It’s the beginning of a new year, and a perfect time to review the evidence behind the basic principles of the XY Wellness Diet. We recommend a fresh, organic, low-glycemic diet that minimizes inflammation and enhances the immune system. Last week we discussed inflammation and gluten’s ability to put your cells through unnecessary chronic stress. Today, we recap the meaning and importance of eating foods that share a low glycemic index.
First, it never hurts to clear up definitions. The word “glycemic” is a distant relative of the Greek word glykys, which means “sweet.” Words like glucose, glycerin, and glycol all share this common ancestor. It makes sense, then, that when something is “glycemic,” it has an effect on blood glucose levels. The precise effect of any particular food on a person’s blood glucose levels is known as its glycemic index, and this number represents the effect of that food compared to the effect of the same quantity of white bread.
The glycemic index of your food is important to your health because blood sugar is central to countless reactions in your body. High glycemic foods like sugar promote cancer growth by generating excess insulin and insulin growth factors (IGF), which in turn play a role in cancer growth and malignancy (Russo, Azar, Yau, Sabin & Werther, 2014).
High glycemic foods have also been shown to suppress our immune systems and cause inflammation, which is a biomarker for cardiovascular disease as well as risk factor for several kinds of cancer. This unnecessary stress puts your body at a severe disadvantage as it fights and recovers from disease, and in the fight against life-threatening conditions it is essential that we cut no corners.
Sugars and white flour are notorious for their high glycemic indices. Because these foods are so easy for the body to digest, they cause a spike in blood sugar. This is what is known as a sugar-rush, and it gives you energy for about five minutes, followed by the well-known sugar-crash. Not only is this kind of energy useless for the activities of a healthy lifestyle—namely sustained physical exercise—but it brings practically zero nutrients. You may have heard the term, “empty calories.” These are them.
In light of this, it should be no wonder that the diet we suggest is rich in low-glycemic foods. We suggest that you avoid added sugar, white flour, and processed foods altogether. Sugar and white flour lead to harmful insulin spikes, as we mentioned above. Processed foods tend to have loads of all the same added sugars, but these sugars hide in the Nutrition Facts behind clever names like “glucose solids,” “maltodextrin,” and “dehydrated cane juice.” Instead of eating junk, eat the following foods, all of which have relatively low glycemic scores:
- Organic vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, and zucchini
- Organic, free-range eggs
- Free-range, grass-fed meats
- Wild-caught salmon and other cold water fish
- Nuts, including almonds, cashews, and walnuts
- Olive oil
- Beans, including black, chickpea, and lentils
- High protein grains, in particular quinoa
- Organic fruit when eaten in combination with a protein or healthy fat
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Cutting out foods with high glycemic indices is no test of deprivation. Foods with lower glycemic indices are better foods in every respect. They take longer to digest, keep your feeling satisfied much longer, and contain more nutrients per calorie. While at first eating low-glycemic may frustrate your sweet tooth, it’s a blessing for your gastrointestinal tract and for your health long term. A small sacrifice in the short run reaps huge benefits in the end.
For more information on the importance of keeping your diet low on the glycemic scale, see the following post from our archive:
Next week we continue our exploration of the XY Wellness Diet with a look at the effects of food on the immune system. Until then, be well.
Russo, V. C., Azar, W. J., Yau, S. W., Sabin, M. A., & Werther, G. A. (2014). IGFBP-2: The dark horse in metabolism and cancer. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2014.12.001