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Understanding Glycemic Index and Diabetes

Glycemic Index (GI) is simply a tool that helps us differentiate between the carbohydrates in foods that we eat and how our bodies use them. A close, modern, analysis of the Ayurvedic diet reveals a great deal of similarity between it and the Glycemic index diet which revolutionized both Diabetes care and the weight loss industry upon its discovery in 1980.

What is the Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index is a rating system for foods where any type of carbohydrate has a numerical value assigned to it based on its components and how each food affects the body’s sugar levels.

Basically, as food breaks down in our digestive system, many of the food’s components, like sugar or vitamins and minerals are absorbed into our blood stream and immediately affect our system. Foods that break down quickly and have high glucose or sugar levels will give us a “spiked” feeling of energy and euphoria. This feeling is commonly referred to as a “sugar high”. Other foods break down more slowly and release their sugars, starches and nutrients over a longer period of time, which avoids any sudden increases to our sugar levels and keeps our insulin levels low.

How is the Glycemic Index in Foods Determined?
The Glycemic Index uses pure glucose (or in some cases, white bread) as its control food and rates all other carbohydrates in relation to it. The control food or standard, either the glucose or the white bread, is given a rating of “100” and all other foods are tested as to how they affect a person’s blood sugar, insulin and lipid levels compared to the standard.

Preventing Diabetes Through Glycemic Index
For those who are prone to diabetes, a change in diet is the best way to prevent or slow its onset. That means the consumption of carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index so that less sugar is being stored in the bloodstream. Aside from those who have diabetes in their families, another risk factor is a woman who develops diabetes during pregnancy. Even if no one in your family has ever had the disease, if you develop it during pregnancy, chances are higher than normal that you will develop it later in life. The transition to a healthier way of eating and a switch to low glycemic index carbohydrates can either prevent or delay the onset. After all, you will be gaining more energy and losing sugar from your bloodstream, so it is reasonable to assume that diabetes will be delayed and even prevented.

Glycemic Index and Diabetes Connection
If you already have diabetes and are on medication for it, the switch to low glycemic index carbohydrates may alleviate some of your symptoms and keep your blood sugar level under better control. This is especially helpful for those who have found it difficult to keep it under control with medication and diet perhaps you are eating foods that are actually turning to sugar in the bloodstream, which is what happens with carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index. Reducing the amount of high glycemic index carbohydrates will definitely make a difference in your blood sugar level and help alleviate some of the symptoms that are connected to your diabetes.

We should understand that it isn't only cakes, cookies and candy desserts that contain sugars and raise our blood sugar to dangerous levels. Any food that is considered a carbohydrate is made up of starches and sugars. Foods that we would never imagine being 'sweet' are full of glucose, dextrose or sucrose. Foods like baked potatoes, pretzels, beets and even some lean meats can raise the blood sugar levels very high, which then forces our body's insulin levels to spike, as well.

When the body's insulin becomes over worked and no longer responds to high blood sugar levels, it will begin to show symptoms of Diabetes.

Excessive eating of High Glycemic and High Insulin Index foods is a major cause that leads to the failure of the insulin response. It is vitally important not to overwork the intricate workings of our bodies.

In order to remain healthy in our later years, lifestyle changes are needed that include changing the way we eat. Even if you think you are eating healthy foods, look at what you are eating in the way or carbohydrates. If you are eating white bread, white flour, white rice, potatoes, and cereals that are not in the oat, bran, or barley group, you are eating carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index. That doesn’t mean you are going to be able to eliminate all of the carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, but the goal is to reduce them so that less sugar is going into the blood stream and more is being utilized and turned into energy. The body needs the energy for your to feel rested after a good nights sleep, but you want to consume the slow burning energy rather than the quick energy that is derived from sugar products such as candy, cakes, and other sweets.

Diet and exercise are important to good health, but you want to make sure that you are eating foods that are nutritionally sound. Don't go by things you were taught in school unless you are very young because things that were taught about nutrition ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago have now been changed. While many of us were taught that slow burning carbohydrates included potatoes, white bread, and unsweetened cereals, we are now finding that only a portion of that is correct information. As years go by, science finds out different information about the foods we eat, so it's important to make certain that you have the most current information before you make any lifestyle changes. For this, the Internet is the most reliable source of information since web pages are changed on a regular basis as opposed to a book that you may pick up in the library or bookstore.

Glycemic Index of common foods >>>>

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  • GlycemicIndex.PPT:Here is an excellent power point presentation on Practical Use of the GI by Johanna Burani, MS, RD, CDE Click Here to Download
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