By Abi-Kristos Straker
Carbohydrates are required in order to keep our body running and on the go and is in major demand by different body systems and organs. One of these organs includes the brain which requires carbohydrates to keep you thinking, alert and focused during tasks that require concentration. Carbohydrates are also required by your muscles to keep you on the go during hard labor at work or during sports activities. Carbohydrates are the most readily available source of energy in your body and the types of foods consumed determine the quality of carbohydrates and therefore the quality of energy provided to your body.
Have you wondered why some foods give you more energy for longer compared to other foods that give you little energy, and wonder why certain foods never satisfy hunger while you find yourself in the cupboard more often than you would like? Have you felt the sugar rush that cakes, chocolate and biscuits give you? And is there something related to this sugar rush and type 2 diabetes?
Most of this can be explained by GI (Glycaemic index). This is the rate that foods can be broken into glucose. Foods which take longer to be broken down and provide energy over a longer time period are classified as Low GI foods. This can include foods such as non-instant porridge, rye grains, apples and yam. High GI foods are foods that do not take a long time to break down into carbohydrates. These include cakes, waffles, doughnuts, white bread, cornflakes, weetabix, chips and jelly beans to name a few.
So what is the significance of GI in the digestive process? On a molecular level carbohydrates arrange themselves as chains (for explanatory purposes you can imagine the chain on a bicycle with one of its links broken and laid out in a straight line). Foods which take longer to break down (Low GI) have longer chains hence why they take longer to be broken down. At the same time low GI foods provide glucose over a sustained period of time thus providing energy over a long period of time. Foods with a Hi GI have shorter chains and are therefore broken down quicker and provide energy over a short period of time.
Within the digestion process food is absorbed into the blood from the small intestines. The role of the stomach is to break down food before it enters into the small intestines. When eating Low GI foods this is naturally broken down into the small intestines and absorbed into the blood. However this is not always the case for foods that have a Hi GI especially man made foods such as cakes which have shorter chains. These foods when consumed may pass as far as the stomach before they are absorbed into the blood. In turn this could have negative consequences on the body. If absorbed from the stomach, carbohydrates can then significantly increase the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Over a long period of time, a lack of exercise (which helps to aid glucose removal) and a continuous poor diet a person may suffer the effects of type two diabetes.
Abi-Kristos Straker (PhysioFriend)