A recent presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness meeting showed that eating a low-glycemic breakfast could prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. It might even help you put the brakes on your late-morning Krispy Kreme detour.
One study that researchers presented here looked at how low-glycemic almonds for breakfast steadied blood sugar and helped people stay full and focused all morning.
The study, which appeared in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, showed that people who ate whole almonds at breakfast felt full longer and had steady blood sugar levels compared to people who ate a high-glycemic breakfast like, say, a Pop Tart with orange juice.
As an added bonus, researchers also found that eating a low-glycemic breakfast means you eat less food the rest of your day.
You’ve no doubt heard about the glycemic index, which ranks how much a particular food raises your blood sugar levels.
Your body rapidly absorbs high-glycemic foods, which spike and crash your blood sugar to leave you hungry and tired.
High-glycemic foods also raise your insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and aging.
Insulin is also a powerful storage hormone, and it stores one thing really well: fat.
You get my point. High-glycemic foods are not your friend for fat loss, increased energy, or overall health.
Lower-glycemic foods, on the other hand, create a steadier rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. Because you’ve got balanced insulin levels, you burn (rather than store) fat and maintain steady energy.
Let’s say you choose Special K with skim milk, a banana, and orange juice for breakfast. It’s almost entirely fat free and low in calories, so it’s got to be healthy, right?
The high-glycemic carbohydrates, in fact, will raise your blood sugar, which triggers an insulin response. So as you know, you’re going to store fat.
And once insulin pulls your blood sugar back down, you’re hungry again. That hunger will most likely strike late morning when you reach for one of those 100-calorie packs of cookies, where after you’ll create the same blood sugar roller coaster.
You see how a high-glycemic breakfast sets you up for disaster. You also understand how people who scrupulously count calories, despite their best intentions, struggle with fat loss.
On the other hand, having a higher-protein, low-glycemic breakfast – say, an omelet or a protein smoothie – keeps your blood sugar levels steady all morning.
Now, the glycemic index is useful to a point, but it doesn’t take into account portion size. That’s what the glycemic load does. So whereas carrots, which still get a bad rep in some circles, are high on the glycemic index, when you take into account how many you actually eat, they have a very low glycemic load.
In other words, you’d have to eat a ton of carrots – something you’re unlikely to do – to significantly raise your blood sugar.
Experts debate the glycemic index’s usefulness. Some people find it confusing and tedious.
Critics point out an important flaw: it looks at foods in isolation, whereas in reality you’re eating foods in different combinations that the glycemic index couldn’t possibly account for.
I think the glycemic index is useful to a point, and that the glycemic load is a little more comprehensive and accurate. But you can lose weight and stay healthy just fine without ever consulting a glycemic chart.
Don’t want to deal with numbers and measurements? I’ll make it really simple. Eat less sugar, less processed foods, and fewer foods that convert to sugar in your body.
If you want to simplify that even further, stick with a low-carb diet, which reduces or eliminates sugar and processed foods.
Eat the diet your ancestors ate – lean protein, fruits and vegetables, good fat, nuts and seeds – and you’ll be eating a low-glycemic diet without worrying about the numbers.