Glycemic Index for Carbohydrates and Other Foods

Glycemic Index for Carbohydrates and Other Foods

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Glycemic Index for Carbohydrates and Other Foods
Reprinted by permission from Bill Faloon of the LIfe Extension Foundation

Become familiar with the Glycemic Index.  This is an extremely useful tool to help regulate metabolic activity.  The Glycemic Index lists the relative speed at which different foods are digested and raise blood sugar levels.  Each food is compared to the effect of the same amount of pure glucose on the body's blood sugar curve.  Glucose (simple sugars) itself has a Glycemic Index rating of 100.  Foods that are broken down and raise blood glucose levels quickly have high ratings.  The closer to 100, the more that food resembles glucose.  The lower the rating, the more gradually that food affects the blood sugar level.  The Glycemic Research Institute (202-434-8270; has ratings of hundreds of different foods, and issues a seal of approval on foods which elicit low responses.  Here is a list of some common foods and their Glycemic Index ratings:  Baked potatoes, 95; White bread, 95; Mashed potatoes, 90; Carrots, 85; Chocolate candy bar, 70; Corn, 70; Boiled potatoes,70; Bananas, 60; White pasta, 55; Peas, 50; Unsweetened fruit juice, 40; Rye bread, 40; Dairy, 35; Lentils, 30; Fresh fruit, 30; Soy, 15; Green vegetables, tomatoes, <15.

Know the facts about alcohol.  The most important fact is that being "out of control" makes it difficult to manage diabetes, even masking the acute danger brought on by hypoglycemic reactions.  If a person is capable of moderate use of alcohol, other facts are important.

Pure alcohol (scotch, vodka, rum, gin, etc.) contains no carbohydrates, despite what it is made from.  However, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for protein, 4 for carbs, and 9 for fat.  Liqueurs, such as Amaretto and Kahlua, on the other hand, are high in carbohydrates because of the added sugars.  Another danger comes from the mixers used in cocktails, many of which have high sugar contents (colas, juices, tonic, margarita mix, etc.).

One odd fact is that, under certain circumstances, alcohol can actually cause a low blood sugar reaction.  If blood sugar is low and food is not eaten, plain alcohol alone may prevent the body's natural, protective response to hypoglycemia.  In other words, when the body wants to release stored glycogen (sugar) to combat low blood sugar levels, alcohol prevents it from doing so.

The University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, August 2004 gives a good explanation of the alcohol / low carb myth below:


Featured Article -- August 2004

Alcohol and the Low-Carb Myth

In the never-never land of diet hype, something new is on the scene.  Some alcoholic beverages are labeled for carbohydrate and calorie content with many of them boasting of low carbs (both wine and beer) and no carbs (liquor). You may not have noticed the labels yet, but they are either in the marketplace already or in the offing.  The labeling of beer, wine, and the hard stuff for calorie content is not a bad idea.  It is useful to know the caloric content of anything you're about to consume.  But carbs?

Wine producers, on another tack, have lobbied for permission to use a heart-healthy label.  The agency with jurisdiction over such matters (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the Treasury Department, which has long regulated the sinful commodities, as well as firearms) has been cool to the idea.  They have required so many disclaimers that a bottle of wine would need to come with a booklet tied around its neck.

However, though the wine industry can't simply label wine as having heart benefits, the low-carb and no-carb claims on alcoholic beverages are legal so long as the labels don't actually say that they help you lose weight.  But, in fact, the terms are now irrevocably linked in most peoples minds (especially young peoples minds) to weight loss, Atkins diet, or even better for you.  Cut carbs, lose weight, many people now think.  Low-carb has somehow come to mean healthy.  Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to alcohol and no subject could be more confused and confusing than the effect of alcoholic beverages on weight.

Knowables and Variables
Scientists have not been able to tie alcohol consumption consistently to weight gain.  Some studies have found that drinking beer or spirits, for instance, increases waist-to-hip ratio, while some have found no relationship at all.  One study showed that among female twins, body fat actually decreases with increasing alcohol consumption.  Other researchers have also found that heavy drinking reduces body fat, but still others point to evidence that it raises the risk of becoming overweight or obese.  There may never be a simple answer, since there are so many variables.  For example:

Genes affect how the body processes alcohol.

What you eat is important if you consume a lot of cheese or other high-calorie snacks while drinking, you'll most likely gain weight.

People who drink a lot may gain weight whether they drink beer, wine, or spirits.

But if you drink a lot and the alcohol replaces food and other beverages, you may lose weight, as some alcoholics do.

People in studies are prone to under-report how much they drink, rendering many findings unreliable.

The Mysteries of Alcohol and Carbs
Still, sensibly enough, the first thing nearly all weight-loss plans require is that you stop drinking.  (Not the notorious Drinking Mans Diet of yore, a prehistoric ancestor of Atkins, which consisted of martinis, steak, bacon, and eggs.)  This is because alcoholic beverages give you calories without nutrition, and they also may loosen your resolve to lose weight and make you eat without thinking.  Beer goes with peanuts, wine with cheese.  Also, alcohol itself is high in calories -- 7 calories per gram, almost as much as fat (9 calories per gram) and more than carbs or protein (about 4 per gram).  Here are some things you should know about alcohol and nutrition -- facts that run counter to what many people believe:

Alcoholic beverages all contain calories, and most of the calories come from the alcohol.  (We are speaking about straight spirits, wine, or beer -- not mixed drinks made with added ingredients, which can bring calories to, well, staggering levels.)

Alcohol is not a carbohydrate.

Your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbs.  Thus drinking slows down the burning of fat.  This could account for the weight gain seen in some studies.

Hard liquor is distilled and thus contains no carbohydrates.  The current Zero Carb advertising campaign for vodka and whiskey is baloney and may encourage mindless consumption.  It's like bragging that a candy bar is cholesterol-free.

When grapes are made into wine, most of the fruit sugars (carbs) convert to alcohol, but a few carbs remain.  A 5-ounce glass of wine typically contains 110 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and about 13 grams of alcohol (which accounts for 91 of the calories).  A 5-ounce glass of wine supplies roughly the same amount of alcohol and number of calories as a 12-ounce light beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

Beer too, contains carbohydrates.  The new low-carb beers are not new at all, though this type of beer does indeed have fewer carbs.  Low-carb beers are simply the old light beers with a new label and ad campaign.  The old Miller Lite has 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs in 12 ounces.  The low-carb Michelob Ultra has 96 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs.  Coors Lite has 102 calories and 5 grams of carbs.  The differences are tiny -- hardly worth mentioning.  In contrast, a regular beer has 13 grams of carbs and 150 calories.

What It All Boils Down To
In spite of the strong implication that low-carb somehow means low-calorie, and that low-carb foods in general can help you lose weight -- or, indeed, that they are health foods -- there's no evidence this is so, and particularly not when it comes to beer, wine, and liquor.  Alcoholic beverages have calories because alcohol has a lot of calories -- not because of carbs.  The implication that low-carb beers and wine or carb-free spirits are a boon on a weight-loss program is simply deceptive advertising.

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, August 2004

The problems of diabetes are compounded by stress.  On a direct level, stress raises blood sugar.  This happens because of the primitive "fight or flight" response in which perceived dangers are met by the body's protective chemical reactions, including a release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands and dumping of glycogen (sugar) stores from the liver.  In a healthy person, the reaction may be useful for the energy and alertness needed to deal with difficult situations.  In a diabetic, the additional glycogen input cannot be utilized and results in elevation of blood sugar.  Such elevations can be extreme and may result from everything from bumping into an ex-spouse, to getting called by a doctor with the results of a blood test, to having to testify in court.  Frequent and timely self-testing may help to mitigate this problem.  Damage is increased tremendously by smoking.  Tobacco usage causes severe damage to the vascular system, adding to a diabetic's already embattled health.

Stress also robs the body of necessary nutrient levels.  All of the basic requirements of an individual are increased by stress.

When a diabetic's sugar levels become elevated, the body attempts to transport the excess sugar out through the kidneys by increasing urination.  In the process of excreting fluids, water-soluble nutrients are lost, and must be replaced by regular supplementation.

Exercise plays a direct role in the control of diabetes by increasing the efficiency of available insulin.  Combined with diet, exercise may return some Type II diabetics to normal metabolic levels.  An additional benefit accrues from the blood-pressure-lowering effect of exercise.  As mentioned previously, diabetics typically suffer from hypertension, a major factor in some of the deadly and disabling complications discussed in this protocol.

Glycemic Index Load Response | Fasting / Calorie Restriction Diet for Weight-Loss & Cleanse - Page 1 |
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