To maintain a good diabetic control it is important to make lifestyle and dietary changes. It is generally seen in India that diabetics are worried about their diet. Most diabetics count carbs (carbohydrates) to achieve optimum blood sugar levels.
Once you have mastered the art of counting carbohydrates, just a little bit more of maths will help you to fine tune your diet plan and maintain a good diabetic control.
The Glycemic index or GI is a numerical system that represents how quickly the consumption of the food increases its blood sugar levels. Well Known Nutritionist Monisha Jukani from DENMARC (Diabetes Endocrine Nutrition Management And Research Centre) says, “Glycemic index is the level at which the blood glucose rises on consumption of a particular food. Foods which are absorbed slowly raise the blood sugar levels slowly and have a low glycemic index. Whereas, foods which are absorbed fast, raise the blood sugar levels fast and have a high glycemic index. GI of a particular food may change if eaten alone or in combination of other foods. Thus, consideration of the GI of the food helps in maintaining a good control of blood glucose levels”
Most fruits vegetables, whole grains, eggs, meat, milk, pulses have low GI while foods such as corn flakes, white bread, white rice have high GI.
The glycemic index tends to be lower for complex carbohydrates than for simple carbohydrates, but there are exceptions.
What affects the GI of food?
Studies suggest that fat and fiber content in the food lowers the GI of the food. As a general rule, the more cooked or processed a food, higher the GI. Here are few examples of factors that can affect the GI of food.
Ripeness - the more ripe the fruit or vegetable, higher the GI.
Processing – Juice of the fruits has a higher GI than the fruit itself.
Cooking method- longer cooking method increases the GI of the food.
Variety- short grain white rice has a higher GI than brown rice.
Monisha adds, “The GI of a food is different when eaten alone than it is when combined with other foods. When eating a high GI food combine with another medium or low GI food to balance out the effect on blood sugar levels.”
GI or Carb counting?
Though carb counting is important in managing diabetes, GI helps to fine tune diabetes management.
Consuming carbohydrates with a low glycemic index also tends to result in more healthful cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes mellitus and in people with diabetes, reduce the risk of complications due to diabetes.
Monisha says, “Glycemic Index of the food is very important for a diabetic. However, while taking care of the GI the portion size or calorie content cannot be ignored. A meal having the right choice of foods in terms of Glycemic index should be taken in the right amount (i.e. caloric content) to attain maximum benefit.”
In other words, GI and carb counting when combined together may provide an additional benefit for achieving the desirable Hb1ac leaves.However it may be difficult to follow a GI index diet on your own as there are some nutritious foods that have a higher GI than foods with little nutritional value. For instance Oats has a higher GI than chocolates. It is important to follow the basic nutrition principles for healthy foods and moderation of foods with few nutrients to lead a healthy life.
It is important to meet an experience nutritionist and follow a personalised meal plan keeping your taste and lifestyle in mind.
There is no one diet or a meal plan that can work for all diabetics. The GI represents the type of the carb in a food but does not talk about the amount of carbohydrate typically eaten. Portion size is important to maintain blood sugar levels.