Published: 24th November 2009
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While most people only count calories, one equally important but much less well-known number is a food's glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) measures how much a particular food raises blood sugar levels - key for weight loss purposes, since a spike in blood sugar results in a corresponding insulin spike, triggering the body to store fat. Over time, this can even lead to so-called "insulin resistance" (meaning the body releases more and more insulin to respond to elevated blood sugar) and diabetes. Knowing the glycemic index values of common foods and choosing foods that are low on the GI scale can help you lose weight much faster.

The glycemic index of a particular food is established in a laboratory by serving 10 people a 50-gram serving of the food, then measuring how much their blood sugar goes up over the next two hours. The results are then averaged. To figure out the GI values of the foods you eat most often, you do not have to rent out a laboratory, however. Glycemic index information on many different foods is available for free online with only a simple Google search. You can also ask your physician about the glycemic index, and you may be able to get recommendations on how to build low-GI foods into your diet most effectively.

The glycemic index is a sliding scale, going up to 100, which is pure glucose. A food is generally considered to have a high glycemic index value if it is above 70 on the scale; a medium score would be between about 55 to 70, while low-GI foods have scores below 55.

Refined carbohydrates and foods containing sugar all have high glycemic index values, although there are some exceptions - fruit, which is high in fructose, a naturally-occurring sugar, are still low-glycemic, largely due to the fiber they contain (for this reason, it is always better to consume whole fruits rather than fruit juices - if you strain out the pulp, fruit juice has a much higher glycemic value than the original fruit itself).

When eating foods that have a high glycemic value (which can't always be avoided), try to pair the high-glycemic food with a low-glycemic food in order to lower the glycemic impact of the meal as a whole on your blood sugar and insulin response. This will help reduce the number of calories that are stored by the body as fat as you digest.
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