If your parent is diabetic, you have probably heard the term “glycemic index” during discussions about healthy eating. However, it’s not a term that’s used in everyday conversation, so you may not be familiar with what it is and why it is important for managing your parent’s condition. Having a good understanding of the glycemic index and how to use it can help you and your parent to plan healthy meals that keep blood sugar levels under control.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement system that was created by Dr. David Jenkins. It measures the impact foods containing carbohydrates will have on blood sugar levels. Foods are ranked from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the faster the food causes blood sugar levels to rise. Here are some examples of how foods rank on the GI:
- GI of 55 or Less (Good Food Choices): Pasta, converted rice, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, bulgar, sweet potato, lima beans, legumes, lentils, non-starchy vegetables, and most fruits.
- GI of 56 – 69 (Moderately Good Food Choices): Whole wheat, quick oats, couscous, pita bread, and brown, basmati, or wild rice.
- GI of 70 or More (Poor Food Choices): Bagels, white bread, pumpkin, russet potato, cornflakes, instant oatmeal, pretzels, rice cakes, pineapple, melons, and short grain white rice.
Some food packaging includes the GI number for the food. Your parent’s dietician may also be able to provide more information about where foods fall on the GI.
The GI of a food can change depending on a few factors, such as:
- How Food is Prepared: The GI value of some foods can change depending on how long they are cooked. For example, the longer pasta is cooked, the higher its GI value.
- Ripeness: Vegetables and fruits that are riper have a higher GI value.
- Processing: In general, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI value will be. For example, massed potatoes have a higher GI than whole baked potatoes.
Why Glycemic Index is Important
The GI of a food is important for avoiding blood sugar spikes. When blood sugar is high, the pancreas works harder to create more insulin. Working harder on a consistent basis can wear the pancreas out, making it harder and harder to control diabetes.
Using the Glycemic Index to Plan Meals
The GI is not meant to be used to completely exclude foods from your parent’s diet. Instead, it is a guide for balancing carbohydrates against other foods to help avoid sugar spikes. It also should not be the only thing you take into consideration when making a food plan. You still need to look at overall nutrition and calories. In addition, it’s important to follow portion sizes. The GI number is the number for a serving size of a food, so if your parent consumes more than a portion of a food with a low GI, it may still adversely affect their blood sugar.
If you’re concerned about your diabetic parent following a healthy diet, an elderly care provider can help. Elderly care providers can prepare meals according to your parent’s meal plan. This can be especially helpful for seniors who have difficulty cooking because of mobility or other limitations. An elderly care provider can even drive your parent to the grocery store and help them shop, which may help them to make better food choices.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Lancaster City, PA, contact the caring staff at Extended Family Care of Lancaster. Call today at (717) 205-2174.
A long-time resident of Lancaster County, Mary Lynne enjoys spending time with her husband Terry, and their 3 horses and collies. The countless hours of caring for her client and employee-based “family” at work and at home can truly depict the selfless character of Mary Lynne Heller. Mary Lynne is a Google Verified Author
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