You know how important diet is to healthy living. Following the guidelines of the new Food Pyramid is a great place to start. But don’t stop there.
According to leading experts from Harvard Medical School, we need to go beyond the basics of the governmental recommendations outlined in the Food Guide Pyramid. For even better nutrition, we must examine more closely our common assumptions about what constitutes healthy eating.
Dietary fats, for instance, are generally associated with heart disease and other health problems. Yet some fats, like those found in seeds, fish and nuts, are good for you and lower bad cholesterol. Likewise, carbohydrates are lumped together in the pyramid, with no regard for the dissimilarities that exist within this food group. A more accurate way to look at carbohydrates is by calculating their glycemic load, (GI) or how quickly the carb raises blood sugar. This gives a more specific and conclusive assessment of its effect on the body and resulting health consequences.
For example, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables and high-fiber fruits have a low GI; in turn they are more slowly digested, more satisfying and what your body needs. Higher GI foods, found in processed and refined carbohydrates like cookies, processed cereal, crackers and white bread, are the ones to watch out for. These are the carbs that quickly raise your blood sugar, subsequently stimulating hunger and promoting the storage of fat calories. These are the carbs that are linked to increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.
There’s more to the story than GI, however. Overall glycemic levels in your diet are determined by everything you eat, and it’s just not feasible to know or keep track of your total glycemic load each day. Other variables are involved as well, particularly portion size. The more you eat of a certain food, the more total glycemic content you take in.
Your best bet is to choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, sparing amounts of processed and refined products, moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products. By doing so, you’ll more effectively control your hunger while emphasizing all the good things that food offers to keep you your healthiest.