The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise the blood sugar level. The food items with low glycemic index (less than 50) trigger slower and modest changes in the blood glucose levels and are healthier

Carbohydrates have earned a bad reputation among weight watchers. These are not bad because not all carbohydrates are equal, what matters is how one chooses these food items. Some are healthier than others.

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in many common foods. Plant-based foods such as grains and pulses (daals and legumes) are rich in carbohydrates. Commercially prepared, packed and processed foods may have added sugar or starch, which are forms of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate in its simplest form is sugar or glucose while in its complex form it is found as starch. Fibre is also a form of indigestible carbohydrate.

Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, honey, jaggery etc.

Carbohydrates have numerous health benefits and have an important role in our diet. The benefits include providing energy, protecting against diseases and weight control. The body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel. Sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars during digestion and are absorbed in the bloodstream. Some of these broken-down simple sugars are used as fuel for activity and excess is converted to fat. Dietary fibre from whole grains, fruits and vegetables helps protect against digestive problems, weight problems, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Carbohydrates increase blood sugars and can be classified on the basis of their effect on blood sugars. This is measured in a frequently used term called glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise the blood sugar level. In other words, glycemic index (GI) refers to the extent of rise in blood sugar in response to a food in comparison with the response to an equivalent amount of glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index (50 or more) trigger a sharp rise in blood glucose, followed by a dramatic fall, often to the levels that are transiently below normal. After a typically low level of blood sugar that occurs several hours after a high glycemic index meal, people may become hungry and then overeat in comparison to their counterparts on low-glycemic index diets. Foods like table or white sugar, white bread, refined flour, potatoes, bananas, mangoes, melon, and water melon are high glycemic index foods. 

The body copes more easily with low glycemic index (less than 50) foods, which trigger slower and more modest changes in the blood glucose levels. Low glycemic index foods tend to be less processed and contain good amounts of fibre, protein or fat. Since these nutrients take longer to digest, an individual tends to feel full longer and hunger is suppressed; blood sugar also does not peak or plummet after consumption of such foods. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds raise blood sugar slowly and have a low glycemic index. 

Weight-loss diets based on the glycemic index typically restrict foods with a relatively high glycemic index such as rice, wheat flour, potatoes and corn. Either limit the portion of these foods or combine them with low glycemic foods and fibrous foods. Low glycemic carbohydrates help you lose weight and keep you feeling full longer.

Besides the quality, the amount of carbohydrates consumed is important. According to recommendations, carbohydrates make up 45 to 60 per cent of the total daily calories. 

So choose carbohydrates wisely. Go for whole grains like barley, oats, brown rice, legumes, daals, soybean, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds. Limit foods with added sugars and refined grains, fruit juices, sweetened drinks, desserts and candy.

The writer is Clinical Nutritionist & Founder,, Founder-WholeFoodsIndia & Founder President- Celiac Society For Delhi.

Foods with low GI 

• Multigrain flours, brown rice, pasta, oats, barley, amaranth, quinoa

• Daals, pulses & soy

• Vegetables

• Low fat dairy

• Nuts & seeds













Health Capsules

Plump live longer than their skinny peers

A bit of extra weight could actually help you live longer, according to new research. US researchers analysed results of almost 100 studies and found that those judged to be slightly overweight were 6 per cent less likely to have died by the end of the study period than those of normal weight, the Daily Mail reported.

Explanations include the possibility that those who start out slightly heavier will have more fat reserves to call on should they lose weight due to ill health as they get older.

Problems linked to weight, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are more likely to be spotted and treated. It has also been suggested that a bit of extra padding could help the elderly to survive falls unscathed. Some of those who are overweight may actually exercise more and eat better than thin people who starve themselves or smoke to suppress their appetite.

For the latest study, US government researchers studied more than 3 million men and women. They looked at the subjects' body mass index (BMI) at the start of the research. People with a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 have normal weight and are overweight if their reading is between 25 and 29.9.

A BMI higher than this is classified as obese and the bigger the reading the greater the risks to health are thought to be. Having a BMI of between 30 and 34.9, and so being slightly obese, also did not seem to harm health. However, those whose BMI was greater than this were 29 per cent less likely to live to see the end of the study than those whose weight was normal. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. — PTI 

Omega-3s may not protect against faulty heart rhythm 

Fish oil supplements did not prevent atrial fibrillation in patients who had already experienced episodes of the heart rhythm malfunction, a new study has found. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, adds to a growing pool of disappointing evidence regarding the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart health. — Reuters Health
School recess is essentially a child's personal time and should not be taken away for academic or
School recess is essentially a child's personal time and should not be taken away for academic or
punitive reasons, say experts

Recess is healthy for school kids

A group of American paediatricians says that children need recess and free time during the school day, and it should not even be taken away as punishment. “We consider it essentially the child's personal time and don't feel it should be taken away for academic or punitive reasons,” said Dr Robert Murray, who co-authored the new policy statement for the American Academy of Paediatrics. — Reuters Health

Intense 3-minute exercise a week may get you fit

A few 30-second daily bursts of intense exercise, amounting to only three minutes a week, could deliver the health and weight-loss benefits of hours of lengthy, conventional regimes, researchers say, the Daily Mail reported. Scientists at the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Bath say the secret is to commit yourself to three short bursts of highly intense exercise for 30 seconds each, with short rest periods between, of less than five minutes. Scientists say we should use an exercise bike or rowing machine — or even just run rapidly up and down the stairs. After half a minute of wild exertion, we can collapse red-faced for 60 seconds, then do it all again. Three bouts like that means your exercise requirement for that session is sorted. The ongoing study is led by leading exercise expert Jamie Timmons, a professor of systems biology. Brief, high-intensity exercise does not stimulate appetite as much, because it demands far less energy expenditure, so participants in the trial don't suffer the hunger pangs. The regime should also raise people's metabolic rates after they stop exercising, as it builds muscle - and this tissue makes metabolisms run faster. In turn, this stimulates the breakdown of fat and burns calories. The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. — ANI

‘Spiritual’ people at higher risk of mental illness 

Being spiritual may make you more susceptible to mental illness, a new study has claimed. Researchers say people who claim to be “spiritual” but not religious often struggle to cope mentally and suffered problems including abnormal eating conditions, drug abuse, anxiety disorder, phobias and neurosis. They were more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems, the Daily Mail reported. The study was conducted by Professor Michael King from University College London, and his fellow researchers, was based on a survey of 7,403 randomly selected men and women in England. — PTI