Sick of Low-Carb Diets? Try Low-GI
Glycemic Index of Food Affects Body Fat, Muscle Loss, and Diabetes Risk
Processing: The Root of Problems?
What do this mean to you?
Scientifically, it suggests that a low-GI eating plan may be a factor in the amount of body fat and muscle mass a person has and their risk for diabetes. Eating low-GI carbohydrates may not only prevent, but actually treat obesity-related problems. Ludwig is recruiting for a human study on low-GI diets to confirm these rodent findings.
But it also adds more evidence that carbs aren't necessarily the enemy, and you should have them as part of a healthy diet, says Ludwig. "Just as it's too simplistic to think that all fats are bad when, in fact, some are very healthful, it's too simplistic to consider all carbohydrates unhealthful."
The key is to eat those with a low glycemic index -- usually, those in their least processed state. There's no need to calculate your GI index with on-the-web charts, says Ludwig. Instead, just follow that often-preached advice of eating as "whole" as possible.
Although some carbohydrates in their natural state, such as potatoes and carrots, have a high GI, what more typically dictates whether a food has a high or low glycemic index is in its degree of processing. Adding corn sweeteners and other sugars and refining whole grains to "white" ones often raises its GI value and the problems that result from it.
That explains why Raisin Bran may be high in fiber, but the added sweeteners classify it as a high-GI food. Processed white bread also has a high GI, but stone-ground breads don't. Conversely, pasta, legumes, and fruits that are to be avoided on low-carb diets typically have a low GI, says Ludwig.
High Praise for High Carbs
"The advice is simple," he tells WebMD. "We want people to have an abundant of fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. They shouldn't restrict carbohydrates, just reduce consumption of those that have been refined and have concentrated sugars. Pasta is good and has a low glycemic index, just like many other foods restricted on low-carb diets."
He cites the much-ballyhooed Mediterranean diet, rich in healthy fats and whole, low-GI carbohydrates, as an excellent eating plan -- "nutritious, delicious, varied, flexible, and one gets away from a nutritional extreme." Ludwig's research comes on the heels of a Tufts University study published earlier this month showing that middle-aged spread can be avoided by eating a high-carbohydrate diet that focuses on unprocessed foods.
"Now that everybody is talking about counting carbs, many people believe that carbohydrates are the enemy," says Katherine Tucker, PhD, of the school's Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, who conducted the Tufts study. "But the truth is very simple: It's the type of carbs you eat that makes a difference. You need to eat more whole foods and less refined foods."