Everyone’s confused. No one knows what is what. People are borderline cynical, chronically paranoid, or simply don’t give a crap. This is the current climate of the American food market.
Food nowadays is way too complex. We always hear of different types of foods that are supposedly good for us. Those “super foods,” so to speak, that set market trends one after another: low fat, low carbs, good fats, good macronutrient ratios, Atkins, South Beach, Sonoma, Oprah etc.
In this state of confusion, it’s tempting to demonize food for the sake of simplifying things; however, there’s more to nutrition than just good or bad carbs, proteins and fats. It’s a continuous process of invested effort and learning. So let’s learn something new.
In the frontlines of nutritional evolution, we have come upon an era of being more selective—more aware and picky on the type of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) that we buy and consume.
So there is hope.
Now you’ll see a huge shift in fat perspectives. In fact, unsaturated fats like omega-3, DHA, EPA are rocking the food industry. Companies are now saying that some types of proteins are better than others and, of course, they happen to be selling different varieties. Even the old stigmatized carbs do not get the same rap as they did before; now there are such things as complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, high and low glycemic index (GI), glycemic load (GL), etc.
But let’s wait just a minute. Some of you might be wondering, what did she just say there? “Glycemic” what? Well, let me explain.
High and low glycemic index foods are, in fact, not a new concept. Diabetic patients have been using this type of distinction to control their blood sugar and insulin level.
Glycemic index basically tells you the rate in which particular carbohydrate sources increase the blood sugar response. High glycemic index foods tend to increase blood sugar more rapidly compared to low glycemic index food, theoretically.
This might look very simple; however, there are downsides as well. Glycemic indexes are measured on the different types of carbohydrates in same weight (usually 50g of carbohydrates). Not all carbohydrate sources have the same amount of carbs in typical serving sizes. Some foods have a higher content of carbohydrates than others in one serving. For example, to get 50g of carbohydrates from baby carrots, you would have to eat about one pound. Potatoes, on the other hand, would have the same amount of carbohydrates (50g) in about half a pound. In that respect, who would eat a pound of carrots in one sitting? It’s not realistic. On top of that, we as complex animals, tend not to eat one single food alone. There are typical combinations of foods that may change the rate of blood sugar release.
That is why some people prefer using another means called glycemic load (GL). Glycemic load (GL), compared to glycemic index (GI), takes the typical serving size into account rather than just by carbohydrate content.
In part two, we will talk about how athletes can benefit from knowing about glycemic index.
Dunford. Marie, Ellen Coleman, A Practice Manual for Professionals 4th Ed. American Dietetic Association, 2006
Mahan. K., Escott-Stump. S., 2008, Krause's Food & Nutrition Therapy, 12th Edition
Nuwanee Kirihennedige – Is a nutritionist and dietician that works with athletes and health minded individuals on sports performance and weight loss. Nuwanee currently is the nutritionist for the California Strength Academy in San Ramon California. Nuwanee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.