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Glycemic Index: Here's What You Should Know (Even If You're Not Diabetic)

Pasta was just proven to have no adverse effects on blood sugar level due to its low ranking in the glycemic index. What is this GI and how can it help improve one's health?  ( Alberto Pizzoli | AFP/Getty Images )

Foods rich in carbohydrates are often considered "evil" by dieters, however, a new study surprisingly proves that not all of them can be fattening — such as pasta.

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada studied 30 randomized control trials involving nearly 2,500 participants. They were asked to observe a special diet where pasta is served as the only source of carbohydrates. Specifically, each person was required to consume an average of 3.3 servings of pasta every week within four months.

Based on the results of their analysis, eating an increased amount of pasta did not result in any weight gain. In fact, the participants even had a median weight loss of around 1 pound throughout the entire study period.

What Is The Glycemic Index?

Now, why is this so? Although pasta is loaded with carbohydrates, it ranks low in the glycemic index or GI, which measures how food choices can increase blood sugar level relative to a reference food like white bread.

Pasta and other options with a GI value of 55 and below are digested and absorbed more slowly by the human body. It results in a lower and slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, as explained by the American Diabetes Association.

Examples of food ranking low in the GI table include 100 percent whole wheat bread, rolled oatmeal, sweet potato, corn, yam, peas, legumes, most fruits, and non-starchy vegetables.

In contrast, food with medium GI value has a ranking between 56 and 69 while those with high GI value has 70 and above.

The Ideal Glycemic Index Value

On a positive note, the average Australian and American already observe a low glycemic diet with a value ranging from 55 to 60. Such can be attributed to regular consumption of fruits and dairy products that have low GI ranks.

While 55 is considered as a healthy GI value, the Glycemic Index Foundation encourages people to aim even lower and recommends 45 to be the ideal GI value.

According to the organization, the suggested cut-off point has proven to deliver significant health benefits to patients diagnosed with diabetes. Even those who don't have the disease can enjoy lower risks of developing chronic conditions such as heart failure.

Factors Affecting Food's GI Value

Among the major factors that determine a food's GI value is how refined its carbohydrates are. If it underwent processing, most of the carbohydrates have already lost their natural fiber, allowing the body to easily convert them into sugar.

How a meal is cooked also affects its GI value. For instance, regularly-prepared pasta ranks between 40 and 50 in the GI table. This rating can be further reduced by cooking it in al dente style.

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