A glycemic index is a tool your doctor often uses to promote better blood sugar management. Several factors influence the glycemic index of the food you eat. It primarily includes the nutrient composition, cooking method, ripeness, and the amount of processing the food undergoes.
The glycemic index can help you increase your awareness of what you are putting on your plate. In addition, it can also enhance weight loss, reduce your cholesterol, and decrease your blood sugar levels.
Here we take a closer look at the glycemic index, including what it is. We also discuss how it can affect your health and how to use it effectively.
What Is The Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index, also called GI, is a value used to measure how much specific foods increase your blood sugar levels. Foods are often classified as low, medium, or high glycemic foods. Hence they are ranked on a scale of 0–100.
The lower the GI of the specific food, the less it may affect your blood sugar levels. Meaning the food is less harmful to your body.
Here are the three GI ratings:
Low: 55 or less
High: 70 or above
Foods high in refined sugar and carbs are digested more quickly; hence, such food items have a high GI. In contrast, foods high in fat, protein, or fiber typically have a low GI. Foods containing no carbs are not assigned a GI. Food items include meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils.
Other important factors that affect the GI of food include the ripeness, cooking method, and type of sugar it contains. Additionally, the amount of processing it has undergone is an essential factor.
Keep in mind that the glycemic index is different from the glycemic load (GL).
Unlike the GI, which does not consider the amount of food eaten, the GL factors in the number of carbs in a food serving. Hence GL determines how it may affect blood sugar levels.
For this reason, it is crucial to consider both the glycemic index and glycemic load when selecting food to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
In simple terms, the glycemic index is often used to measure how much a specific food increases your blood sugar levels. It means food with higher GI will have a more significant effect on your blood sugar levels.
How To Measure Glycemic Index?
You need to know that the glycemic index is a scale that ranks the number of carbohydrates in foods from zero to 100. This scale indicates how quickly food causes a person’s blood sugar to rise.
You only need to understand that foods high in glycemic index can lead to harmful blood sugar spikes in people with diabetes symptoms. High GI foods also make it more challenging for a person to maintain a healthy weight. For this reason, many people with diabetes use GI to plan their meals.
Your nutritious, balanced diet should include a wide range of foods – so a person is not limited to consuming just low GI foods. However, knowing where a specific food rests on the GI can help an individual make healthful choices.
Effects of Cooking and Ripening on Glycemic Index
For certain foods, the cooking method used may affect the glycemic index. For example, most fried foods tend to contain a high amount of fat. As a result, it can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, thus decreasing the GI.
Meanwhile, baking and roasting can break down your resistant starch – a type of starch that often resists digestion. This resistant scratch is commonly found in foods like legumes, potatoes, and oats, increasing the GI.
Conversely, boiling can help retain more of the resistant starch leading to a lower GI compared with other cooking methods.
The longer you cook foods like rice and pasta, the greater the digestibility of their starch content and, hence, their GI. Therefore, it is best to cook these foods when they reach an al dente texture – meaning when they are still firm but you can bite them.
In addition to the cooking method used, the degree of ripeness is also an essential factor affecting some fruits’ GI, including bananas. This is because the amount of resistant starch decreases during the ripening process, leading to a higher GI.
For example, bananas that are fully ripened have a GI of 51. In contrast, under-ripe bananas have a GI of just 30.
Effect on Oral Health
According to scientists from the University at Buffalo, eating foods rich in sugars and carbohydrates can impact the oral microbiome, leading to poor oral health.
Do you know that the foods we eat regularly influence the makeup of the bacteria – both good and bad in your mouths? According to researchers, this collective of bacteria is known as the oral microbiome. They play a large role in your overall health. In addition, it was previously linked to tooth decay and gum disease.
In another research – researchers investigated whether sucrose and carbohydrates or table sugar were associated with the oral bacteria. The study was unique in how the samples were taken from the area under the gums rather than saliva.
It is essential to note the oral bacteria involved in periodontal disease primarily reside in the subgingival plaque. The researchers also reported positive associations between total carbohydrates, sucrose, glycemic load, and Streptococcus mutans.
All of which contribute to tooth decay and some types of cardiovascular disease. However, more studies are required in this direction. But the researchers also observed associations between carbohydrates and the oral microbiome that were not as well established.
They also observed Leptotrichia spp., which has been commonly associated with gum disease in some studies, to be positively associated with sugar intake
How Blood sugar Levels Have Body-mouth Connection
Do you know that your body and mouth are connected? When illness impacts one, it also affects the other. Even when well-controlled, diabetes or sugar levels can increase the risk of developing certain dental diseases.
When these risks increase, blood sugar rises and diabetes gets more challenging to manage, and the condition may become uncontrolled diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes may contribute to the development of tooth cavities, gum disease, and other oral health complications.
In the long run, it may even lead to tooth loss. According to research by the American Dental Association, one in every five cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes or high sugar levels.
It is essential to know that the body-mouth connection works both ways. It helps improve your oral health and can help improve your overall health too. Proper dental care treatment and daily at-home care routines can help maintain good oral health. You can better control your diabetes at the same time.
Blood Sugar Levels and Glycemic Index
Blood sugar or blood glucose management should be your number one day-to-day concern if you have diabetes. You may be intimately familiar with your glycemic index at any given time. But you might not realize the impact of high blood sugar on oral health. How? Yes, it starts with saliva. When your blood glucose is high, glucose levels in saliva rise too.
As a result, uncontrolled diabetes will make it harder for your body to heal and fight infection. Moreover, increased sugars in your saliva combined with a lowered ability to fight infection – creates the perfect env for a fungal infection. Thus leading to oral thrush or candidiasis developing. Oral thrush may cause painful patches of growth in the mouth, tongue, cheeks, or throat.
Why Does the Glycemic Index Become Vital?
It is important to note that the GI can help you make healthful decisions about your overall diet and nutrition.
Individuals with diabetes and those trying to lose weight should choose a low GI diet as there are several benefits. Moreover, people at risk of heart disease can also reap significant benefits from a low GI diet. However, the benefits extend to everyone, not just people with chronic illnesses.
Eating a low GI diet does not mean avoiding all high GI foods. Instead, an individual’s goal should be to stay balanced over time. But you should have a strong focus on fiber-rich foods with a low GI. Your doctor or dietitian can help with planning a nourishing and delicious diet that features a wide variety of low GI foods.
The glycemic index, or GI, as you have seen, is the measure used to determine how much a specific food can affect blood sugar levels.
As you have seen above, several factors affect the glycemic index of a food. It may include ripeness and nutrient composition. It may also include the cooking method and the amount of processing it has undergone.
If you follow a low glycemic diet, it might offer several health benefits. It could help balance blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and increase short-term weight loss.
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