Many of you have likely heard about the glycemic index, but how much do you know about how it affects your health? The glycemic index is a rating of the effect of foods on blood sugar levels. The higher the food falls on the scale of 0-100, the more rapidly it is digested and absorbed by the body, resulting in higher fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Food that ranks lower on the glycemic index, however, aids in slow digestion and absorption, which in turn results in a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.
What does this mean for you? Possibly weight gain if large amounts of sugar continue to be flooded into the blood stream. Directly after entering the body, carbohydrates begin the process of converting into sugar. This sugar then enters the bloodstream and the cells to provide energy. Two hormones, insulin and glucagon, regulate the levels of sugar in the blood. Insulin's role is to move sugar into the cells so that it can be utilized for energy when blood sugar is high. Glucagon, on the other hand, helps to release sugar stored in the liver and muscles when blood sugar levels are low. Therefore, the two balance each other out. However, when there is an excess of sugar in the body, insulin locks it in the cells. For this reason, it has been called "the fat storage hormone."
Foods higher on the glycemic index create larger spikes in blood sugar levels. When levels stay high, the body has trouble responding properly and as a result, excess is stored. More importantly, this is what leads to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Therefore, low glycemic index diets improve glucose and lipid levels, control appetite, delay hunger, and reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance, as recommended by the World Health Organization.