The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that measures how quickly a carbohydrate food is broken down into glucose. In general, complex carbohydrates are released more slowly than simple carbohydrates, although this is not true 100% of the time. Some complex carbohydrates such as potatoes and carrots are broken down into blood glucose very quickly because they are high on the GI. Other simple carbohydrates such as apples are converted into blood glucose very slowly because they are low on the GI.
The GI was initially developed as a tool to help people with diabetes keep their blood glucose under control. The GI has recently attracted a lot of attention in the bodybuilding, fitness and weight loss world. Many diet programs base their carbohydrate choices entirely on the GI, stating that high GI foods are fattening and low GI foods are not. One well-known health and nutrition "guru" even wrote, "High-glycemic foods like rice cakes, bread, and potatoes stress the body's insulin system and probably are chief culprits in obesity." Unfortunately, this is a gross oversimplification and has only added confusion to an already confusing subject.
According to advocates of the GI system, foods high on the scale such as rice cakes, carrots, potatoes, or grape juice are "unfavorable" and should be avoided because they are absorbed so rapidly and are therefore more likely to convert to fat. Instead, we are urged to consume carbohydrates that are low on the GI such as black eye peas, barley, oatmeal, peanuts, apples and beans.
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