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Optimum Nutrition: Medicine of the Future

Overweight & Glycemic Index

If you're overweight, obviously you need to reduce the calories in your diet and/or do more calorie-burning activities. And your diet needs to be realistic, providing you proper nutrition and satisfaction too. A useful factor to be aware of when planning your diet is 'glycemic index':

Glycemic Index
The glycemic response of a food is a measure of the food's ability to elevate blood sugar, which also contributes to mood and energy fluctuations. We're all familiar with the after-dinner snooze, where the blood sugar level bounces back down and we feel tired. The glycemic response is influenced by the amount of food you eat, its fiber content, fat content or amount of added fat, and the way the food is prepared.

Reactive hypoglycemia is an over-production of insulin in response to eating simple sugars. The pancreas responds by producing too much insulin which causes a rapid and sharp decrease in blood sugar, usually falling below fasting blood sugar levels - so we fall asleep or find it hard to concentrate on our work. Insulin is a storage hormone: one of its jobs is to escort the sugar from the blood into either muscle or fat cells. When insulin levels are high, the body doesn't burn fat; it also signals the body to make more cholesterol. The faster a food raises your blood sugar, the greater the insulin reaction. The most common deleterious effects of too much insulin are constant weight gain and low energy levels.

The glycemic index (GI) uses pure glucose as a standard, giving it a rating of 100. The closer to 100 a particular food is, the higher its glycemic index. Here are a few representative samples:

Cherries: 25
Bananas (ripe): 60
Beans: 30-40
Rice cakes: 80-133(!)
Many processed breakfast cereals: 100
Nuts: 15-30
French bread: 95+
High-glycemic foods are useful if you're on a college team and training twice a day and need the fastest replenishment of muscle glycogen stores. Highly glycemic carbohydrates are best consumed during and after exercise. They enter the bloodstream quickly and are readily available for fueling exercising muscles.

Low glycemic carbohydrates enter the bloodstream slowly and are best eaten before exercise. They provide sustained longer-term energy, and help maintain stable blood sugar levels during extended exercise periods (greater than one hour).

But if you're trying to manage your weight, or have normal energy requirements and wish to stay healthy, then stay away from high GI foods. Simple carbohydrates simply make you more hungry and they are addictive - and so we become hooked on sugar drinks, cookies, tortillas, pizza and the like. The result is obesity and diabetes. So... go with the lower-glycemic foods as snacks. Eat the higher ones, if you must, with a little fat or protein to slow the response. Or avoid them completely, and begin to be aware of the powerful effect high insulin levels are having to foil your attempts to keep healthy.

Food Chart: The Glycemic Index of a Range of Foods

As well as low-GI foods, ensure your diet includes an adequate supply of low-fat protein at each meal and eat fiber-rich vegetables. The ideal ratio of carbohydrates to fat to protein is 40:30:30 - but that carbohydrate had better come from a wide range of fresh vegetables and not from processed bread, pasta, rice, chips, alcohol, cakes, biscuits and sweet deserts! By maintaining insulin levels within a therapeutic zone, one is more able to burn excess body fat (and keep it off permanently) and enjoy increased energy, as well as improved mental acuity and vitality.

A 'crash' low-carbohydrate diet produces quick weight loss through depleting the body stores of glycogen (stored glucose) which retain water. Basically the body becomes dehydrated on this type of diet. When you resume a normal food intake, your body will restore the glycogen reserves and water, which will result in weight regain. And because of the lowered metabolism when in 'starvation mode,' on going back to a normal regime the body will put on weight for that reason as well. The most successful weight-loss diets over the long term (more than 2 years) include reduced calorie and fat intake, an emphasis on lower-GI foods, a balanced diet (40:30:30), and (perhaps most importantly) a regular exercise program. The following article gives some good tips for firing up the body's metabolism, so that you burn calories rather than turn them into fat. By following a regime with unlimited low-Glycemic Index vegetables and fruit you will avoid completely the risks of ketosis embedded in the Atkin's Diet.

Busting The Myth!

This may be a real shocker for you, but first you must realize that your extra weight is NOT your fault! Unfortunately our culture and the media have created the myth that if we would only "try harder" we would lose those extra pounds. This misconception seems to put the blame solely on us, as if we are weak, undisciplined and over indulgent. This negative message has been accepted by millions us. However, this blame-the-victim attitude is totally unsupported by scientific data.

Everyone wants to be slimmer and healthier. There is no doubt that exercise and a balanced diet do play a role in controlling weight. Yet this idea has created an obsession with eating less and exercising more. The out-dated idea of starving ourselves and over-exercising has actually reversed the way our bodies make energy, causing millions of people to gain weight. By over-restricting calorie intake you are slowing down energy levels, triggering a fat hording process within your body.

A nutritionally balanced body will naturally burn fat for energy. The Standard American Diet (SAD) provides massive amounts of glucose (sugar), which are being stored away into fat reserves in our bodies. This often leads to glucose intolerance. Lack of energy, rebounding weight gain and fatty inches around the waist or buttocks are the classic symptoms of glucose intolerance, which increases your chances of developing insulin resistance.

Insulin balances both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Anytime you eat food, the carbohydrates in your food are turned into sugar during digestion. Because our modern diet is so high in carbohydrates, your body's cells often become used to, or insensitive to, your own insulin. This causes your cells to resist or ignore the hormone called insulin. You need insulin to help turn your glucose (blood sugar) into cellular energy.

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