GL rating.
To have stable blood glucose levels, the bulk of your carbohydrates should be of low GI/GL. Mostly this means eating less sugars and refined grains and more vegetables and unrefined grains, but there are a few surprises - some of the complex carbohydrates behave more like simple sugars, with a quick release of glucose. For example, white potatoes, French fries and many breakfast cereals, such as cornflakes, all have a high GI/GL.
Although GI/GL can be helpful for understanding how carbohydrates work in the body, research has not yet proven that a low GI/GL diet will prevent diabetes. The GI/GL should by no means be used in isolation, but as a tool to manage diabetes.
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Last updated: November 1st, 2005
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