FIBRE AND THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
- December 30, 2014
A number of chronic disease states with a growing incidence can be linked to badly managed blood sugar levels. While some diseases, such as Type II diabetes, have been linked to badly managed blood sugar levels, a growing body of evidence shows the link between blood sugar and other chronic diseases. Research has shown a link between high blood sugar levels and diseases such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and heart disease. A traditional, balanced diet, consisting of whole grains and vegetables, along with a moderately active lifestyle would normally help individuals avoid blood sugar related diseases.
However, with a growing consumption of processed foods and an inclination towards a sedentary, stressful lifestyle there is a sharp increase in the incidence of “lifestyle” diseases – an increase attributed to improper management of blood sugar.
The Glycemic Index
Given the importance of managing blood sugar levels, understanding the impact of different foods on blood sugar is important. One way of measuring the impact of a particular food on blood sugar is the Glycemic Index (GI). On this index, pure glucose is given a benchmark value of 100, and foods are graded from 0 to 100 based on the increase in blood sugar that they cause, with 100 being the maximum.
Ideally, a diet should contain a larger portion of low GI foods, and a limited amount of high GI foods. Studies have shown that the regular consumption of high GI foods increases the risk of Type II Diabetes, as well as insulin resistance. High GI foods cause blood sugar to rise quickly, leading to an increased release of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin increases the uptake of sugar by cells, and causes blood sugar to drop. A sudden spike in blood sugar through high GI foods often provides an initial elevation in energy levels and mood, but is quickly reversed once insulin carries out its function. A spike in blood sugar, and subsequently insulin, increases fat storage and is especially dangerous for diabetics, who are unable to efficiently reduce blood sugar levels.
One way to manage blood sugar levels is to choose foods based on their glycemic index. For example, white bread causes a sudden rise in blood sugar and has a high GI value of 70. Whole wheat, on the other hand, has a low GI value of approximately 35. Between the two, whole wheat bread will have a lower impact on your blood sugar. Another means of managing blood sugar levels is to increase consumption of fibre rich foods, which lead to a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels even in the presence of otherwise high GI foods. There is a vast body of evidence that the addition of high fibre foods to a normal diet can help manage blood sugar levels.
Most of the diseases caused by uncontrolled blood sugar are either difficult to treat or require lifelong mangement. Limiting the intake of high GI foods and ncreasing the amount of dietary with each meal is an easy way to keep blood sugar in check.