Pathways to Wellness

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Glycemic index

Glycemic index is about how much a particular food will raise your blood sugar in the short term.  Foods with high glycemic index give you a jolt of energy because your blood sugar shoots up.  You’ll feel more alert and energetic, but only for about ½ hour.  Insulin, a hormone released by your pancreas, acts to dramatically lower your blood sugar level.  Sometimes when this happens you’ll feel even less energetic than before you ate food with a high glycemic index. 

Foods with high glycemic index include foods high in sugar (like candy bars, cookies, pop) and white bread, rice, or potatoes.  Sugar and white flour are already processed so your body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest them.  That’s why these foods give you quick energy, but have no staying power.

Foods with a low glycemic index are a better choice because they take longer to digest and therefore do not have such a dramatic effect on your blood sugar level.  In general, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans have a low glycemic index. 

Watch this short video and listen to Dr. Max Cynader, a leading scientist on brain and behaviour at the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, describe the effects of these sugars on your brain and body.

The following video is generously provided by Oh Boy Productions and the Brain Research Centre at UBC.

Your brain is what you eat from OhBoyProductions on Vimeo

To keep blood sugars more constant, and avoid sugar highs and lows, go for whole grains, vegetables and fruits.  These foods take longer to digest and have a more gradual effect on blood sugar levels.  

 High glycemic index
• Pancakes
• Cornflakes
• Coca-cola
• White rice
 Medium glycemic index
• Banana
• Brown rice
• Orange juice
• Whole-grain pasta
 Low glycemic index
• All-bran cereal
• Apples
• Carrots
• Hummus

Fortunately you don’t have to memorize lists of food in order to keep your blood sugar on a more even keel.  Healthy meals, which are about ½ vegetables and fruit, ¼ grains (preferably whole grains) and ¼ meat, fish or other protein source, will help you keep your blood sugar levels fairly constant.

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, eating foods with a low glycemic index may help

  • Lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and
  • Control appetite

Learn more