Like fuel is to a car’s engine, the quality of our food dictates how well our metabolism and energy support our body. A lot of fad diets reduce the intake of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and legumes that deprive the body of es-essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber. These carbohydrates are critical for a healthy body and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and colorectal and prostate cancer.

In 1980, Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto, published an index of foods showing the rate at which they breakdown and release glucose into the bloodstream. Hence, the “glycemic index” was termed.

Have you ever eaten Chinese food with one-half the plate being rice then wondered why you were hungry two hours later?

Glycemic index is the speed of which we digest food and convert it into glucose (sugar), our body’s energy source. The faster the food breaks down, the higher the glycemic index number. The index sets glucose at 100 and scores all foods against that number. Some examples include an orange set at 44 and an apple at 38, whereas rice is 87 and the potato is 84.

Have you ever eaten Chinese food with one-half the plate being rice then wondered why you were hungry two hours later? That’s because your body converts the high glycemic food to sugar, which quickly depletes the energy from your bloodstream. Most of us experience the lethargy from this effect. Others may feel a headache, dizziness, nausea, clammy sweat, and/ or mental delay. The surge of glucose followed by the rapid drain leaves us starved for energy and hungry.

Baked salmon fish fillet with fresh salad from spinach and tomatoes.

When you eat high glycemic foods, your body’s pancreas, the organ that sits by the stomach, releases the hormone insulin. Insulin does two things. One it reduces the excess energy of sugar into various parts of the body by storing it as fat. Two it keeps the body’s currently stored fat from breaking back down into sugar to be used at that time. This explains why low insulin level maintenance is crucial for warding off excess weight leading to diabetes and heart disease.

Protein, fiber, and fat slow this conversion. That is why Peanut-Butter has a low glycemic index. The protein and fat keep your insulin levels fairly low and thus you stay satisfied longer. Eating protein at every meal, especially breakfast, is the wisest choice.

The best way to judge a plate of food low in glycemic intake is to visually cut it into parts. One-half the plate should be vegetables, preferably green. One-fourth of the plate should be the protein, such as chicken or fish. One-fourth of the plate should be fruit, ideally berries, an orange, or apple. This leaves little room for starches, pasta and bread. Substituting the quarter section of the plate of fruit for the bread or starch is o.k. occasionally, but be prepared to be hungrier later.

For more information seek resources regarding the glycemic index. Some ideas include the book “The G.I. diet: The Easy, Healthy Way to Permanent Weight Loss” by Rick Gallop or the websites ““, “gidiet.corn“, ““, or ”” on glycemic index.

Set an appointment today at North Texas Family Medicine for our clinicians to help you.

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