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 2014 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.
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.
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|
|Baguette, white, plain||95||15|
|Cranberry juice cocktail||68||24|
|Milk, full fat||41||5|
|Orange juice, unsweetened||50||12|
|Potato, russet, baked||111||33|
|Potato, white, boiled||82||21|
|Spaghetti, white, boiled||46||22|
|Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled||42||17|
|Sponge cake, plain||46||17|
|Sweet potato, average||70||22|
|White basmati rice, quick-cooking||67||28|