Let’s make friends with the glicemix index

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I am sure that you know about the importance of a balanced eating plan when you have to manage PCOS, and you may have got some information about GI diet the most effective option to cope with this disorder.

It seems something too conceptual, but what is the glycemic index?  

The definition: it is the measure of how quickly a food causes our blood glucose levels to raise, and activate physiological responses, such as the production of insulin. The higher the value is, the faster the insulin must be secreted by the pancreas to balance the glycaemia: some sugar will be used by the cells which need energy, the excess will be stored. When insulin is constantly called, fattening dynamics will arise, most of all in the abdominal area. This is true for everybody, especially for PCOS women who are prone to a very fast and excessive insulin response.

So, let’s think about that: if the excess of insulin and the insulin resistance have serious effects on PCOS, stimulating its production doesn’t make sense.  

An appropriate eating plan controls the insulin response- a diet with very little sugar (low glycemic load) to keep the glycaemia stable without dramatic glycemic peaks (low glycemic index) is the best option. That’s right, isn’t it?

The benchmark is 100 (in Italy it is the value of white bread): the foods are classified as its percentages. Some kinds of food cause the glycaemia raise more than the bread does, other types of food very little.

This is the result of a long and quite complicated work. At the beginning, it was just a “fashionable diet”, then it became something more scientific; eventually, scientific studies confirmed the theory, and, in order to make the matter easier, glycemic index charts were drafted to rank the foods which contain carbs, stark, sugar (proteins, and fat don’t have this potential).

Facciamo degli esempi significativi:

Some meaningful examples:  

  • Very high glycemic index (GI: 115-90): maltose, glucose, wheat syrup, corn syrup, potato starch, rice flour (they are usually found in cakes and sweets, or in some types of vegetable milk, or in some organic products, which are wrongly considered low-calorie), baked potatoes, fries and baguette bread;
  • High glycemic index (GI: 89-80): white wheat gluten free bread, white boiled rice, rice milk, smashed potatoes, cooked turnips, breakfast cereals, cornflakes, etc.;
  • Medium/High glycemic index (GI: 79-70): white wheat bread, rice bread, bagels, soft wheat pasta, egg pasta, pumpkin, melon, watermelon, boiled potatoes with peel, cornmeal mush, sweets, brioches, biscuits, doughnuts, popcorn, white and brown sugar, instant rice, sugary carbonated drinks, chocolate with sugar, beer, drink supplements with minerals and sugar;  
  • Medium glycemic index (GI: 69-50): cooked beetroot, cuscus, fruit jellies, jam with fructose, whole grain bread, rye black bread, puffed rice, rice biscuits, muesli, chestnuts, pineapple, papaya, banana, pizza, lychees, kiwi, kaki, mayo, ketchup, honey, maple syrup, whole grain flour, milk bread, pizza, sashimi, surimi seafood, overcooked spaghetti, durum wheat pasta, whole grain rice, basmati rice, buckwheat, soy yogurt, raisins, dehydrated figs;

  • Medium/Low glycemic index (GI: 49-50): whole grain flour, whole grain cuscus, canned peas and pulses, whole grain cereals and spelt, cooked carrots, falafels, whole grain unleavened flatbread, 100% whole grain bread with mother yeast, 100% kamut bread, whole some biscuits, oat flakes;   
  • Low glycemic index (GI: 39-20): fresh fruit, fructose, yogurt, ice-cream, flax, poppy and sunflower seeds, dehydrated tomatoes, tomato puree, pearl barley, fresh farm cheese, ricotta cheese, milk, sugar free jam, raw carrots, chickpea hummus, dried pulses, shell fruit (almonds, nuts, walnuts,) eggplants, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, white soy yogurt;
  • Low/No glycemic index (GI: 19-10): agave syrup, any vegetables, green salad, mushrooms, pesto sauce, ginger, avocado, peanuts, bran;
  • No glycemic index (GI: 9-0): vinegar, shell fish, white and red meat, fish, eggs, parmigiano cheese, hard cheese, spices and herbs, wine, coffee, teas, herbal teas;

The classification has been drawn up according to the features of the food itself:  

  1. The serving of carbs;
  2. The carb intake in 100 g of food;
  3. The type of stark (branched amylopectin, or linear and helical amylose)
  4. Botanic species, type of grinding, ripening, storage, cooking (time, ways, and preservation)  
  5. Acidity of the food which slows the digestion of carbs down
  6. Types of fibers

But the classification does not take into account the following:

  1. The composition of the whole meal
  2. The quantity of added fibers in the meal

The work has been huge and it has established a reliable chart about the reactivity of our body to foods; it has rejuvenated the old (but right) ideas of the dietetic made just of calories without any attention to the answer the body gives to food.

This chart must have shed light on the issue but unluckily, a wrong message was taken for true: some kinds of food must not be eaten at all. Of course, high GI foods should be avoided in a balanced diet, but some confusion has risen, and the choice was diverted to very high protein diets, rich in fat and salt, which favor androgenism.

Moreover, this chart needs a proper interpretation to be shared also by those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, meteorism, digestive disorders, or celiac disease and do want a suitable dietary plan to manage PCOS.

Let’s highlight a point: don’t think you are “ill”, or “allergic”, but you have to keep in mind that some kinds of food can’t be part of your everyday eating plan, they are “extraordinary” ingredients you have to learn to manage properly. In our recipes, we combine GI food with other suitable ingredients in order deactivate their “potential danger”. So, you will be allowed to eat almost everything.   

These basic pieces of advice will help you with the GI:  

  • Always have a serving of vegetables or green salad per meal, even if you don’t like them much;
  • Always have at least a serving of low GI food per meal;
  • Your meal must be composed of: carbs, proteins, and little fat;
  • Eat very high and high GI food only very occasionally;  
  • Eat fruit, which is rich in sugar, and during the day lower its GI by combining it with shell fruit, seeds, or little sugar free plain yogurt;
  • Always combine high GI food to a very low GI one;
  • Don’t have high GI food or drink on an empty stomach, such as the afternoon snack;

Remember: servings are very important too: if you keep the servings of low GI food under control (for example, you can’t eat as much meat or fruit as you want), you will lose weight faster and the quality of your diet will improve significantly.

Ask for a nutritionist or dietitian’s support: they will provide you with a tailored food plan.

About Stefania Cattaneo

I am Stefania Cattaneo and I am a Nutritionist Biologist. I have always been fond of sports and nutrition most of all related to the women. I work in my private office near Turin, there I see every sort of patients with really different problems and needs. Actually, I mainly deal with sports people and women who suffer from hormonal ailment linked to the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I'll do my best to widen your knowledge (and mine as well) about this hard, difficult awkward but fascinating topic: PCOS.