Skip to main content

The Glycemic Index Diet: Fad or Fabulous?

  • Author:
  • Updated:
Image placeholder title

We all know what it's like to battle the bulge. We've tried every miracle weight-loss solution and trendy diet, only to end up back in our "fat" jeans. But before you throw in the towel (or scale), you may want to give the Glycemic Index Diet a look-see.

What is the Glycemic Index?

Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical scale (0-100) developed as a tool to help diabetics manage their blood sugar. GI measures the degree of how rapidly a carbohydrate is digested and released as glucose into the bloodstream. This increase in glucose then causes a rise in blood sugar, and the release of insulin.

And we know that prolonged exposure to high levels of insulin not only causes the body to store the excess sugar as fat, but can also lead to a number of health concerns including:

• high "bad" LDL cholesterol

• low "good" HDL cholesterol

• high triglycerides

• high blood pressure

• increased appetite

• increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

From the Organic Authority Files

The Glycemic Index Diet

The theory behind the GI Diet is simple: low GI foods are broken down more slowly, so you to feel fuller longer, thereby reducing hunger. On the other hand, high GI foods are digested quickly, resulting in a spike in blood sugar that is soon followed by a crash, and then a craving for more sugar. Before you know it you're caught in a vicious and unhealthy cycle of intense cravings and binging.

Too Good To Be True?

On paper, the GI diet seems to be a no-brainer weight loss option. But when you dig deeper, you find that GI scores are not as straightforward as they appear. For example, a boiled potato has a higher GI score than table sugar. In addition, the effect of a GI food can vary from person to person, and can be altered by the cooking method, stage of ripeness, amount of carbohydrates in a food and what other foods are consumed during the meal. Truly, the only way to see if the diet works for you is to try it.

Lifestyle vs. Diet

Even though the research on losing weight using the GI "diet" is not conclusive, studies do show that adopting a low GI "lifestyle" can lead to significant health benefits, such as controlled blood sugar levels and the reduced risk of certain cancers.

The guidelines to a healthy GI lifestyle include the following:

Avoid "white" foods – these tend to have a higher GI and include any foods made with white flower and white sugar.

Fill up with fiber – high fiber foods take longer to digest and have less of an effect on blood sugar. Load up on vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and whole apples. Citrus fruits are also good since they tend to have a lower GI than other fruits.

Eat the right type of protein – legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and organic free-range meats.

Don't avoid fats – but stick with the healthy ones (monounsaturated and omega-3) that can be found in fish, nuts and olive and flaxseed oils.

Eat "complex" meals – this means a mix of the right type of carbohydrates, a good protein source and a healthy fat. Throw in a bit of fiber and you're good to go!

If you think a GI lifestyle is worth checking out, there are a number of good cookbooks that can help you get started. One we recommend is The New Glucose Revolution Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook.

And if you really want to lose weight and keep it off: don't go on a diet (because you'll eventually go off the diet), don't significantly restrict food (this always backfires!), don't skip meals (especially breakfast) and do not follow every latest and greatest fad diet.

Image: KirrilyRobert

Shop Editors' Picks

Related Stories