As we chat about cravings this month, remember, what we eat can seriously amp up those cravings. And one fancy term that likes to sneak into these conversations is the Glycemic Index (GI).
But is the Glycemic Index really the all-powerful factor it’s made out to be? The answer might surprise you; it’s not as pivotal as many believe. So, let’s break it down.
First things first, the GI isn’t something you’ll find on your food labels. It’s not something we typically pay much attention to. However, it’s often associated with those irresistible starchy sugary carbs that, admit it, we all occasionally crave. Why? Because these foods tend to rank high on the GI scale.
In a nutshell, the Glycemic Index ranks foods on a scale of 1 to 100 based on how rapidly they cause your blood sugar levels to rise when eaten alone on an empty stomach. High-GI (Glycemic Index) foods send it skyrocketing, while low-GI foods lead to a slower rise.
As per the Mayo Clinic guidelines, you can classify foods based on their (GI) score as follows:
70 or more have a higher glycemic index
56-69 have a medium glycemic index
55 or less have a lower glycemic index
Here are some samples of foods with their GI numbers:
Baked russet potato – 111 (yes, over 100!)
White rice – 89
Apple – 39
Carrots – 35
Peanut M&MS – 33
Now, here’s the kicker: the GI of each food is measured when eaten alone, but how often do we consume foods in isolation? It’s essential to consider the “glycemic load” of your entire meal or snack, especially since we usually eat a combination of foods.
For instance, eating a plain baked potato will cause a swift spike in blood sugar. But let’s be honest, how many times do you indulge in a naked baked potato? Most often, you’re likely to add toppings like butter, sour cream, and even some protein. Well, these other food items will slow down the rate of absorption and lower the glycemic load of your meal.
Eating higher-GI foods alongside a mix of proteins, carbs, and fats can reduce cravings. Perhaps there’s wisdom in saving dessert for after you’ve finished your dinner.
Let’s delve deeper into Glycemic Load. This may be more significant for you, especially if you’re following a Flexible (Macro-based) Eating Plan.
Let’s take an example: watermelon and a doughnut. Now, imagine you’re craving a snack, and you’re considering these two options. Surprisingly, they have similar GIs. Watermelon rates at 76, just as high as a doughnut on the GI scale. Shocking, right? But here’s where the difference lies. A serving of watermelon gives you 11 grams of carbs, while a regular doughnut packs 23 grams of carbs.
It’s easy to see that your choice isn’t just about the Glycemic Index. That’s where the concept of Glycemic Load (GL) comes in. It takes both the quality (the GI) and quantity (the actual amount of carbs) of your food into account.
Calculating GL isn’t rocket science. You take the GI of a food, multiply it by the amount of carbs in a serving, and then divide that total by 100. The result is your Glycemic Load (GL). Now, for a standard food serving, you might consider it high if GL is 20 or more, intermediate at 11-19, and low if it’s 10 or less.
Let’s go back to our watermelon and doughnut showdown. Despite having similar GIs, watermelon is the clear winner in the GL category. A serving of watermelon has a GL of 8, while the medium doughnut is way up there with a GL of 17.
Keep in mind, this isn’t just about individual snacks; it’s about your overall diet. Your Dietary GL is the sum of GLs for all the foods you munch on.
In a nutshell, when it comes to blood sugar and your favorite munchies, it’s not just about the Glycemic Index but also the amount of carbs you’re tossing into the mix. So, next time you reach for a snack, remember that the story is in both quality and quantity.
Finally, we mustn’t overlook the importance of evaluating a food’s overall nutritional value. Take sweet potatoes as an example; they have a high GI of 70, yet they’re packed with nutrients. On the other hand, sugary treats like peanut M&Ms have a lower GI of 33 but lack the health benefits.
The key takeaway here is that the GI is only part of the puzzle.
Cravings are a complex matter and aren’t solely determined by the glycemic index of individual foods. Factors like a food’s satiety level, taste enjoyment, and how it’s consumed play substantial roles in how much we eat or crave a particular food.
I hope this helps shed some light on the glycemic index and what it actually means for you, your cravings, and your results!
If you’re not dealing with diabetes, there’s no need to let the Glycemic Index worry you. As you dive into your fitness and wellness journey, remember that there’s much more to consider than this single metric.
For a more in-depth discussion on this topic, check out our YouTube video: A Sweet Balance: Navigating the Glycemic Index for Stable Blood Sugar
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