There is already strong evidence that eating foods that are high on the glycemic index can lead to increased weight gain. But can eating low-glycemic foods prevent weight gain?
Let's back up for a second: What is the glycemic index anyway, you ask? It's a ranking of carbohydrates based on how much they affect blood glucose levels on a ranking from 0 to 100. If a food is high on the glycemic index, it causes a spike in blood sugar soon after consumption. Foods that are ranked low on the glycemic index are digested and absorbed much more slowly, allowing your body to better regulate glucose levels. Because of this, people with diabetes are encouraged to eat low-glycemic foods. It helps regulate blood sugar spikes and results in more consistent energy levels.
According to a report from PopSugar, researchers from Tufts University were interested to know if eating low-glycemic foods prevented weight gain in the first place. In a newly published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these researchers tracked the weight of 120,000 men and women for more than 16 years. What they found was surprising. Apparently, the combination of foods you eat has just as much of an impact on your weight as the actual foods themselves.
Here's how it works: When foods already associated with weight gain (like red meat and white bread) were paired with low-glycemic foods, their association to weight gain diminished. When paired with high-glycemic foods, their association to weight gain increased. Essentially, it's not the number of calories you consume, but the quality of calories you consume.
We should not only emphasize specific protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yogurt to prevent weight gain but also focus on avoiding refined grains, starches, and sugars in order to maximize the benefits.
As we can see, the best scenario for weight loss is to pair healthy meals with low-glycemic foods. Just the same, weight gain is exacerbated by pairing meals with high-glycemic foods.
What foods are low glycemic? Think healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Alternatively, high-glycemic foods are made up of foods like potatoes, sugar, and white bread. So next time you're eating a salad, reach for fixings like seeds, nuts, and fruit, instead of croutons. It will only strengthen the health benefits of those leafy greens.
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Next up, learn how to lose weight without changing your diet (yes, really).