I wanted to finish this week's posts with another discussion of the glycemic index. I have written about it in the past but want to revisit it because it is so crucial to life long health – and it's so simple.
What is the glycemic index
The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a food spikes your blood sugar after eating it. Foods that are high in simple sugars spike your blood sugar very fast. These include anything with high-fructose corn syrup, like soda or anything with simple sugars from white flour, like white bread and white rice. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrate and fiber raise your blood sugar slowly and gently. These include fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. To learn more about specific foods visit http://www.glycemicindex.com.
Why should you care?
What's the big deal? Your body needs to maintain blood sugar in a very narrow range. If you spike your blood sugar too fast, it will over-react with a large release of insulin and cause your blood sugar to crash back down. This is why you feel very tired after a large, high-glycemic meal. The other problem is that this crash causes you to feel very hungry again because your body is trying to recover from the crash. This causes you to eat more than you need and gain weight. Have you ever felt hungry a couple hours after eating Chinese food? Well, this is why.
But the problem runs much deeper than getting tired and eating too much. After a while, your body will adjust so that you can no longer crash your blood sugar. It does this by becoming insensitive to it's own insulin and you develop insulin resistance. What this means is that the cells in your body stop responding to insulin and stop taking up sugar out of the blood.
Insulin resistance happens first in the muscle cells, which actually need the most sugar-energy. The fat cells continue to respond and absorb most of your blood sugar. This causes increased fat storage and weight gain around the mid-section. Approximately 1 out of 4 adults in the United States are insulin resistant.
What can you do about it?
If your behavior does not change, insulin resistance can progress to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. This puts you at dramatically increased risk for heart disease and a lot of other health problems.
All of this is preventable and even reversible if you are already there. Switching to a low glycemic diet, getting more exercise, adequate sleep and taking quality nutritional supplements all help to reverse insulin resistance and get your body back on track to health.
Be sure that this is not just an adult problem. Feeding your kids high glycemic meals is setting them up for the same fate. Today, the Center for Disease control predicts that 1 out of 3 kids will become diabetic because of our diet and lack of exercise. Please don't send your family down this road.
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