Glycemic index: The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

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Glycemic index: the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body. A healthy diet contains sufficient but certainly not too many carbohydrates. But it is important to choose the right carbohydrates! A tool to choose between simple and complex carbohydrates can be the glycemic index.

How quickly glucose from carbohydrates is absorbed into the blood varies per product. The slower the glucose is absorbed, the lower the glycemic index. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are also called fast carbohydrates and carbohydrates with a low glycemic index are called slow or complex carbohydrates.

A glycemic index is a tool against obesity

Choosing products with a low glycemic index is a tool for weight control. If you eat mainly fast carbs, your body will store a lot of fat.

A glycemic index is, therefore, a good tool for making the choice between simple and complex carbohydrates.

Research on the glycemic index

glycemische index graphic

Several studies have been conducted into whether a diet with products with a low glycemic index is healthier than a standard diet. The results of these studies are clear.

In a meta-analysis of 24 studies, it was concluded that people who mainly eat products with a low glycemic index have less chance of developing type 2 diabetes than people who mainly eat products with a high glycemic index.

In a similar study, it was concluded that a diet with main products with a high glycemic index is more likely to cause cardiovascular disease.

The World Health Organization advises products with a low GI

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also advised in 1999 to mainly eat products with a low glycemic index. This is to prevent diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity/overweight.

The glycemic index can thus help you with your overall health, with healthy weight loss and keeping your weight under control. Below an explanation of the differences between a high and a low glycemic index.

Fast carbohydrates have a high glycemic index

Glycemic Index graphicCarbohydrates with a high glycemic index are also called fast or simple carbohydrates. Because of the simple structure of the carbohydrate, the body can absorb it quickly.

The body therefore quickly has the energy available, but the energy release of the carbohydrate is short-lived. The body receives an insulin peak due to the rapid absorption. After the peak comes to the dip and the desire for more rapid sugars.

The characteristics of the fast carbohydrates at a glance:

  • A short but high energy boost.
  • It takes little energy to process the carbohydrate.
  • The body receives an insulin peak due to the rapid absorption.
  • After the peak, an energy dip follows and the body wants food again.

 

 Examples of products with a high glycemic index

Some examples of products with simple (fast) carbohydrates:

  • Chocolate: sprinkles, chocolate spread, chocolate milk, chocolate cake
  • Bread: pastries, white bread, rusk (biscuit)
  • Pasta: pizza, white pasta
  • Candy: all kinds of sweets
  • Sweet spreads: jam, syrup, all types of hail
  • Drinks: Non-light soft drinks, beer, wine, energy drinks

An exception to the above fast carbohydrate examples is fruit. Fruit sugar (fructose) is a natural product with a simple structure. Most fast energy generators such as dextrose consist of processed fruit sugars.

Despite the high glycemic index, it is important to eat 1 or 2 pieces of fruit to get the much-needed vitamins.

Complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index

Complex CarbohydratesCarbohydrates with a low glycemic index are also called slow or complex carbohydrates.

The carbohydrate has a complex structure that makes the digestive system more difficult to absorb the carbohydrate.

As a result, the carbohydrate gradually releases energy. This makes it take longer for the body to ask for new energy.

An overview of the properties of complex carbohydrates:

  • The carbohydrate gradually gives energy.
  • It takes the body more energy to process the carbohydrate.
  • Part of the energy yield is used for the processing of the energy.
  • Due to the slow absorption, the body does not get an insulin peak.
  •  Due to the long energy release, it takes longer before the body is hungry again.

Examples of products with complex carbohydrates

Some examples of complex carbohydrate products:

  • Vegetable: Spinach, endive, broccoli, kale, sprouts, green beans, cucumber, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, tomatoes
  • Pasta: Dark brown bread, wholemeal bread, multigrain bread, rye bread.
  • Breakfast cereals: oatmeal, shredded whole wheat, bran flakes.

Bowl of oatmeal
How can the GI help with weight control?

Products can be divided into 2 categories according to the glycemic index:

  • A high index: 55 and higher
  • A low index: 55 and lower

If you eat a lot of products with a high glycemic index, your body makes a lot of insulin. This hormone ensures that the sugar from the blood can enter the remaining tissues or is stored as fat.

It ensures the storage of fat and after the insulin, peak comes to a dip and the uncontrollable hunger for even more fast carbohydrates. You do not want this!

Therefore, try to get as many carbohydrates as possible from products with a low glycemic index. This ensures that you have fewer fluctuations in your sugar level.

Examples of the glycemic index of products

Below is an example of the glycemic index of different products. For a complete overview of all products, you can view the glycemic index database.

This list below is meant to give you an impression of the differences in a number of products.

Product Glycemic index
Fruit
Apple 40
Banana 48
Orange 35
Grain products
Spelled bread 50
White bread 70
Whole wheat bread 45
Croissant 67
Oatmeal 54
Drinks
Beer 110
Fanta 68
Dairy
Full Milk 30
Full yogurt 35
Legumes
Brown beans 40
White beans 30
Split peas 25

 

Glycemic index database

Australia is at the forefront of using the glycemic index. A logo was introduced in 2002 so that consumers can recognize products with a low glycemic index. The University of Sydney has also started a database to register the glycemic index of products. In an easy way, you can choose between simple and complex carbohydrates in this database based on the glycemic index.

Choosing products with a low glycemic index in many countries is not as easy as in Australia but with the help of this database a lot easier. The glycemic index database can be found here: http://www.glycemicindex.com/

 

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