Frequently Asked Questions - Glycemic Index
Rather than count grams of carbohydrates, we can limit the down side of carbohydrates by preferring particular types of carbohydrate according to how they influence our blood sugar.
For years, we divided carbohydrate types into simple and complex, with the thought that complex carbohydrates were healthier. Though this division sorts out the least nutritious foods from the most nutritious foods, it is simplistic and it fails to give us an understanding of how those carbohydrates will function in our body.
With the cheap availability of carbohydrate foods and years of promotional efforts to get people to eat lower fat, our society has been growing heavier from an over-indulgence in sweets and starches. The weight loss trend for the last decade or more has been to count carbohydrates and often to try to eliminate them. The body needs some carbohydrates, so this is an unhealthy approach. What we can do instead, is minimize the impact that carbohydrates have on our blood glucose levels.
It is now understood that foods that rapidly increase our blood sugar cause a corresponding surge in insulin, the body’s mechanism for lowering blood sugar. Insulin surges result in fat storage and compromise health in other ways as well. The “glycemic index” rates foods according to the speed at which they’re converted into sugars. The higher the glycemic index (GI) of a food, the faster it is converted into sugar.
One of the ways that eating low on the glycemic index can help our health is by preventing or lessening intense cravings for sugar and starch. This is perhaps due to a higher satiation effect from low glycemic foods.
Reducing high glycemic foods that spike blood sugar levels can also benefit those who suffer from candida overgrowth by minimizing the nourishment to yeast and fungus.
Other health risks that are reduced include: high blood triglyceride issues, candida overgrowth, obesity, immune suppression, high cholesterol. hypoglycemia, learning disabilities, food allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, and fatigue. Recent studies suggest that insulin may be a cancer promoter while also stressing arterial health so lowering high glcyemic foods could also potentially lower our risk of cancer and heart disease.
There are many contradictory glycemic ratings for common foods, and I recommend you review some of the available lists and use them as a general guide. There are multiple online glycemic index (GI Index) resources.
About the Blood Sugar - Insulin Cycle
The importance of moderate Insulin levels
Our body uses the insulin to help us pull the energy from the sugar in our bloodstream into the cells so that it can be used for sustained energy. The higher the blood sugar is increased by the food we eat, the more insulin our body releases. High levels of insulin are undesirable. High insulin levels increase the rate at which the sugar energy is stored as fat and can strain the health in many ways.
From sugar to fat to hunger
When we eat the high glycemic foods causing blood sugar and subsequent insulin spikes, we get a short window of opportunity to use that sugar before it is rapidly tucked away as fat. This is a self-protective mechanism needed because high blood sugar is deadly to our bodies. The insulin stores the energy as fat as an efficient method under the metabolic “emergency” condition that we create when we spike our blood sugar through our food choices.
Another drawback to living in a seesaw of sugar and insulin spikes is that shortly after we eat the sugar, we may find that in its haste to protect us, our insulin has ”overreacted”. Once the food energy has been stored as fat, we can no longer use it for easily accessible fuel and we will feel hungry again.
When blood sugar spikes and a rush of insulin is released, it can pull so much sugar out of the blood, that we can then experience symptoms of LOW blood sugar. When we feel hunger, our body will use “stop gap” measures to keep us going in the absence of blood sugar energy. Glucagon (energy stored in the muscles), adrenalin (a stimulating hormone), cortisol and growth hormone may be released as urgent aids for energy but these are not the most gently balancing measures.
Anxiety, nervousness, irritability, anger, restlessness, panic attacks, lethargy, heart palpitations, dizziness, trembling, excessive perspiration and trembling- can be experienced with low blood sugar and are indicators that appropriate low glycemic food should be sought at once.
If instead we opt for sugar or high glycemic starch to relieve our hunger, we’ll start the insulin high-low blood sugar cycle all over again. The best choice to recover from a blood sugar “crash” is, for most people, a low glycemic starch.
If your blood sugar system is significantly out of balance, in addition to your focus on careful eating and a complete holistic health program, you may want to speak with your alternative health care provider about supervising your use of some herbal or mineral supplements to assist with blood sugar balance.
Under appropriate supervision and testing, using the mineral chromium as well as herbs like gymenna sylvestre, garcina cambogia, spirulina, chlorella, stevia, or yerba mate may be helpful.
Eating for Health
Regularly eating low on the glycemic scale and consuming moderate fiber, proteins, vitamins and minerals are the most important strategies you can employ to keep your blood sugar balanced. Clearing up candida overgrowth, detoxifying the whole body, correcting nutritional imbalances and reducing allergic reactions will also help you feel more resilient to blood sugar swings. Recent reviews of research studies on the effects of eating carbohydrates and sugars suggest that keeping carbohydrates fairly low can preserve brain health by reducing degeneration.
by Tarilee Cornish, CNP
Tarilee Cornish is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain. Tarilee is a moderator on the WholeApproach Support Forum.
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