Thanks to the low-carb craze and the rise in adult-onset diabetes, “glycemic index” is swiftly becoming a household phrase. The glycemic index of a food is the measurement of the effects of the carbohydrates in the food on blood glucose levels. But do you really know what it means?
Supposedly, foods that score high on the glycemic index should be avoided because they promote higher insulin levels. Increased insulin in the bloodstream, of course, makes your body stop burning fat as a fuel and store excess food-energy (calories) as fat. Common theory supposes that a low glycemic index makes a food good for you, and a high glycemic index makes a food unhealthy.
This causes many people to avoid eating fruits & many of the sweeter/starchier vegetables.
This is a mistake.
While it is true that increased insulin levels essentially make you fat and increase your risk of developing diabetes, the thing that promotes higher insulin levels is a high glycemic load, not a high glycemic index.
The glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by the amount of carbs in a 10 gram portion of the food.
So, for example, take the following refined foods as an example:
Shredded Wheat Cereal
Glycemic Index: 69 Glycemic Load: 57.0
Glycemic Index: 72 Glycemic Load: 38.4
Glycemic Index: 84 Glycemic Load: 72.7
Now, compare that to the following relatively high glycemic index vegetables and fruits:
Glycemic Index: 64 Glycemic Load: 6.3
Glycemic Index: 53 Glycemic Load: 12.1
Glycemic Index: 54 Glycemic Load: 13.1
Glycemic Index: 71 Glycemic Load: 7.2
As you can see, the glycemic load in these fruits and vegetables is considerably lower than the glycemic load of refined grains, even refined whole grains.
Truly, it’s not hard to see that the processed cereal grains are the real culprit when it comes to weight gain and blood sugar disorders.
Eat your fruits and vegetables! All of them! Any kind you like! And do it without guilt.
If you’re really trying to lose weight, you may want to lay off the starchier tubers and root vegetables to speed up the process. But from a strict maintenance or health point of view, you should embrace all the vegetables and fruits you feel like eating.
I recently got a review copy of The Garden of Eating in the mail (a Weston A Price / Primal Diet / Hunter-Gatherer Diet inspired cookbook perfect for those going grain and/or dairy free). I’m completely in love with this book. I probably like it even more than Nourishing Traditions. (I’m going to try out a few recipes over the next couple of weeks and post them here for you, along with a review of the cookbook.)
Anyhow, I agree with Rachel and Don Matesz (the authors) when they write, “It would be a major challenge to overeat vegetables and fruits. The average woman who needs at least 1500 calories per day would likely find it very difficult to eat 15 large potatoes or bananas. In general, vegetables and fruits fill you up long before you can eat enough to fill you out.” (page 35)
So, eat your fruits and vegetables. And don’t feel guilty about saying YES to sweet potatoes! (You might want to try out this recipe for Savory Sweet Potato Fries w/Chipotle & Cilantro Mayo, or these Mouthwatering Sweet Potato Latkes.)
(photo by protoflux)