Q I have been trying to lose weight, and I have been hearing about glycemic index. What is it, and why is it important?
A The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly food will raise the blood glucose level. Foods with a high glycemic index will raise blood sugar levels significantly, causing the body to release more insulin. When insulin levels are high, excess sugar is converted into fat. Chronically high insulin levels can lead to high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar levels (symptoms of metabolic syndrome). Diets with high glycemic index foods also lead to sugar and carbohydrate cravings and increased appetite.
Choosing food with a low glycemic index will allow the body to burn fat more efficiently and can also reduce the risk of heart disease and abdominal fat deposits.(1) Good choices of low glycemic index foods include whole grains, plain yogurt, soy, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried apricots. You can find out the glycemic index of certain foods online at www.glycemic.com
— Arianna Staruch
1 J.C. Brand-Miller, Glycemic index in relation to coronary disease. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004; 13(Suppl.):S3
Q How healthy is tea?
A Tea is a great alternative to coffee. Although there is caffeine in tea, green tea contains vitamins and catechins which are anti-oxidants. It is well known that anti-oxidants bind up free radicals in the body. Unbound free-radicals can cause cellular damage and thus disease. It is, therefore, no surprise that green tea has been shown in numerous studies to help in the treatment and prevention of numerous diseases, such as cancer, infections, rheumatoid arthritis, cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few.
Green tea is also a component of many over-the-counter weight loss programs because the caffeine speeds up your metabolism while slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates, a process that helps avoid major fluctuations in blood sugar.
Black tea, on the other hand, is fermented, and many of the vitamins found in the tea are thus lost. Herbal teas provide another way of ingesting nutrients and herbs that are known to have medicinal properties. Because herbal teas generally do not contain caffeine, they can be consumed in larger quantities and can be a tastier way of getting your water intake. One side effect of drinking green tea is insomnia, even though it contains less caffeine than coffee or soda. There can also be side effects with some herbal teas, depending on the herbs used and how much is consumed. As with everything in life, moderation is key.
— Lindsey Nelson
From Walking to Hiking
Q Are there any important tips for beginners when switching from walking to hiking this spring?
A There are some things to be aware of when starting a hiking program. First is your equipment. Be aware that hiking boots tend to be firmer, heavier, and more time-consuming to break in to a comfortable fit than walking shoes. You should still have good arch support and be able to wear the boots for six to eight hours around the house without them causing blisters. The heaviness of the hiking boot can really be noticeable on hilly trails. The up and down movement will generally work the calves and the tibialis anterior (shins) more than your typical walking or running shoe.
Second is terrain: Hiking trails are rarely a smooth sidewalk or paved road. The surface could be uneven, loose gravel, even rocky and covered with debris. Usually trails are easily navigated with a little extra caution.
Third is knowing how altitude can affect you. Temperatures are cooler at higher altitudes. Ultraviolet rays are more intense, so you can easily sunburn. It’s also common to become physically affected while hiking in the hills. Altitude sickness is not uncommon. For example, people who live and exercise in the Portland area, where the altitude averages 200 feet above sea level, will feel differently if they climb Mt. Hood or Mt. St. Helens, where the altitude ranges between 5,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. They will have to breathe faster and more frequently to draw oxygen out of the thinner air. This becomes a form of hyperventilation and will change the ph of the blood, causing nausea, dizziness, and headache. The best way to thwart altitude sickness is to be aware of the symptoms and acclimatize yourself with the conditions. Start slowly, and take it easy on your first few outings this spring. Have fun out there.
— Jacob May
This Issue’s Experts
Arianna Staruch, ND, is a naturopathic physician focused on women’s health issues. To contact Dr. Staruch call 503-279-0205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsey Nelson, ND, is a naturopathic primary care physician and can be reached at 503-279-0205 or by email at email@example.com.
Jacob May, DC, brings careful thought and analytical thinking blended with a holistic approach to medicine. To contact Dr. May call 503-279-0205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.