It has often been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and another piece of evidence has just been added in favor of this statement: Research recently presented at the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Wellness 12 meeting shows that what you eat in the morning — and in particular, the glycemic index of what you eat — can have a significant impact on your blood glucose levels throughout the day.
The glycemic index of a food is a ranking from 0 to 100 indicating how much that food raises a person’s blood glucose level. Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly digested and can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, while foods with a low glycemic index are digested more slowly, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels. A number of factors can affect a food’s glycemic index, including how finely milled the food is, what type of fiber it contains, and what type of starch it contains.
At the recent IFT conference, researchers presented information indicating that eating foods with a low glycemic index at breakfast can help with blood glucose control through lunchtime. In particular, a study by Richard Mattes, MPH, RD, showed that eating approximately 33 whole almonds, a low-glycemic food, as part of breakfast caused participants to feel full for longer and to have lower blood glucose levels after breakfast and lunch than people who had not included almonds as part of their breakfast. According to Mattes, while it is important to take the calorie content of foods into account, a moderate amount of almonds can be incorporated into the diet without affecting a person’s weight.
Other low-glycemic foods suggested by the IFT include rolled oats and groats, whole grains, and flaxseed. A database of the glycemic index of hundreds of common foods can be found here.
“Most of the risk factors [for Type 2 diabetes] are things that can be managed and modified,” notes Kantha Shelke, PhD, a presenter at the IFT conference. “We can reverse prediabetes and prevent it from becoming diabetes. Food has become the reason for what’s ailing us, but it can actually be a solution in a number of different ways.”
For more information, read the press release from the Institute of Food Technologists or see the study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism. And to learn more about the glycemic index, check out the articles “Glycemic Index Update” and “Carbohydrate Counting, Glycemic Index, and Glycemic Load: Putting Them All Together.”
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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