Review: G.I. (Glycemic Index) Diet
The “G.I.” of the G.I. Diet stands for glycemic index, which is a measure of how fast the body breaks down carbohydrates to form glucose, the body’s energy source. The glycemic index was developed by Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto.
So what’s the deal with the glycemic index? Ah, good question…
Foods with high GI ratings break down and release their stored energy quickly. This causes a surge of insulin (insulin is the hormone in charge of shuttling gluose to the muscle cells). If you’re not involved in a vigorous activity, it’s likely that released energy will be stored as fat (if you’ve lived a lifetime of consuming high glycemic foods, you may be on the cusp of Adult Type II diabetes, and experiencing symptoms like mood swings, intense cravings for sweets, and wildly vacillating energy levels).
In contrast, foods with low G.I. scores break down and release their energy more slowly, leaving you feeling full for a longer period of time. These foods do not result in the dramatic releases of insulin and wildly vacillating energy levels discussed earlier. Low GI foods form the core of the diet.
Examples of high G.I. foods include those made from white flour, where essential nutrients have been eliminated. Low G.I. foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, lean meat and fish and low-fat dairy products -foods that are filled with nutrients and good for your health.
Backers of the G.I. regimen say 95 percent of diets fail because the dieters feel hungry or deprived. These diets can also be too complicated, requiring people to count calories, grams, blocks, or points in order to lose weight. The diets can also leave people listless and unhealthy, prompting them to eat more.
The G.I. diet operates according to a traffic light system. Red light foods are those you want to avoid in order to lose weight; yellow light foods are those you can eat occasionally; and green light foods are the foods that are preferred for your diet.
The advantages of the G.I. diet are many. First of all, it will not leave you feeling hungry or deprived. You can eat your fill of foods – provided they’re in the right category. High-nutrient foods are plentiful on the diet, meaning that the diet can be good for your heart as well as for your waistline. The diet’s promoters say it can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and prostate cancer.
The diet is also simple – if you can follow a traffic light, the saying goes, you can follow the G.I. diet. Its supporters say it’s also the type of diet you can easily maintain for a lifetime.
Some people might think the G.I. diet is similar to the Atkins diet-but the differences are significant. The Atkins diet emphases high protein and animal fat and low carbohydrates. The theory behind the Atkins diet is that if the body is deprived of carbohydrates it will be forced to break down fat as an energy source instead.
In contrast, the G.I. diet encourages carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low fat dairy, while eliminating saturated fat.
However, the G.I. diet does have its limitations. People who have lived their lives eating foods labeled as “red light” by the G.I. system may have difficulty adjusting.
All in all, the G.I. diet is a pretty sound program, and worthwhile experimenting with.