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How the Glycemic Index Helps You Lose Weight

The Habit That Will Help You Lose the Extra Weight

Feel like you've got a little extra padding to deal with? The health experts at Harvard have an answer for you to help you shed the weight: keep your glycemic index (GI) chart handy.

In the December issue of Harvard Health Review, researchers note that it's not fat that you should be worried about if you are watching your weight — it's refined carbs. Recent studies have shown that refined carbs and simple sugars may be worse for your heart than saturated fats and that sticking to a low-carb, high-protein diet is the key to weight-loss success. But since we can't live off BBQ meats alone, here's a simple solution: when faced with carb choices, go with low-GI foods, which slow down the rate that glucose (sugar) gets introduced into your body. High-GI foods, in contrast, cause a spike in your blood sugar as well as insulin, causing you to crave more sugary foods when your glucose levels drop.

Related: 5 Ways to Think Yourself Skinny: The Harvard Study That'll Shock You

The GI index ranks foods on a zero to 100 scale; in general, a GI of 1 to 55 is low, 56 to 69 is medium, and 70 to 100 is high — you should limit these high-ranking foods in your diet. If you know your GI values, you'll know that you need to avoid white rice, white flour, and packaged cereals, and choose whole grains, whole fruits, and other complex carbs instead. You can also choose foods that are low on the glycemic load scale, which measures the blood-sugar-raising power of that food. A glycemic load of 10 or less is low, 11 to 19 is medium, and 20 or more is high.

Related: Study: People Who Eat More of These Foods Lose the Most Weight

Following the glycemic index isn't a new concept, but it's a useful way to keep your eating habits in check when on the go. Knowing your numbers is a quick way to help ensure that you're making smarter choices whether you're at a party or just looking to get back on track. Check out a handy GI chart of a few foods below, and check out a list of GI and glycemic load values of 100 common foods here.

Food Glycemic index Glycemic load per serving
Apple 39 6
Baguette, white, plain 95 15
Banana, ripe 62 16
Brown rice 50 16
Carrots 35 2
Dates, dried 42 18
Cranberry juice cocktail 68 24
Graham crackers 74 14
Grapefruit 25 3
Green peas 51 4
Ice cream 57 6
Instant oatmeal 83 30
Milk, full fat 41 5
Milk, skim 32 4
Orange 40 4
Orange juice, unsweetened 50 12
Parsnips 52 4
Potato, russet, baked 111 33
Potato, white, boiled 82 21
Quinoa 53 13
Spaghetti, white, boiled 46 22
Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled 42 17
Sponge cake, plain 46 17
Shortbread 64 10
Sweet potato, average 70 22
White rice 89 43
White basmati rice, quick-cooking 67 28
Whole-wheat bread 71 9
Yam 54 20
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO
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