M&M’s for breakfast? Yup, I had it bad…a wicked sweet tooth. I craved chocolate from breakfast to bedtime. Now, I didn’t always act on those cravings, but there they remained, like a whiny little brother who won’t stop tugging at your sleeve, always taunting and tempting me to grab one more handful of milk chocolate morsels. Eventually, I began to figure a few things out, like why I had those cravings in the first place. The biggest wakeup call came the day I found out that yet another extended family member had been diagnosed with diabetes. I was blessed to have my grandparents live well into their 80’s and both grandfathers were nearly 90 when they passed. Unfortunately, one of my grandfathers was diabetic and struggled with the severe complications of diabetes for years robbing him of his quality of life in retirement.
This month is Diabetes Awareness Month and although it’s good to put the spotlight on this disease, we should be in prevention mode year round. A good place to start is with the GI — Glycemic Index.
Epidemic in the Making
According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet for 2011, nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes. That’s almost 10% of the entire U.S. population. The statistics get more staggering when you realize that diabetic adults are 2–4 times more likely to have heart disease (the leading cause of death in America) and are at 2–4 times greater risk for strokes (fourth leading cause of death in America). Other complications include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney disease
- Neuropathy (nervous system disease)
- Periodontal (gum) disease
In 2010, it was estimated that an additional 79 million adults were diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Now that we have the stats, let’s look at some basic things we can do to protect ourselves now and into the future.
What is GI — Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is an index of foods ranked by how they affect blood glucose levels. Essentially, the higher up on the glycemic index the faster the food will raise blood sugar. The Index works on a scale of 1 to 100 where pure glucose is 100. Glucose is essential to our survival. What we want to do, however, is to avoid spikes in our blood sugar that can lead to organ damage and other complications. Low glycemic foods are in the range of 1–55, moderate 56–69 and high 70–100. While there are many factors that affect our blood sugar response to food like the combinations of foods, cooking methods, etc. understanding the Glycemic Index can be a good start to making better food choices for all of us. Here’s a sampling of GI rankings:
Hi GI foods
- White bread
- Rice (both white and brown)
- Low-fiber cereals (usually high sugar content)
- Cookies, cakes, muffins (most baked goods containing white flour and white sugar)
- Processed foods
- Mashed potatoes
- Sweet corn
- Raw Pineapple
- Ice Cream (some are decidedly high GI so watch out for the sugar content)
Low GI Foods
- Vegetables — some starchier veggies are higher GI and other veggies don’t rank because they contain minimal carbs
- Whole grains (minimally processed) — think steel cut oats vs instant oatmeal and opt for grains like quinoa, barley, bulgar.
- Beans & lentils — perfect timing for chili season
- Most Fruits — especially those with a higher fiber content
- Some nuts — peanuts. Other nuts don’t register on the GI index because they are so low carb like most other proteins
Lower GI foods do not spike or significantly raise blood sugar levels which means that they can provide sustained energy.
My guess is that you’re probably not going to walk around the grocery store with a GI chart in hand so I’ll give you my secret shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That means, avoid the aisles. Have you ever noticed that all of the foods requiring temperature control are on the outside walls of the store? That’s because these are the fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy products that also happen to be champions of healthy blood sugar levels. Most processed and high GI foods are down the dreaded interior aisles which are usually loaded with shoppers — that tells you something right there, doesn’t it? Making better food choices will go a long way in helping us maintain a healthy blood sugar level and lead to a longer, healthier life…m&m craving free! And since we just celebrated Veterans Day, I would like to focus on another important GI — the courageous members of our military services both active duty and veterans. Thank you for your honorable service to our country.
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“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”
Copyright © 2012 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.