The term glycemic index (GI) is a figure that represents the ability of a carbohydrate food (carbs) to increase the level of glucose in your blood.

Your blood sugar level usually increases to some extent after you eat. This causes insulin to be released by your pancreas; insulin helps glucose to get into your body cells so that your blood sugar level does not get too high.

When your blood sugar goes up quickly, it usually goes down just as quickly and you become hungry and eat more. If your blood glucose level remains high, overtime it can be detrimental to your health.

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High glycemic carbs are digested very quickly so they have an immediate impact on your blood sugar and insulin level while low glycemic carbs take longer to digest so they have less impact on your blood sugar and insulin level.

The lower the glycemic index of the carbs you eat, the less impact it has on your blood sugar and insulin level.

Here are 6 high glycemic carbs to avoid and what to eat instead.

1) Bread

Did you know that bread is one of the high glycemic carbs that can spike your blood sugar?

When you eat bread, it gets broken down very quickly into glucose in your digestive tract; the glucose enters your bloodstream and causes a quick rise in your blood sugar and insulin levels. When your blood sugar goes up quickly, it usually goes down just as quickly and you become hungry, you eat more and may overeat

Whole wheat bread may contain more nutrients and fibre than white refined bread but it is equally as bad as refined white bread. Its GI value is a very high 71 so it will still spike your blood sugar like refined white bread.

Whole wheat bread also contains phytic acid which blocks the absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium.

Bread also contains a lot of gluten (found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley) which a substantial amount of individuals are sensitive to. A double-blind trial in individuals who do not have celiac disease found that excessive intake of gluten caused bloating, tiredness, pain, damages to the wall of their digestive tract and inconsistency to their stools (1)

One of the ways you can check if you are sensitive to gluten is to remove gluten containing foods from your diet for about 30 days and reintroduce it and see if it affects you in any way

Gluten free bread may also cause spike in your blood sugar. Bread prepared with sprouted and soaked grains like the Ezekiel bread may be less unhealthy as soaking and sprouting the grains reduces the amount of phytic acid.

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2) Breakfast cereal

Breakfast cereal is one of the high glycemic carbs. It is refined carbohydrate loaded with sugar and little or no vitamins and minerals.

When you eat it for breakfast, it quickly breaks down into sugar in your body, spiking your blood sugar and increasing your insulin level. A continuous increase in your blood sugar and insulin level can lead to premature aging, weight gain and chronic illnesses such diabetes and heart disease.

In one study, there were two groups of men, one group was instructed to eat whole wheat cereal for breakfast and the other group instructed to eat whole oat cereal for breakfast.

After 12 weeks, the blood lipid levels in both group was measured, the researchers found that the whole oats drastically improved the blood lipid profile, the LDL cholesterol and small dense LDL(a type of cholesterol linked to heart disease) was decreased.

On the other hand, the whole wheat cereal increased small dense LDL(a type of cholesterol linked to heart disease) by 60% and total LDL by 8% showing that whole wheat significantly increases your risk of heart disease (2)

3) Pasta

Pasta are grain products and one of the high glycemic carbs. It will raise your blood sugar very quickly and increase your insulin level which can lead to weight gain and contribute to various chronic illnesses.

Studies have shown that pasta contains no complete protein, no essential fats, no vitamins or minerals.

4) Rice (including rice cakes)

White rice is also considered one of the high glycemic carbs. It is quickly broken down into sugar in your body and will raise your insulin level. It is considered a safer starch compared to wheat.

Although white rice is considered a safe starch compared to wheat, you should not eat it regularly because of its impact on your blood sugar and insulin level. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that the risk of type 2 diabetes is increased if white rice is eaten five times a week (3)

Brown rice is lower on the glycemic index than white rice and contains slightly more vitamins and minerals but brown rice is high in phytates which hinders the absorption of these vitamins and minerals. Soaking the brown rice will not successfully eliminate phytates because brown rice lacks the enzyme phytates but soaking can eliminate some of the phytic acid.

5) Fruit juice

Is another one of the high glycemic carbs. Did you know that fruit juice is really just fruit flavoured water with lots of sugar?

All the fibre has been taken out of the fruit juice and there is a tendency for you to consume so much of it so quickly. The sugar content will spike your blood sugar and increase your insulin level on the other hand, the whole fruit does contain some sugar but it is also rich in fibre which will slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream. So eat the whole fruit instead of fruit juice.

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6) White potato

White potato is also one of high glycemic carbs. It is digested very quickly, releasing sugar very quickly into your blood stream which spikes your blood sugar and increases your insulin level. A prolonged increase in insulin level can be damaging to your health.

These are the foods that you can eat instead. They are not high glycemic carbs:

1) Beans – is digested very slowly so it will not have an immediate impact on your blood sugar. It is also rich in soluble fibre which will help to lower your blood sugar

2) Oats – is digested very slowly so it will not have an immediate impact on your blood sugar. It is also rich in soluble fibre which will help to lower your blood sugar

3) Non-starchy vegetables are rich in soluble fibre which will help to lower your blood sugar.

4) Whole fruit is rich in soluble fibre which slows down the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Consume fruits in moderation because of its fructose content but berries can be eaten freely because they are very low in sugar.

5) Complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, yam, squash are digested very slowly; glucose is released gradually into your bloodstream so it will not spike your blood sugar. Sweet potato should be consumed in moderation because of its sugar content.

Always combine your carbohydrate with protein and some vegetables to help with blood sugar balance. Including healthy fats in your food will also help to reduce spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

References

1. Biesiekierski J R, Newnham E D, Irving P M, Barrett J S, Haines M, Doecke J D, Shepherd S J, Muir J G, Gibson P R (2011) Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106:508-514. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21224837

2. Davy B M, Davey K P, Ho R C, Beske S D, Davrath L R, Melby CL (2002) High-fibre oat cereal compared with wheat cereal consumption favourably alters LDL-cholesterol subclass and particle numbers in middle-aged and older men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76: 351-358

3. ScienceDaily (2012) White rice increase risk of Type 2 diabetes, study claims, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315225751.htm

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