June 18, 2016

Is the Glycemic Index Useful for People with Diabetes?

This is an interesting short article from a doctor at the Mayo Clinic. M. Regina Castro, MD is the doctor and I can appreciate some of her comments about the glycemic index.

Some people with diabetes use the glycemic index (GI) as a guide in selecting foods for meal planning. Other people won't use it as a guide, but as the food bible in selecting the foods they consume. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise your blood glucose level. Foods with a high glycemic index value tend to raise your blood glucose higher than do foods with a lower value.

There are a few benefits in using the glycemic index, but be careful not to slip into some of the common traps. Some of the traps include:
  • Single food items, rather than combinations of foods, can impact blood glucose differently
  • Doesn't consider all variables that affect blood glucose, such as how food is prepared or how much is eaten
  • Only includes foods that contain carbohydrates
  • Doesn't rank foods based on nutrient content — foods with a low GI ranking may be high in calories, sugar or saturated fat

Why the doctor is concerned about saturated fat tells me that she still believes the low fat high carbohydrate way of eating and cannot accept the low carbohydrate high fat way of eating.

It can be difficult to follow the glycemic index. For one thing, there is no standard for what is considered low, moderate and high glycemic foods. Packaged foods don't list their GI ranking on the label, and it can be hard to estimate what it might be. The doctor also misses the glycemic load (GL), which can be useful in determining some foods that are good for you. To begin with, packaged foods need to be avoided by people with diabetes because they will raise your blood glucose levels higher and faster than other foods.

Basic principles of healthy eating, portion control and counting carbohydrates are all ways to help you better manage and control your blood sugar. If you're interested in learning more, talk to a registered dietitian. Warning! Be very careful as most registered dietitians will only push carbohydrates and not be concerned about the glycemic index. Instead of helping you make wise food choices or help with your eating habits, they will mandate whole grains and other foods that will require larger doses of medications. Don't worry, they will be happy to advise your doctor that you need this or additional medications.

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