A Powerful Tool for Controlling Blood Sugar
For those of us who have been on the wellness journey for a while, we have seen numerous fads come and go as “the one thing” to focus on for weight-loss and health. Calories, carbs, net carbs, grams of fat, and macros are amidst the sea of terms you may have encountered over the years. Often these are presented as a silver bullet that will make all of your health concerns go away. At Nutreat, our products are rooted in science-backed metrics and data. We also understand the importance of practical solutions. That's why our mission is to simplify eating healthy. One way you can do this is by simplifying the things you track and focus on with respect to your diet.
We believe that two of the most important numbers you can use to simplify things are the glycemic index and, more importantly, glycemic load. This post will cover Glycemic Index in detail. You won’t typically find either of these listed on the nutrition panel, but we're working to change that. Below, we'll share the key aspects of the glycemic index, including what it is, why it matters, and how to find it.
What is the Glycemic Index?
In short, glycemic index is a measure of how quickly (and how much) a certain amount of carbs in a particular food will cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Foods with a lower glycemic index are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing smaller and less rapid increases in your blood sugar. These foods will typically have more fiber, fat, and/or protein. Meanwhile, foods with higher glycemic indices are rapidly absorbed and have larger and more immediate impact on your blood sugar. These foods tend to have more carbohydrates (sugar) and are often more processed.
Why Does the Glycemic Index Matter?
The glycemic index matters because it corresponds with your body’s insulin response to food. Insulin is a critical hormone that helps our bodies regulate metabolism, blood sugar, and fat storage. As your blood sugar rises, your pancreas secretes insulin to help bring levels back down. Insulin is critical to human life (just ask anyone with type 1 diabetes), but people eating a modern western diet tend to experience higher levels of insulin than ever before. Prior to the agricultural revolution, humans lived as hunter-gatherers. Living off the land, our ancestors would not have encountered abundant carbohydrates on a regular basis. However, when we bumped into a fruit tree loaded with ripe fruit we needed a way to deal with all of that extra energy at once. Insulin does just that, telling the body to store the extra energy as fat for another time. The system is truly remarkable and resilient, allowing us to survive through periods of feast and famine.
In the modern world, industrial food conglomerates have figured out a way to add sugar and other carbohydrates to nearly everything we eat. This trend has been exacerbated by government dietary guidelines over the past several decades, which vilified fats, turning the population towards low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets. On top of that, we are hardwired to want sugar because during our evolution it was rare, and finding it meant we were more likely to survive. Functional MRI scans of our brains while eating sugar show increased activity in dopamine signaling, which is part of our rewards pathway. In essence, sugar is addictive. All of these forces have caused the pancreas to go into overdrive, producing more and more insulin to deal with the excess sugar in our diet.
Too much insulin can spell trouble. As our bodies are exposed to larger amounts of insulin, our cells begin to develop a resistance to it. This causes the pancreas to produce even more, and so begins a vicious cycle, which can eventually lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and many other issues. For most of human history, we worked hard to find enough calories to survive. Ironically, we are now seeing our longevity and healthspan challenged by overabundance.
Who Determines Glycemic Numbers?We work with INQUIS Clinical Research, the gold standard in glycemic testing, to determine our numbers. Their scientists have been determining the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of foods since 1995, and have determined the Glycemic Index of hundreds of food products over this time Their senior scientists were part of the research group that introduced the concept of the Glycemic Index to the scientific community in 1981 and have continued to contribute to its research ever since. We are proud to work with them to rigorously test all of our products.
What's the Magic Number?
Most sources consider 55 and below as a low glycemic index food. At Nutreat, we believe you should focus your diet on foods with a glycemic index of 55 or below. In fact, our Berries and Chocolate flavors both scored 27. Interestingly, our Coconut flavor has so few available carbs that it will actually require another test. We look forward to working with INQUIS to conduct that test soon and we are confident Coconut will score at least 27, but likely even lower.
Where to Find It?
At Nutreat, our products proudly state their Glycemic Load on the package. Unfortunately, if you are looking for glycemic index or load on most other products, you won’t likely find it on the label. Hopefully, as we build our tribe of fans, we can band together to make glycemic numbers something companies feel compelled to inform. In the meantime, your best bet is to search online and see if someone has independently tested the product. There are numerous sites with glycemic index tables. Our favorite is from Harvard Medical School. If you want to be proactive, contact your favorite companies and request that they add the glycemic values to the label so everyone can benefit.