How To Know Which Healthy Foods Will Spike Your Blood Sugar + Mediterranean Salad
If you have ever been to Georgia, you have seen the incredible energy and nightlife. There is live jazz and blues music everywhere, a BBQ joint on every corner and chicken and waffles as far as the eye can see. It is a magical place.
Another thing Georgia has a lot of is “Da-Suga’s” (aka “the sugars”… aka Diabetes) which might be the cutest term for an autoimmune disease that makes your feet root off, you ever did hear.
But Diabetics aren’t the only ones who are affected by high sugar foods. Sugar has a massive effect on your body’s ability to store or lose weight; on your mental health; on your energy; and contributes to premature aging.
The thing is, almost ALL food has some sugar. It’s unavoidable if you are going to eat a nourishing diet and avoid getting scurvy. So let’s break down how to identify your best choices for keeping your blood sugar level stable and keeping weight gain, hypertension, and diabetes at bay.
GLYCEMIC INDEX VS GLYCEMIC LOAD. DOES IT MATTER?
These fancy terms not only speak to how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.
In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It may not be as obvious as you think. Starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do. Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar. So depending on your nutrition needs and goals, these so called “healthy foods” may be just as harmful to your blood sugar as those office donuts.
GLYEMIC INDEX - "HOW FAST"
The most common of the two terms is “glycemic index” (GI).
It compares the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They Spike Lee the crap out of your blood sugar.
So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10. Shout out to all that fibre that helps to slow the release of sugar (not to mention give you a great poop – and who doesn’t love a great poop?)
When it comes to GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.
Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate containing food is digested and raises your blood sugar. It's not a measure of the sugar content of the food.
How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.
So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don't increase your blood sugar level as fast.
Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy)… White potatoes! They have a GI of 111. CRAZYTOWN!
GLYCEMIC LOAD - "HOW MUCH"
The glycemic load is different.
Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but instead looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.
GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.
Low GL would be 0-10, moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.
EXAMPLE OF GL AND GI
So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:
Food GI Serving size (g) GL per serving
Banana, average 48 120 11
Oranges, average 45 120 5
*Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods
As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time.
But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar and will raise your blood sugar higher than the same amount (120 g) of orange.
Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits!
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR YOUR HEALTH?
Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.
The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fiber or high-protein food.
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If you have blood sugar imbalances, struggle with weight loss or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food.
If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.
Oh, and try this low GI recipe I have for you.
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup black olives
¼ red onion, diced
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
1 dash sea salt
1 dash black pepper
Place first five ingredients together in a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients to a jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.
Add dressing to salad and gently toss.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add chopped avocado for even more fiber and healthy fat.