Diabetes 101: Glycemic Index

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How is it going with you these days? Hope all is good.

For my Friday posts, I generally try to pick simple topics or try to simplify complex ones. Topics that help us in staying aware and in making better decisions with our health, nutrition and fitness. If there is something that you want me to write on, do let me know on Instagram DM.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

A few days back, I have been asked to write more on diabetes and I think it’s a great idea for us to know more about diabetes, pre-diabetes and related terms. Why is it such a good idea?

Did you know that India, unfortunately is also called as ‘Diabetes Capital’ of the world!

Yes, India or Indians are on the top when it comes to diabetes! And the current exponential rise in these cases are mostly lifestyle related which includes our eating patterns. So, please let’s not blame it on our genes and rather look into re-evaluating our diet and lifestyle. Our parents probably did not pass it on to us but we can definitely pass it on to our next generation.

For today, it is about Glycemic Index or GI. Many of us probably have heard about this term. It is an important term when we are trying to manage diabetes or even prediabetes. Let’s understand it better today.

What is GI or Glycemic Index?

GI is basically a scale on which we can measure foods in terms of how fast they raise our blood-sugar levels. Or how fast our body can covert the carbs in food into glucose. An international GI database is maintained by Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Services in Sydney, Australia. 

Ideally, sudden and large spikes in blood sugar levels should be avoided. How? This tool called ”Glycemic Index” could help us in managing prediabetes or diabetes very easily.

If used properly, this tool can be of immense help while making better dietary choices. It can also:

  • Be used as a weight management tool
  • Be used to plan/have healthier meals
  • Be an important part of diabetes-management
  • Be used in Cholesterol management

However, if you are a diabetic, it is always a good idea to check with your diabetes-specialist doctor or nutritionist before you start making huge changes in your diet. With this disclaimer in place, let’s move on to the different categories of GI values:

  • 1-55: Low GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed slowly in our body e.g. green leafy veggies, lentils, chickpeas, beans, raw carrot etc
  • 56-69: Medium GI value e.g. sweet corn, bananas, multigrain bread etc
  • 70 and higher: High GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed in our body quickly e.g. white rice, white bead, potatoes etc

A more detailed GI value table is easily available on internet if we google it. We can search here also:

https://glycemicindex.com/gi-search/

Drawbacks of GI Table           

However, there is a slight catch;

  1. GI values do not tell us anything about nutritional values of a food and just because something is of low GI value, doesn’t automatically make it the healthier option for everyone
  2. It doesn’t take into account the portion sizes as well. And portion-size does matter…a lot!
  3. The GI value of a certain food can change due to a few factors such as
    • Method of cooking – how you cook, how long you cook etc
    • Food combinations
    • Ripeness e.g. bananas
    • Processing

As a nutritionist, I worry more about Nutritional Value (a regular ice-cream has a GI of 65 and watermelon 72, which do you think is a healthier choice? ) and at most, Glycemic Load of a particular food. This allows for more flexibility when it comes to eating a variety of foods, even those with high GI values. Glycemic Load takes into account the portion-size of the food as well and this is why we find that if the portion size is controlled or right combinations are made, foods with high GI values can be enjoyed too!

It is a great idea to make healthier food choices based on GI values especially for diabetes-management however let us not use the concept in isolation and completely restrict nutrition-dense foods. GI values are carbohydrates-derived but other nutritional factors such calories, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber are equally important. Well, not to say that carbs are not important because they certainly are.

I hope this post today made the Glycemic Index simpler for you and gave you the bigger picture. Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Is Honey A Good Sugar Substitute?

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

Last to last post was about jaggery vs sugar (read here if you missed the post) and we saw that in terms of calories and sugar content, there isn’t much difference. For a non-diabetic healthy person, switching over to jaggery from white refined sugar might be okay but for rest, jaggery is and should be treated as a sugar only, especially if you are watching your weight or sugar level spikes.

Oh and make sure to find good, unprocessed jaggery to get real benefits out of it! Adulterated jaggery, highly bleached and full of toxic chemicals – from certain parts of India is a big news these days. The worst part of this adulteration it is that we consume something thinking it is beneficial for us when it is actually doing more harm than good.

Anyways, let’s evaluate another sugar substitute today. Now that we know where jaggery and sugar stand, the next question is “and what about honey”?

First, What Is Honey

Honey is made by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Sweet and syrupy, it ranges from golden colour to a much darker shade of yellowish-brown.

Today, the market is full of all kinds of honey. The difference could lie in the plant-source, the way it is extracted or even in how it is processed. It could be raw, it could be pasteurized. Our choices are vast – from wild honey to acacia honey to clover honey to even neem honey! Not to mention blended honey, now.

Nutrition & Calories

Let me share a personal experience with you. There was a time long back when I decided to try warm honey-lemon water first thing in morning – for weight loss. Well, that was the prevalent wisdom then and a very famous brand was actively promoting its honey for the same purpose.

Did it work for me? A big NO! That got me thinking how it could even? If you are trying to lose weight, the first general step is to reduce sugar intake. Was honey-lemon water in morning helping with it? No. It just added to my sugar intake and the logic was so simple to me that I refused to listen to all the “weight-loss wisdom” after that till it fitted my basic, simple logics of nutrition and calories.

I never got to examine the detox part of it as I stopped consuming it altogether after that whole weight-loss debacle.

Before we come to the nutrition part, let’s clear the calories part. Did you know, honey has more calories than white sugar? Oh yes, 1 tbsp of honey contains 64 calories versus 1 tbsp of sugar with 46 calories. This means swapping sugar for jaggery or honey would not be a safe bet for weight-watchers!

It also means that for diabetics, honey isn’t a good alternative to sugar, just like jaggery. Though it has a relatively less glycemic index (61 against 65 of sugar) but it still causes sugar spikes and still adds up on calories for weight-watchers.

Much sweeter than sugar, honey is about 35% glucose, 40% fructose, 9% sucrose and rest other simple carbohydrates. Though this could also mean that you use it in lesser quantities!

Having said that, a dash of honey in your herbal tea is fine if it increases the flavour or makes it slightly less bitter. At least you know/understand why you are having it and what exactly would it be doing!

Honey does contain several micronutrients like iron, zinc and potassium but in minute quantities. However, high-quality honey:

  • is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants (such as phenolic acids)
  • helps in wound-healing and anti-inflammatory purposes
  • can also help with heart health and other chronic diseases

Doctors strongly advise against giving a baby of less than 1 year any sort of honey as it contains pollen spores and might result in botulism, a kind of serious toxicity caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

For more health, nutrition and fitness facts & motivation, do join me on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_blogger/

Which Honey Is The Best?

That’s an important question!  Choose raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey always. Preferably an organic one and definitely without any added sugars or chemicals/preservatives!

The Bottomline

For normal healthy people, swapping sugar with high-quality honey might make sense. Even then, consume only high-quality honey and in moderation.  If it fits into your daily healthy diet, no harm taking it and it would be best to consume it with other nutritious foods.

If you are a weight-watcher/diabetic and your doctor/nutritionist allowed you some honey, make sure it’s high-quality and you add it with some other foods with fibre/protein/fat etc so that the sugar-spikes are regulated.

That is all for today, friends. Hope you found the post useful 🙂

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace

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