Glucose (the sugar we have in our blood) and whole wheat are both foods rich
in carbohydrate, but they each affect risk for obesity very differently. Sugar is
very rapidly absorbed when eaten and thus satisfies hunger quickly, but it also
triggers the pancreas to compensate by producing insulin which in turn causes
a drop in blood sugar and an increase in hunger within about one hour. Whole
wheat, on the other hand, releases its carbohydrate very slowly and thus has a
minimal effect upon blood sugar, insulin and rebound hunger. The key to a
carbohydrate's ability to cause weight gain lies in how rapidly it is absorbed.
The glycemic index is a measure of this speed of absorbtion.
The simplest way to interpret glycemic index is this: the lower a food's glycemic
index (GI) number, the better it is for weight control. There may be a very few
exceptions to this rule, but generally it is useful.
Illustration of the Blood Sugar Change Between Low and High
Glycemic Index Carbodrates
(from the Glycemic Index Foundation)
How To Use the Glycemic Index
First you'll need to look-up the glycemic index of the
food in question. The most comprehensive database in
the world is maintained by the Glycemic Index
Foundation of the University of Sydney in Australia and
can be accessed by clicking here.
Once you know the glycemic index of the food, use the
simple chart at the left. The idea is very simple: if the
food falls in the green, consume as much as you wish,
orange: be moderate, red: be sparing.
Now, you might reasonably ask: "What exactly do the
words 'moderate' and 'sparing' mean?"
To answer this, we have to introduce the next topic
called "glycemic load". Read on!
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