Glycemic Index: Cardiovascular Protection

The glycemic index indicates how high carbohydrate foods cause blood sugar levels to rise. It was developed as a nutritional aid to prevent obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In addition to fats, carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for our body. But carbohydrate is not just carbohydrate. Some are rather healthy, others problematic – especially when consumed in larger quantities. The so-called glycemic index (GI) can help to better classify carbohydrate-containing foods. It was developed to prevent obesity, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease and is said to help with food choices to avoid cravings.

The GI indicates how much 50 grams of carbohydrates from a portion of food cause the blood sugar level to rise within two hours. The reference value of 100 is glucose (glucose) because it drives blood sugar up the fastest and most. All other carbohydrates are rated in relation to this. With a value of 95, a baguette is just below glucose, cornflakes have a value of 86, and apples of 36. The value is particularly low for lentils and other legumes such as peas or chickpeas.

Study shows: High GI increases the risk of disease

When people eat a lot of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, their risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease increases by more than 25 percent. This is shown by a Canadian study: The scientists accompanied almost 140,000 adults between the ages of 35 and 70 on five continents for 20 years and examined their eating habits and their vascular health.

How meaningful is the glycemic index?

Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugar to rise rapidly because these foods or their carbohydrates are absorbed quickly. There is an insulin reaction that quickly lowers the blood sugar again – and the body responds with cravings. We get the urge to eat further and more. The result: the blood sugar level rides a roller coaster – and such large fluctuations are unhealthy. If there is too much glucose in the blood, the sugar molecules clog the blood vessels. In the long run, this causes inflammatory processes in the bloodstream and ultimately also cardiovascular diseases.

The preparation also has an influence on the glycemic index

How high the GI of food is also depends on the preparation. For example, potatoes in mashed potatoes have a significantly higher GI than potato salad. The body can remove the glucose from the mashed potatoes much faster and the blood sugar level rises correspondingly.

In cold potato salad, on the other hand, a different effect comes into play: When boiled potatoes (or pasta) cool down, so-called resistant starch is produced. Although this is also a carbohydrate, it is much more difficult for the body to break down – this lowers the glycemic index. This effect persists even when the potatoes or pasta are reheated, as the resistant starch keeps its shape despite the heat.

Individual factors: gut bacteria and genes

The glycemic index of a food is not the same for everyone, because if two people eat exactly the same food, their blood sugar levels can rise to different degrees. One reason for this is our intestinal bacteria. Their composition affects the blood sugar response in our body.

But genetic factors, our body weight, and any insulin resistance also play a role. How the body reacts to carbohydrates can only be found in complex tests. Nevertheless, based on the Canadian study, nutritionists advise only consuming products with a high glycemic index in moderation.

Eat healthier with a lower GI

Instead of highly processed foods and white flour products, you should rather use whole grain products and lots of fruit and vegetables. Legumes in particular score points with a very low GI and healthy fiber. They keep you full for a long time, helping your figure as well as your heart and blood vessels.

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