written by
Dr. Elson Haas

Nov 08, 2020

The Glycemic Index and Sugar in our Diet

Clearly, the high consumption of refined sugar and refined flour products is one of the greatest factors in overweight and obesity. This includes breads and baked goods, candies, and sodas. Both refined cane sugar and more recently, high-fructose corn syrup, constitute an excess of non-nutrient calories, which rarely satisfy hunger or the body’s need for nutrition. As a result, we still need and crave food. However, if we are focused only on eating the quick, readily available foods typically around us, we’ll keep getting too many calories with too little real nutrient value and we’ll gain weight. Many of us tend to eat or overeat this way at stressful or transitional times, particularly in adolescence or in mid-life. When we add to our fat cells and the areas around our belly and hips, this is more “dangerous” weight gain and more difficult to lose. The key is to prevent added weight by replacing highly sweet and starchy foods with foods we enjoy that won’t cause weight gain.

 It’s a good idea to start by evaluating our sugar intake and our connection to, or need for, added sugars in our diet. Here, I don’t mean fresh fruits, but foods that are made with added sugar, such as candy, sodas, breakfast cereals, cookies and other baked or processed/packaged goods. Even foods that don’t taste sweet, like savory sauces and dressings, often have hidden sugars in them. So watch out and remember to check the labels of the foods you buy for their sugar and high fructose corn syrup content. Try replacing them with healthier or more wholesome choices.

Using the Glycemic Index

Many consumers are already aware of the role that excess calories and carbohydrates can play in weight gain and poor health and they read food labels to try and monitor what they eat. This is common sense, but rather than just describing foods as simple and complex carbohydrates, they can also be rated on the Glycemic Index. This is a very useful tool in understanding sugar in our diet. Extremely sweet or very starchy foods are high on the Index; they break down quickly and cause the release of extra insulin, burdening our metabolism. Foods low on the Index are metabolized slower and provide a steadier stream of glucose and other nutrients. As a result, they’re less work and stress for the body. (See the chart at the end of this article)

Magnesium and Chromium can help
Research indicates that magnesium intake also has a “modest but significant effect” on keeping blood sugar steady and stabilizing insulin metabolism. Magnesium is found in whole grains and nuts and seeds, as well as leafy green vegetables. People can also supplement with capsules of 125-250 mgs 1-2x daily. (Note: The common magnesium citrate can cause loose bowels, and many consumers use magnesium supplementation for constipation. Magnesium glycinate has a lesser affect on the bowels.) Studies have also shown that the majority of people eating typical Western diets consume less than the suggested daily dietary intake of chromium, which is set at 50-200 micrograms per day. Insufficient chromium intake is associated with signs and symptoms similar to those seen in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. People with sugar issues or pre-diabetes often supplement with 200 mcgs. of chromium picolinate twice daily.

In summary, the guidelines for this approach include consuming a low glycemic diet, consisting mainly of proteins and vegetables, with a focus on leafy green veggies, as well as nuts and seeds, whole grains with legumes, berries and some stone fruits. This way of eating also means lowering the intake of highly starchy foods, such as potatoes, carrots, beets and intensely sweet fruits like melons and bananas, limiting juice intake as well.

Here’s a link to a simple Glycemic Index chart that will help you get started with this helpful tool. HERE