Eating the right foods is not only important for our waistline but for our health too. In society today, everyone is on the move and living busy lives. There is hardly time to make food so we buy ready-made food for convenience, and with this fast-paced lifestyle we are currently living, it is easy to be fooled into buying and eating something that might not be so good for your health. Preservatives, colourants, sweeteners, trans fats – which are all high on the Glycaemic Index (GI Index) – things that we often cannot even pronounce are being added to our food, and because we’re desperate, we grab and go, not thinking what effect it has on our health and on our waistline.
Eating the wrong foods can lead to many health issues
Eating calorie-dense food that is high in trans and saturated fats and sugar can instantly spike your blood sugar levels, raise your heart rate and increase your blood pressure. Over long periods of time, eating unhealthy food can and may lead to higher cholesterol, an increased risk of heart and cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, acne, dental issues, insulin resistance, shortness of breath, headaches, bloating, and weight gain. That is quite the list – do you really want to take that risk?
So, what should you eat?
And equally important, how much of what should you eat?
Different foods are broken up into food groups. There are five food groups:
- Vegetables and legumes or beans,
- Lean meats, poultry, eggs and fish, and
- Milk, yoghurt and cheese.
These 5 food groups make up the food pyramid, a tool that is used to help people choose the correct foods and know how much of which they can consume.
Food is made up of macro- and micronutrients
Macronutrients are nutrients that make up the calories in food that gives us energy. There are three macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates, and
Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals present in a specific food.
Another important tool to use to help you make better choices when it comes to the food you eat is the GI Index. You have probably read ‘low GI’ on a few items in your shopping basket but do you understand what it means and how it affects you?
The GI Index is a number that indicates a food’s effect on your blood glucose or sugar levels.
The carbohydrate content in the specific food is measured and given a number from 0 to 100 based on how it affects your blood sugar. This is important because your body performs at its best when your blood sugar levels are kept at a constant level.
Foods that are high on the GI Index increase your blood sugar levels, which signals to your pancreas that it must secrete insulin. Foods that are low in GI keep your blood sugar levels stable.
If your blood sugar levels are too low, you can become lethargic, experience increased hunger, and even hypoglycaemia – a very serious condition. If your blood sugar levels are high, your pancreas secretes more insulin.
Frequent high blood sugar levels can, over time, lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular and heart disease, high blood pressure, and more serious issues like hyperglycaemia. Having your blood sugar levels too high, too low or fluctuating between the two is a danger to your health. Therefore, you should eat according to the GI Index to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your body functioning at its best.
How do you know if the food you are eating is low GI, medium GI or high GI?
For starters, this information is usually indicated on the label of the food that you are purchasing.
In addition, foods can be classified low or high GI by their carbohydrate or sugar contents. Most high GI foods have been somewhat altered by man – meaning not in their raw, natural state – like cereals, candy, chocolate bars, white bread – in fact most processed foods. These foods are broken down and digested quickly, spiking your blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are generally foods in their natural state like most vegetables, fruits, and beans.
It is extremely important to educate yourself about the food you should and shouldn’t be eating. The GI Index is a great way to know which food you should eat and stay away from. Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Specialised Nutrition Course is another great way of learning more about food’s effect on your body. Click here to find out more.