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Good Carbs For Weight Control

Good carbs will result in better weight control. Thus the type of carb matters more than how much of it you eat, recent research indicate. Call it the victory of broccoli over white bread, or lentils over linguine; carbs with a lower glycemic index ('good carbs') were kinder to weight than those with a high glycemic index ('bad carbs').

Glycemic index is an indicator of how quickly a food affects blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index tend to be starchy, sugary, or refined and stripped of some of their natural goodness; they're often "empty" calories.

Low-glycemic-index foods usually have more fiber and nutrients. For instance, french fries have a higher glycemic index than grapefruit. Cakes and cookies have an extra-ordinarilly high glycemic index compared to spinach.

Is Glycemic Index the Key to Weight Loss?
In a recent study researchers looked at what the participants ate; how much they worked out; and their body mass index (BMI) - a measure of total body fat. BMI is used to assess heart disease risk. Higher BMIs were associated with diets that had higher glycemic index foods.

Daily carbohydrate intake and percentage of calories from carbohydrates didn't matter. The study indicates that the type of carbohydrate, measured by glycemic index, was what counted. Short-term weight loss studies have confirmed the above result, but the long-term effect of glycemic index and total carbohydrates on body weight is currently unknown.

The finding is consistent with the idea that foods with a higher glycemic index trigger more insulin production and more fat storage, say the researchers. However, they don't endorse cutting all carbohydrates or focusing on glycemic load for weight loss. Instead, glycemic index was most important, say the scientists, who cautioned the need for more research.

Finding Foods' Glycemic Index
The glycemic index of various foods is listed online, but it's not required on food labels. A low glycemic index is considered to be 55 or less. The medium range falls from 56 to 69. High glycemic index is 70 or higher.

However, when it comes to the glycemic index of a particular food many factors come into play. For example, what else was eaten with the food and other components of a food including the amount of proteins and fats, as well as, how a food was prepared often alters the index. Generally, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains have lower glycemic indices than processed or refined items.

It might help to expand our definition of carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, rice, cereals, sweets, and grains don't have the market cornered; fruits, vegetables, and legumes also contain carbohydrates, and they may be the type to favor, along with fiber-rich whole grains.

If you're watching your weight, don't forget about calories. You'll still need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Exercise will help with that part of the equation.

04/19/05







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