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Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, and the Glycemic Index

It has been widely accepted that carbs = bad.

There are a million diets nowadays that completely eliminate carbs altogether, it’s a trend that is highly constrictive, and leaves participants potentially fiber and energy deficient.

NOT ALL CARBS ARE BAD CARBS. Your body needs carbohydrates to turn glucose into energy for daily activities. Many carbohydrate-rich foods have essential vitamins, minerals, and fibers that your body needs to function properly. Don’t even get me started on exercise regimens that are no carb/ high cardio. These regimens do absolutely nothing for your body except deplete lean muscle and energy levels. Your heart may thank you, and you may burn some immediate calories, but there is no room to boost metabolism, build lean muscle, and I guarantee your organs won’t be working at an optimal level. We need to seek out diets that will work for our bodies IN THE LONG RUN. Not quick fixes that deplete us - over and over and over again.

“But there is such a thing as ‘bad carbs,’ right?”

Yes, absolutely.

When we consider the Standard American Diet (SAD) :(, and the incredibly high rate of diabetes/ high blood sugar diagnoses in this country - it is essential that we be cognizant of how the carbohydrates that we do put into our bodies are affecting our insulin responses. That is, are they working for us or against us?

But how do we know the difference?

Enter the Glycemic Index.

The Glycemic Index is a relative ranking of a food’s effect on blood sugar levels. Each food is given a GI score based on blood glucose levels 2 hours after consumption. A score of 50 indicates food that elevates blood sugar at half the rate of glucose (sugar). Essentially, the higher the score, the higher the blood glucose levels.

Low GI score = 55 and under

Medium GI score = 56-69

High GI score = 69 and above

It is worth noting that there are many variables that can affect a food’s GI score - it is not just a ranking of simple vs complex carbs. We have to consider the differences in how these foods are absorbed, which affects how various carbohydrates enter the bloodstream. For example, nutrients can be separated from fibers in a food when boiled, ultimately raising its GI score. The Glycemic Index also goes to show that eating fruit never made anyone fat.

The following GI score information is borrowed from the National Association of Sports Medicine:

"Glycemic Index Scores of Common Carbohydrate Foods"

*Food - Score

Glucose (sugar) - 100

Hamburger bun - 61

Baguette (white, plain) - 95

Raisin Bran® cereal - 61

Hard Candy - 90–100

Sweet potato - 60

Baby carrots - 92

Honey - 55

Rice (instant) - 91

Snickers® Bar - 55

Gatorade® (U.S. formula) - 89

Oatmeal (steel cut) - 55

Potato (instant, mashed) - 87

Tortilla (corn) - 52

Pretzels - 83

Quinoa - 53

White potato (boiled) - 82

Orange juice, Oranges - 50

Cornflakes cereal - 81

Brown rice (steamed) - 50–55

Oatmeal (instant) - 79

Banana - 30–55

Donut (plain) - 75

Carrots - 47

French fries - 75

Sponge cake (plain) - 46

Graham crackers - 74

Chicken nuggets (frozen) - 46

Soda crackers - 74

Peach - 42

Cream of Wheat® (instant) - 74

Spaghetti - 42

Corn chips - 72

Apple juice - 41

White rice (boiled) - 72

Baked beans - 40

Saltine crackers - 70

Strawberries - 40

White bread - 70

Apple - 36

Watermelon - 70-80

Kidney beans - 34

Bread (whole wheat) - 69

Milk (all varieties) - 31

Special K® cereal (U.S. formula) - 69

Tortilla (wheat) - 30

Popcorn (microwave) - 65

Grapefruit- 25

Sucrose (sugar) - 65

Fructose - 18

Macaroni and cheese - 64

Peanuts - 13

White rice - 64

Agave - 11

Raisins - 64

Hummus - 6

Sugar alcohols (non-caloric sweetener) - 3

In conclusion, your body may absorb carbohydrates differently than the next person. The Glycemic Index is a useful guide for those who are watching their carbohydrate/ sugar intake. Your body NEEDS carbohydrates to turn into energy. The Glycemic Index, like any other tool, is a TOOL…not the bible. Use it to monitor your carbohydrate intake and keep your blood glucose levels normal. Your body is worth it.

To your well- being and self discovery, all my love!


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