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Know what the glycemic index is and why knowing it is so important

There is a lot of talk these days about the glycemic index (GI). However, it is a fact that not everyone knows what this means and why knowing this factor is important.

Briefly, the glycemic index represents an indicator of the speed with which the sugar present in a food reaches the bloodstream.

It is necessary to understand that when a person eats a food with carbohydrates (such as cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, etc.), carbohydrates enter the bloodstream at different speeds. For example, if the food also has fiber or if it has a type of carbohydrate called complex, the speed is slower and, therefore, the food is considered to have a low glycemic index.

Helouse Odebrecht, functional nutritionist, explains that the glycemic index is a food classification system that takes into account its effects on plasma glucose concentrations in the postprandial period, that is, right after consumption. “Low glycemic index foods are known to produce a lower response to hyperglycemia (increased blood glucose) and hyperinsulinemia (increased release of the hormone insulin),” she says.

“The glycemic index of foods is one of the diet protocols in the treatment of diabetes, which has been discussed since its discovery, 30 years ago”, highlights the nutritionist.

“Studies show the positive effect of a low glycemic index diet on post-food glycemia and reduction of inflammatory indexes”, adds Helouse.

Gilberto Kocerginsky, an orthomolecular physician at the Linnus Institute RJ, explains that foods are divided into three glycemic index categories:

  • Low, when the glycemic index is less than or equal to 55;
  • Medium, when the glycemic index is between 56 to 69;
  • High, when the glycemic index is greater than or equal to 70.

Why is it important to know the GI of foods?

Knowing this concept is important to control blood glucose, especially in the case of diabetics, but also for those who want to follow a healthy diet and/or practice sports.

Kocerginsky points out that “by knowing the glycemic index of a food, we will know how much sugar this food has and, consequently, the amount of insulin released. Too much insulin released chronically leads to insulin resistance and fat accumulation.”

For Helouse, understanding that foods can increase blood glucose more quickly is important so that there is an awareness of improvement in the composition of the menu, “in order to avoid some harm and diseases that can be caused, such as weight gain, obesity, difficulty in losing weight, high blood insulin (which leads to all these factors mentioned) and, mainly, increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes”.

The nutritionist recalls that foods with a high glycemic index stimulate the production of insulin and the inflammatory response generated by this hormone. “It is an important parameter in the quality of a healthy eating plan, but we need to consider other things as well, such as the glycemic load of the food that is different from the index. This parameter considers the carbohydrate content in the portion, that is, there is a food with a high glycemic index, with a low carbohydrate content and, thus, with a lower glycemic load – which helps a lot in the control of insulin”, she explains.

But those who think that the orientation is to completely eliminate high glycemic index foods from the menu are wrong. “You shouldn’t just eliminate foods with a high glycemic index, not least because we have healthy foods that have a glycemic index. Just cutting back on food is not beneficial, as we can reduce the intake of important nutrients. What is important and essential is to know how to organize the day, the daily food, in a structured way and to have a highly nutritious diet, with strategies that can control the glycemic index”, highlights Helouse.

But some foods can indeed be eliminated from the menu. “Scratching foods such as white sugar, pasta and bread made with white flour, dessert, candies, bonbons and milk or white chocolate from everyday life is important to control the glycemic index, even because they are not so healthy foods”, he explains. the nutritionist.

But you also need a lot of attention when talking about natural foods, such as fruits, for example. “They are healthy and we can include them in the menu properly, respecting the individuality and characteristics of each person. For this, a nutritionist can guide in a personalized way to those who want to have a more balanced diet in relation to the glycemic index, or even guidance for diabetics, thus improving their glucose levels and also being part of the treatment of the disease”, highlights Helouse.

Glycemic index of foods

Below, nutritionist Helouse cites examples of low, medium and high GI foods:

  • Low glycemic index foods: apple, orange with pomace, tangerine, avocado, coconut, pear, peaches, vegetables in general, lentils, peas, peanuts, nuts, chickpeas, natural yogurt, unsweetened yogurt, cheeses.
  • Foods with a medium glycemic index: apricots, dates, guava, star fruit, plums, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, milk, 100% whole-wheat bread, 100% whole-grain pasta (pasta), whole-grain biscuits, granola, oatmeal.
  • High glycemic foods: bananas, watermelon, grapes, mango, white rice, ice cream (due to sugar), French bread, breads made with white flour, gluten-free bread without fiber, pasta, cakes, pizza dough, lasagna, cookies sweets, fiber-free savory biscuits.

5 simple strategies to lower the GI of meals

The good news is that some simple tips can help control the glycemic index and load of the food plan, as highlighted by Helouse:

  • Fiber sources are essential for the rate of glucose absorption to be controlled, since fibers have this power. “Soluble fibers such as oatmeal, quinoa flakes, chia, flaxseed and oat bran added to meals or foods help control”, says the nutritionist.
  • Associating good sources of fat with meals, such as olive oil, nuts, avocado, seeds in snacks or meals. “Consuming the fruits of intermediate snacks with Brazil nuts or coconut or other oilseeds and seeds is an infallible strategy”, highlights Helouse.
  • Ingest fresh fruit, with the skin on, thus increasing the fiber supply. Avoid juices.
  • Good proteins like egg, yogurt, quinoa, lean meats like fish and chicken should also be associated with meals.
  • Always prefer whole grains rich in fiber and nutrients that help the digestion of carbohydrates, such as zinc and B complex.

Low glycemic index diet: is it worth it?

Although many studies are still being carried out in order to prove the effect of low glycemic index diets for body weight regulation, today it is already known that this factor is quite important.

Kocerginsky points out that knowing the glycemic index of a food, the person is aware of how much sugar this food has and, consequently, the amount of insulin released. “Too much insulin that is chronically released leads to insulin resistance and fat accumulation,” he says.

Helouse recalls that understanding that certain foods can increase blood glucose more quickly is important so that there is an awareness of improvement in the composition of the menu – which will avoid, among other problems, weight gain.

However, in order to follow a suitable menu, which takes into account, among other things, the glycemic index and load of foods, it is essential to have the help of a nutritionist.

It is also worth noting that, while low glycemic index foods are associated with weight control, some high glycemic index foods can be indicated for rapid energy replacement, for example, immediately after training. But it is just a general example, as only a nutritionist can indicate the proper diet for each person.

Recommended carbohydrate consumption for each profile

Currently there is a growing concern about the consumption of carbohydrates, as it is already known that an exaggerated and inadequate intake can lead to several problems, including weight gain.

In this sense, Kocerginsky talks below what would be the ideal carbohydrate consumption per day for each person profile.

Children: should consume at least 60% of energy from carbohydrates. “So, on a diet of 1800 kcal, 1080 kcal should come from carbohydrates or 270g of carbohydrate per day (this amount varies with the age and activity level of the child)”, highlights the doctor.

Actively living adults: around 250g a day (2000 kcal diet), according to Kocerginsky.

Sedentary adult: around 200g a day (diet 1600 kcal), according to the doctor.

Athlete: “It varies with the type of exercise, but it can be between 300g to 500g a day, or more. (Diet between 2400 and 4000 kcal)”, he highlights.

Active elderly: around 200g a day (1600 kcal diet), says Kocerginsky.

Elderly people who move little: around 150g a day (1200 to 1400 kcal diets)

Diabetics: “diabetics should reduce the intake of simple and refined carbohydrates, looking for foods with a low glycemic index”, highlights the orthomolecular doctor.

“All these demands are merely illustrative and out of expectation. Each case is different and must be viewed individually. Always look for your doctor/nutritionist for guidance in relation to food, health and lifestyle”, concludes Kocerginsky.

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. They do not replace the advice and follow-up of doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, physical education professionals and other specialists.

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