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Glycaemic index - what does it say and why is it so important?

Written by Lena, Nutritionist (M.Sc. Medical Nutrition)

Not all foods have the same effects on blood sugar and insulin levels. Whether these increase a lot or a little following a meal depends on the glycaemic index (GI) of the food itself. This indicates how quickly glucose is absorbed into the blood and causes blood sugar to rise.

Topics at a glance

  1. What is the glycaemic index?
  2. How does the glycaemic index affect blood sugar levels?
  3. Low glycaemic index foods
  4. Foods with high glycaemic index
  5. Table: Glycaemic Index
  6. Preparation makes a difference!
  7. Importance for people with type 2 diabetes
  8. Glycaemic Load vs. Glycaemic Index
  9. Glycaemic index as a form of diet
  10. Individual factors: The microbiome
  11. Low Glycaemic Diet with Almased

What is the glycaemic index?

The glycaemic index is a measure of the blood sugar-raising effect of a food or the carbohydrates it contains. It shows how quickly and how high a certain food causes blood sugar levels to rise. The blood sugar-boosting effect of 50g glucose serves as a reference value (100). This compares 50g of carbohydrates from a given food.

The lower the glycaemic index, the slower and lower the blood sugar rises. This also means that foods with a lower GI have a longer satiety effect. Foods with a high GI on the other hand, lead to a quick but short-lasting energy supply and can thus trigger cravings.

How Does the Glycaemic Index Affect Blood Sugar Levels?

When we consume carbohydrates, they can be in different forms. In whole grain products with a low GI for example, complex structures of different sugar molecules can be found. Highly processed, high-GI products, such as soft drinks or chocolate, contain sugar molecules in their simple form.

These differences play an important role in digestion. While the complex carbohydrate structures must be gradually broken down into their individual parts, simple sugars can be absorbed by our body without much effort. So, when we drink a Coke, our body doesn't have much to do. The ingested sugar enters the blood directly through the intestine and the blood sugar level rises sharply.

Foods with a low glycaemic index contain a high proportion of complex carbohydrates and are therefore only gradually absorbed by the body. As a result, blood sugar rises slowly.

Low Glycaemic Index Foods

Meat, fish, and low-fat dairy products are good choices if you want to watch your blood sugar levels. Vegetables, legumes, and whole grains also have a low GI due to their complex carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates are processed more slowly by the body and thus cause blood sugar to rise more slowly than simple carbohydrates, which pass quickly into the blood. In the case of fruit, the GI varies. For example, GI is lower for berries, apples and cherries than for watermelon or pineapple.

In general, foods with a GI below 55 are ideal. A glycaemic index above 70 is classified as "high" and should be avoided as much as possible. Almased has a GI of 27.

Foods with High Glycaemic Index

Foods that contain a lot of white flour and simple carbohydrates have a high glycaemic index. These include white rice, white bread, cornflakes or crackers.

But the processing of the food also plays a role. For example, the GI of mashed potatoes is higher than that of whole potatoes. By crushing them, the carbohydrates can be better absorbed by the body and thus also enter the blood more quickly in the form of glucose.

Foods with hidden carbohydrates, such as convenience foods or pickled fruits and vegetables can also have astonishingly high GI values. So, it's best to always pay attention to the stated carbohydrate and sugar content on the packaging.

Table: Glycaemic Index

The most important foods with the corresponding glycaemic index, practical to download as PDF!

Source: by bewusst-abnehmen.net

The Glycaemic Index PDF!

Preparation makes a difference!

In fact, the glycaemic index is not only about what foods you eat, but also how you eat them. Preparation also plays a role.

This is because the effect heat has on carbohydrates makes it easier for us to digest and thus the glycaemic index increases. That's why the GI is sometimes presented separately for the raw and cooked food.

Also, you can influence the GI of a food by cleverly combining it with other foods. Fatty meals, for example, linger in the stomach for a long time until they reach the intestines. So if you combine high-glycaemic foods with healthy fats, you slow down digestion and can lower your GI a bit.

Importance for people with type 2 diabetes

The glycaemic index is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes, especially those who want to lose weight. This is because the lower the blood sugar rises following a meal, the less insulin is needed to regulate the increase.

Thus, a low glycaemic index contributes to more consistent blood sugar and insulin levels. Low blood sugar and insulin levels also help the body burn more fat and prevent hunger, making it easier to lose weight. This is exactly where Almased excels and ensures rapid weight loss with low-glycaemic, protein-rich shakes.

The effects of meals with different glycaemic indexes can be well illustrated by blood glucose self-monitoring. Those who measure their blood sugar after eating foods with a low glycaemic index will notice a smaller increase than foods with a high glycaemic index.

Glycaemic Load vs. Glycaemic Index

In contrast to the glycaemic index, the carbohydrate content of a food is also taken into account when calculating the glycaemic load. The glycaemic index always refers to 50 g of carbohydrates in a product, regardless of how many grams of carbohydrates are contained per 100 g.

Carrots, for example, contain 100 g of carbohydrates per 10 g, so you would have to eat half a kilo of carrots to get 50 g of carbohydrates. Most of the time, however, we consume significantly lower amounts of carrots, so blood sugar levels are not strongly influenced by it.

Although carrots have a relatively high glycaemic index of 47, the glycaemic load is very small, hovering around 3. In everyday life, the glycaemic load is much more revealing and provides more information about actual consumed portion sizes. By the way: Almased also has a low glycaemic load of 7.9 and is therefore particularly gentle on blood sugar.

Table: Glycaemic Load

Food Glycaemic Load Carbohydrate content per 100g
Apple 4 11.4g
Avocado 0,04 0.4g
Banana 11,8 21.4g
Chips 28,4 40.5g
Cucumber 0,3 1.8g
Yogurt 1,4 4.1g
Potatoes 10,4 14.8g
Nuts 1,5 10g
Wholemeal Rye Bread 20,3 45g
Tomato 0,8 2.6g
White Bread 40,2 55.4g

Glycaemic index as a form of diet

Of course, with the variety of diets available today, there is also a diet which specifically focuses on the glycaemic index - the Glyx diet. This diet begins with 3 days of soup fasting, after which the diet should be permanently changed to foods with low GI. A traffic light system is used to differentiate between good and bad carbohydrates. The fat content of the food is also considered and displayed in the colours green to red. So-called Glyx tables are then intended to help consumers prepare a balanced meal.

Particularly for type 2 diabetes, the Glyx diet can offer an introduction to a GI-conscious diet. However, it is also viewed critically among the scientific community, as this form of nutrition requires elimination of some foods. With Almased however, a GI-conscious diet can be achieved without much effort or nutritional deprivation.

Almased in everyday life

Individual factors: The microbiome

The rise in blood sugar after eating various foods depends not only on the properties of carbohydrates. Genetic factors and the composition of the gut microbiome also play a role.

Recent studies show that even twins react differently to the same foods. For some, blood sugar levels rise particularly sharply after eating white rice. While others see a particularly sharp increase after eating pasta.

These differences can be explained by the makeup of our intestines. Many millions of bacteria live there, which can have a positive or negative influence on our digestion and health. Depending on how we eat, the composition of these bacteria changes. Regular exercise, stress and environmental factors also influence the environment in our intestines.

In one of our recent studies, we investigated the positive effects Almased can have on the microbiome to better understand the interactions between the microbiome and metabolism.

Source: Human Postprandial Responses to Food and Potential for Precision Nutrition - PMC (nih.gov)

Low Glycaemic Diet with Almased

In contrast to a low-carb diet, a low-glycaemic diet does not completely avoid carbohydrates. Instead, special attention is paid to the quality of carbohydrates to keep blood sugar levels in balance. A low-glycaemic diet is not only interesting for people with diabetes.

After all, sharp fluctuations in our blood sugar levels can cause cravings, lack of concentration, and even headaches. If you keep your blood sugar in balance, it will be easier to lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. A low-glycaemic diet is also suitable for athletes to increase performance.

Due to its low GI, Almased is suitable for a diet that is gentle on blood sugar levels. Diabetological studies have shown, among other things, that Almased effectively lowers blood sugar levels and even HbA1c levels. In this way, the need for insulin can be reduced in a completely natural way and existing prediabetes can be brought back under control. Obesity and thus general wellbeing can be effectively reduced by the improved blood sugar balance.

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