Glycemic Index Explained
The rate at which sugar from a particular food enters brain cells and other cells of the body is called the “glycemic index” (GI) of a particular food. Foods with a high glycemic index stimulate the pancreas to secrete a lot of insulin, which causes sugar to quickly empty from the blood into the cell; this produces the ups and downs of blood sugar and the roller-coaster behavior that goes with them. Foods with a low glycemic index do not push the pancreas to secrete so much insulin, so the blood sugar tends to be steadier. Feeding your child carbohydrate foods with a low glycemic index is one way of helping him control his behavior and performance in school or at play.
Foods with a Low Glycemic Index
Grapefruit, apples, cherries, oranges, and grapes have a low glycemic index. Fruits have a lower GI than fruit juices because the fiber in the fruit slows the absorption of the fruit sugar. A whole apple will be more brain friendly than apple juice; a whole orange better than orange juice. Freshly made juice containing a lot of pulp is more brain friendly than filtered juice.
Cereals and Grains
Oatmeal and bran have the lowest GI among grains. Other foods with favorable GI are spaghetti and brown rice. Corn flake and sugar-coated cereals have higher GI’s.
Vegetable and Legumes
Legume, such as soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils, have the lowest glycemic index of any food group. Potatoes and carrots have a much higher GI.
Milk and yogurt have low glycemic indexes, slightly higher than most legumes, but lower than most fruits. Of course, plain yogurt has a lower glycemic index than yogurt with fruit preserves or added sugar.
How to Combine GI Foods for Optimal Health
- A food with a high glycemic index, such as juice, candy, or a sweet treat, is better consumed with or right after a meal. The company of other foods slows the entry of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore the brain. Indulging in highly sugared snacks between meals is likely to hinder learning and behavior.
- Fat can slow the absorption of sugars, which is why the sugar in ice cream has a lower glycemic index than the sugar in nonfat yogurt.
- Because salads contain mostly foods with a low glycemic index, they are an excellent school lunch, contributing to maximum mental performance. Especially good are salads containing cruciferous vegetables and beans, chickpeas, and other legumes.
- Eating foods with a low glycemic index along with highly sugared foods lessens the effects of the fast-acting sugars on the blood sugar.