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How To Become GI Jane

GI Jane“Don’t eat carbs!” That’s what we are told. But why the hype?

It’s the carbs you are eating. There are three basic forms of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. When you eat or drink something with carbs, your body breaks down the sugars and starches into a type of sugar called glucose, which is the main source of energy for cells in your body (fiber passes through your body undigested).

How does your body use this fuel for energy?

In the most simplistic terms:

  • When you ingest carbs – the hormone insulin is released and moves glucose from your blood into your cells to use for energy.
  • If your body takes in too much glucose and releases an abundance of insulin, your body can’t use all of the fuel – and it become stored as fat.

But let’s take this one step further. The carbs you are eating make a difference.

Every carb has something called a GI (glycemic index)

A food’s GI affects how quickly your body digests it and how quickly glucose enters your bloodstream. The source of the carbohydrate is especially important – foods that contain more processed carbohydrates have a greater effect on blood sugar levels than whole foods. Foods made with intact whole grains typically have a lower index. Foods high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, lower the GI index. Fiber slows down the digestion of food and therefore, the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Fiber (and fat) lower the GI of a food.

Examples of foods with low, middle and high GI values include the following:

  • Low GI: Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals
  • Medium GI: Sweet corn, bananas, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread
  • High: White rice, white bread, potatoes, pretzels, popcorn

Here’s a simple guide on the GI for popular foods: http://www.the-gi-diet.org/lowgifoods/

So what do I do with this information?

It’s important to understand how your body uses the fuel from the food you ingest.

The first source of fuel your body uses is carbs (glucose/sugar), then fat, then protein. So if you are taking in an abundance of processed carbs that your body can’t burn, the extra glucose is converted to fat – so you are never using your stored fat for energy, but only building more.

A food’s ranking on the glycemic index doesn’t necessarily indicate whether it’s a good or bad choice. It’s just an additional guide (it is much more complex than what is presented in this blog). It goes back to what we already know: as a general rule:  whole, unprocessed foods are the superior choice.

Another added bonus – the more active you are and the more muscle you build, the less you need to worry about how foods affect your blood sugar. Exercise uses the glucose stored in your muscles. Your body takes glucose out of the bloodstream to your muscles where it’s packed away for future use. This helps reduce blood-glucose levels quickly. More muscle gives you a larger storage area for glucose.

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6 Essential Nutrients

There are 6 essential nutrients our bodies depend on for proper functioning:

Water, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Vitamins and Minerals.

Water

Water is the largest single component of the body. Up to 60% of our bodies are made up of water. Muscle holds the highest concentration of water while fat tissue holds someHealthy food pyramide on the white background of the lowest amounts.

The amount of water a person has in their body varies based on their proportion of muscles to fat tissue. So, a person who exercises more will have a higher percentage of water.

Water has a variety of functions that are essential to life:

  • Regulates your body temperature
  • Transports nutrients in our bodies
  • Flushes out waste
  • Helps our immune system and brain
  • Helps your joints work

As little as a 5-10 % loss can cause dehydration. When you are thirsty, it’s a sign your body is already dehydrated.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide the energy we need for physical activity and organ function.

  • Our bodies break down carbohydrates in order to make glucose (the end result of carbohydrate digestion) for energy
  • Carbohydrates are necessary for the normal metabolism of fat

2 Types of Carbohydrates

  • Complex Carbohydrates / “Good Carbs” = starches like cereal, bread, beans, potatoes, and starchy vegetables.  Good carbs are fiber-rich carbohydrates, like those found in many complex carbohydrates. Good carbs are absorbed into our systems more slowly, which helps us avoid escalations in blood sugar and provide a lasting form of energy.
  • Simple Carbohydrates / “Bad Carbs” = milk, fruits and some vegetables are natural, simple carbs and are still healthy because they are rich in other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Bad carbs are foods that are refined or processed, such as white rice or white bread, and foods with added sugar such as desserts, candy, soda and sugary cereals. They should be avoided as they offer little to no nutritional value, while adding way too many calories to our diet; making them “empty” calories. Empty calories contribute to excessive weight gain and other associated health risks.

There is no “Recommended Daily Allowance” for sugar like there is for carbohydrates, because we get our glucose needs from good carbohydrates.

Protein

After water, proteins are the most abundant substances in most cells.  It is what our body’s tissues are made up of…our muscles, organs, immune system and, our hair, nails and skin. Protein builds strong muscles and repairs your body.

What foods have protein?

  • Protein is made up of amino acids…there are 20 amino acids, of which 9 are essential, which means the body can’t produce them on its own so you have to get them from food.
  • Protein is found in milk, eggs, peanut butter, chicken, fish, meat, yogurt, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains

Fats

Fats are necessary for our body to survive – they transport fat-soluble vitamins and form cell membranes. Fat is also the coating under our skin and in our organs to insulate and protect our bodies. Fats are the major stored form of energy in the body.  Some fats are really good for us and some are not so good:

  • Good Fats (Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated – the healthiest): olive oil, nuts, milk, olives, avocado
  • Bad Fats (Saturated): butter, beef, pork, fried foods, mayo
  • Trans fatty acids (the most unhealthy): manufactured during food processing (ie. hydrogenated fats) 

Here’s an interesting fact…For energy, our body uses carbohydrates first, then fats and then protein as a last resort.

Vitamins

Vitamins are non-caloric, organic compounds that help our bodies grow, maintain and repair. There are two types of vitamins:

  • Fat-soluble: Vitamins A, D, E and K – can be stored in the liver. Therefore, an overdose on these vitamins can lead to toxic levels in the body.
  • Water-soluble: not able to be stored – they are excreted by the kidneys.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic compounds that assist processes and are part of the structures of the body (iron in blood and calcium in teeth and bones).

The body best absorbs vitamins and minerals when provided through natural sources than pill form.  Eating food triggers satiety, which prevents consuming toxic levels of nutrients, something pills can’t do.

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