i've had a lot of people in my life ask me about my diet recently. even my nice, new endo. while i've certainly learned a helluva lot more about healthy eating with the disease than without, i will say that eating a low glycemic diet has helped maintain blood sugar balance tremendously. bummer i had to get type 1 to take such a keen interest. ;)first things first:
what does "low glycemic" mean, anyway? there's a lot of talk out there using the phrase (and somewhat carelessly, i might add) but often little understanding of what it means to eat food this particular way.
it's important to understand the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load, also.
*note: while the picture above only states 'GI' on it, low GL foods also look the same graphically. also, that picture i borrowed sucks. the time is horizontal (as is traditional in algebra, duh) and the blood glucose is vertical. also, the red line is High GI and the blue is Low GI.
the term glycemic index was first coined after scientists figured out the [standard] insulin response to carbs. specifically, it relates to the quality of a carbohydrate and thus how fast the blood sugar will rise. values are placed on foods: the lower the index, the slower the rise. the index ranges from about 20 to 100. obviously, pure glucose is rated 100. there's a reason we all know to have pure sugar when we are low, right?! we need our sugar to come back up fast! so, a good rule of thumb: the more processed a food is, the higher its index. most fruits contain fructose (a more complex sugar than pure glucose, thus it takes longer for your body to break it down: a good thing!) and are low to medium GI foods. this is not only due to their carb content being made of mostly fructose, but also fiber (if you're diabetic and don't like fiber: GET WITH IT! FIBER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND!)
on the other hand we have the more recently coined term, glycemic load. this was figured out after scientists at harvard realized it was not only important to know the standard effect on blood sugar rise, but also the actual amount of carbohydrate in that particular food. glycemic load ranges from 1-20. thus, while a food like beets has a high GI (64/100) it has a measly glycemic load of 3 because its carb count is only 5. same goes for pumpkin, watermelon, carrots...you get the picture.
so, do you think i memorized the GI/GL values for carbs? uh, no.
can i get a loud UH, NO!
don't be ridiculous. as you read my 3-part series on low glycemic eating, you'll get pointers and even the basic list i started learning with from the good (but somewhat problematic lowcarbdiets on about.com.) but more importantly, a way to trust your gut when shopping for food or eating out.
low to moderate GI/GL numbers are key to balanced blood sugar---for anyone, not just people living with diabetes.
you will learn to eyeball food values that'll burn fast or slow or moderate just like you did when you learned to count carbs. in fact, you already know a lot of this, i believe.
this is where a healthy sense of low-carb eating enters: ever try to eat white-pasta-based mac&cheese and wonder why you thought you were going to die?
simple answer: a GI of 64/100 with a glycemic load of 19/20.
god help your little pancreas (even if you're type 1 and it malfunctioned.)