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Glycemic Glitch

Glycemic Glitch

Some people like to rely on the glycemic index for weight management, but what happens when there's a glitch?

Dieters rejoice: If you want a diet that allows you to have your Twix and Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza too, then choose the glycemic index as your food guide of choice.

That's right, the glycemic index ranks food based on the impact it has on your blood sugar. And these foods? Well, they all rank low on the glycemic index--right next to Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix.

It seems impossible that these sugary sweets and fatty-licious pizza could possibly keep blood sugar at an even keel, and that's probably why it has some health gurus saying, "Uh ... what?"

Yeah, it's especially disconcerting when you take a peek at the chart and you see that watermelon has a higher GI than soda and pound cake, or that chocolate ice cream can trump a parsnip.

It's an interesting concept, considering the fact that spiked blood sugar can only lead to a growling tummy and you overeating. But where it lacks is obvious. Who can really look at this chart and think that munching on a Twix candy bar is a healthier choice than a watermelon wedge?

The problem with the seemingly yummy weight loss method is that is does not take portion sizes into consideration. For example, it takes 5 cups of watermelon to equal three-quarters of a king-size Twix bar. Apparently, the makers of the GI diet are forgetting the fact that we can easily scarf down a king-sized bar--twice.

Another thing to consider is that not all sugar causes a blood sugar spike, especially, when it has healthy components, like fiber and nutrients to depend upon. Fruit has sugar, but also nutrients and fiber. Twix? Not so much.

So, let's toss the glycemic index and keep in mind that, instead, regular exercise and healthy eating are a much better way to lose weight. Whole foods, such as fish, lean meat, low-fat dairy, veggies, fruit and whole grains, mixed with a quick run or strength training session are a much better way to keep your blood sugar steady and shed extra pounds.

When I do have something sweet, I always try to counteract it with a quick exercise session or well-balanced meal. How do you keep sugary jitters at bay?

--Caroline Shannon

Posted: 12/9/08

As this article points out, using only the glycemic index is extreme. Portion size and nutrition matter. It can be helpful in making food choices if you struggle with blood sugar issues. It helped me deal with that, but when it comes to losing weight, it is not just what you eat but how much.


Fortunately, I don't have that big of a sweet tooth on my own. It's a whole other story though when co-workers bring in all the awesome cookies and sweets, and it’s right in front of me. And of course the holiday parties ... well anyhow, I definitely enjoy and partake in the extra food and drinks. I try to balance it by getting in extra workouts or longer ones, which isn't always possible because there's so much going on.


Thanks for writing this Caroline! I think to often we see lists or studies and take them at face value...your point about how much watermelon you'd have to eat to equal the amount of sugar in part of a Twix bar is right on. As ever, portion control and exercise as part of a balanced diet is the only way to lose weight and be healthy.

  • By kristen
  • on 12/9/08 1:44 PM EST