Glycemic index, who was he? We hear about it and somehow we fear it: we know we have to keep it at bay but usually we do not know how or why. We understand that it has to do with sugars – which are addictive like drugs and are also hidden in the most unsuspecting foods. True. But let's find out more about this famous and unknown glycemic index and the various types of sugar.
We asked for help Michela Carlini, doctor expert in integrated medicine, president of the association Academy of Benedicology.
Premise: blood sugar is the concentration in the blood of glucose, essential nutrient for all cells, which take it from the blood itself.
Let's start from the base: what is the glycemic index?
"It is the ability of a certain food to raise the blood sugar compared to a reference standard that is pure glucose (sugar). The glycemic index (IG) is indicated with a number from 0 to 100: pure glucose has an IG of 100; if a food has an index of 56 it means that raises the blood sugar and consequently the insulin of a value equal to 56 compared to 100 of pure glucose (it is one percentage, 56%, not 56 absolute value). The glycemic index depends on the rate at which a food is absorbed and transformed into glucose. Glucose stimulates the production of insulin, a hormone that allows sugar to penetrate and be used by cells. Excessive secretion of insulin causes an insulin resistance: the cells are no longer able to enter glucose, which therefore remains high in the blood. This is called diabetes. A pathology whose incidence is subject to a dizzying increase in the last few years, especially among children!".
What are the other harmful effects of sugar, in addition to the risk of diabetes?
"Definitely predisposes to dysmetabolic diseases because it turns into fatty acids: obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hepatic steatosis. Moreover it is addictive, causes agitation and irritability (adrenaline release); predisposes to cavity; increases the risk of chronic, autoimmune diseases due to its acidifying power; changes the health of the intestine. Given the rampant sedentariness, we do not 'burn' the sugar we take: it is therefore advisable reduce the consumption of sugars in general. Having a good daily discipline allows exceptions, but assuming foods containing natural sugars of good quality prepared at home or by trusted artisans or from the organic food circuit ".
But what are the foods with the highest glycemic index?
"The carbohydrates – or carbohydrates or saccharides – are the nutritional category contained within the foods whose glycemic index is calculated. Among the simple carbohydrates:
Fructose it is found naturally in food (fruit, honey) where it is accompanied with vitamins that facilitate its disposal and fibers that decrease its absorption. This it does not happen in synthetic fructose, the one produced so to speak by the food industry.
Glucose naturally found in fruit and vegetables, commercially available as glucose-fructose syrup, unhealthy extract from the corn plant, it is everywhere (including the breading of the fish sticks!) and, according to studies by university researchers and neuroscience researchers, it is addictive (we notice it every day!).
Sucrose found in honey (in addition to glucose and fructose). Another source of sucrose is the municipality white sugar, extract from cane and beet, which however it is refined. This procedure is at the origin of two problems: they remain in the final product residues of pollutants used during processing, such as carbon dioxide, lime, sulfur dioxide; vitamins and minerals disappear present instead in the raw product (brown cane sugar, the brown one dark and wet and not classic cane sugar, light brown and in the form of small crystals), which make it richer in nutrition and are also useful for its absorption. In their absence, sucrose 'steals minerals and vitamins from our body' ".
IS advisable to opt, at least in part, for sweeteners?
"No! aspartame, associated with saccharin to cover its bitter taste, is carcinogenic, neurotoxic and its consumption has been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. Sweeteners are addictive, not giving satiety and boomerang effect increase hunger to the next meal, without stimulating the production of insulin ".
And what about the natural sugars on the market?
"There are interesting alternatives to white sugar such as coconut sugar and pulverized dried fruit (dates, plums, apricots …). Among the best known we remember:
Barley malt, obtained by cooking in water of the barley previously germinated and then dried. Contains maltose, amino acids, potassium, sodium and magnesium; has a characteristic taste and less sweetening capacity of honey but high glycemic index (more than sucrose). Similar features they have rice and corn syrup, mistakenly called malt.
The agave juice it is extracted from the root of the South American plant, rich in mineral salts and vitamins, has low glycemic index, neutral taste but if it is not of the highest quality may have been subjected to harmful chemical processes.
Stevia it is a plant originally from South America and its dried and pulverized leaves have a high sweetening power. It has no calories, it does not secrete insulin for which it is indicated in patients diabetics. But in the products on the market it is often found in small quantities the plant powder, associated with sweeteners. Another problem that could limit the use of stevia is the licorice aftertaste ".
We have deepened simple carbohydrates; also tells us a word about complex carbohydrates?
"The highest glycemic index belongs to simple carbohydrates, which we talked about. Those complexes involve a 'delayed' glycemic peak compared to simple ones. The foods that are richer are cereals: wheat – and therefore pasta, bread, etc – corn, rice … It is necessary to limit the consumption of cereals and choose those integrals, rich in dietary fibers that limit the absorption of carbohydrates, thus containing the blood sugar – the value of glucose in the blood. Go ahead, without overdoing it, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and parboiled and organic. And we do not underestimate them legume pasta made from lentils, peas etc. They are rich in proteins and with a reduced glycemic index, and today they are present on the market also in large distribution chains, with a good quality-price ratio ".
updated January 2019