HFE Magazine

November 28, 2017

Understanding the Glycemic Index

Filed under: Diet — Gail @ 4:09 pm
Glycemic Chart from Dr Axe
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast insulin (a hormone released by the pancreas to manage blood glucose levels) rises in response to the amount of glucose or sugar entering the bloodstream. The faster glucose arrives into the bloodstream and the higher the amount of that sugar, the higher the glycemic index of that food. Carbohydrates, in particular, enter the bloodstream much faster than proteins or fats do. Too many carbohydrates, especially those from refined sources, not only cause insulin spikes but also can cause the body to store excess carbohydrates as body fat.

Insulin’s Role

If the release of insulin is too frequent due to high GI foods, cells can eventually become desensitized to insulin–a condition associated with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, blood fat abnormalities, and even obesity. It is important to moderate high GI foods in the diet by eating foods that are low in GI value. Any selection of higher GI foods should be nutrient-dense as opposed to the more refined ones like white bread and sugar.

Insulin to Glucagon Ratio

Insulin is released in response to carbohydrates and some amino acids. Glucagon is released in response to protein foods. Neither is released when non-starchy vegetables and fats are consumed. Therefore, if carbohydrates are eaten alone, the insulin-to-glucagon ratio is too high. If proteins are eaten alone, the ratio is too low. If fats or non-starchy vegetables are eaten alone, there is no effect on the ratio.

Healthy Carbohydrates: Low GI

Healthy carbohydrates are low-glycemic and high-nutrient such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and cultured dairy products—and processed foods will never match up to the nutritional power of fresh fruits and vegetables.   Minimizing sugar in the diet and eating small, frequent meals focusing on whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy dairy foods, and fish can aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Non-starchy vegetables, particularly, are suggested—and their vitamins and minerals are used as co-enzymes, which are chemicals that enable other chemical reactions in the body. The fiber content of non-starchy vegetables slows down the digestive process by taking up space in the digestive system, lowering the glycemic index of your entire meal.
Non-starchy vegetables include:
Bean sprouts
Bell peppers (red, green, and yellow)
Brussels sprouts
Carrots (raw—cooked or juiced adds carbs)
Green beans
Hearts of palm
Jalapeno peppers
Snap beans
Snow peas
Spaghetti squash
Summer squash
Note: Spices and herbs do not contain sugar and do not increase insulin secretion and can be used freely.


Allan, Christian B., Ph. D. and Lutz, Wolfgang, M.D. Life Without Bread: How a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life. Keats Publishing. 2000.

Boyles, Salynn. Healthy Carbs, Fats for Weight Loss: Study—Low-Glycemic Dieters Have Higher Metabolisms, Feel Fuller. November 23, 2004.

Excerpted from: Schwarbein, Diana, M.D. The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy and Feeling Younger. Health Communications, Inc. 1999.
Temelkova-Kurktschiev et al (2000). “Postchallenge plasma glucose and glycemic spikes are more strongly associated with atherosclerosis than fasting glucose or HbA1c level.” Diabetes Care 2000 Dec;23(12):1830-4

Opinions expressed on this blog are those of the writer and have not been reviewed by the FDA, CDC or other 'medical authorities'. Therefore, any products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, but rather are dietary supplements intended solely for nutritional use.

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