Good Carbs vs Bad or Does the Glycemic Index Matter?

Yes, this week, I’ve almost had my work done for me after one of my readers dissected the following NYT article focusing on the glycemic index – ‘Questioning the idea of good carbs, bad carbs’. Here are the cliff notes of the article:

  1. Carbs can be divided into two kinds: low glycemic and high glycemic, based on their ability to raise insulin. High glycemic carbs would include: all sugars, honey, grapes, white bread, potatoes etc. In the low glycemic corner we have: brown rice, whole grain pasta, steel cut outs and vegetables.
  2. For years we were told to avoid high GI carbs because of their ability to raise insulin.
  3. The study finds that when people are put into a carb controlled environment, they lose the same amount of weight regardless of whether they consume high or low GI carbs.

So does this mean Jelly Beans and Wonder Bread are now ok?

Not so fast, the key word here is “carb controlled environment”.  Yes, the old calories are still King, but there is more to the insulin aspect of carbs than just the divide between good and bad.

  1. The amount of carbs matters. It takes approximately 30 grams of carbs to get a measurable spike in insulin, (this is referred to as the glycemic load), which is much easier to do with Gummi Bears versus brown rice.  This goes hand in hand in with the fact that low GI carbs are harder to eat and come with decent amounts of fiber, which also slows down the insulin release.
  2. It also matters what you eat with the carbs. As an example, whey protein causes insulin to rise up, whereas fats will slow down digestion and hence insulin release. Therefore, white rice with chicken and cashews will cause much less of an insulin response than white rice eaten alone.

Confused yet? The bottom line is that as a person who does not suffer from diabetes, you can enjoy high GI carbs aka sugary awesomeness, in moderation. Just be aware that they are easy to overeat, or as my client so eloquently put it; “if you eat white stuff, you have to count”.

Till next time