The glycemic index, or GI, is a ranking of foods based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels i.e., blood sugar response. Foods with a high GI are those that are rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, on the other hand, are slowly digested and absorbed, resulting in a gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index was originally developed as a way to help people with diabetes control their serum glucose. However, it has since become popular as a tool for anyone looking to manage their weight or improve their overall health.
There is some debate over whether or not the glycemic index is an accurate measure of how healthy a food is. However, there is no doubt that foods with a high GI can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. For this reason, it is generally recommended that people with diabetes avoid high-GI foods.
Low glycemic index foods, on the other hand, are generally considered to be healthier. This is because they cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which is less likely to lead to spikes. Low-GI foods are also often more filling and satisfying than high-GI foods, making them a good choice for people who are trying to lose weight.
The glycemic index is just one tool that can be used to make healthy food choices. It is important to remember that not all high-GI foods are unhealthy, and not all low-GI foods are healthy. The best way to eat for good health is to focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods that are packed with nutrients.
Glycemic index range for low, medium and high glycemic index foods.
Low glycemic index foods: 55 or less
Medium glycemic index foods: 56-69
High glycemic index foods: 70 or more
Benefits of low glycemic index foods
1. May help with weight loss: Low-GI foods have been shown to help with weight loss. One reason for this is that they help you feel fuller for longer. This is because they take longer to digest, meaning that you feel satisfied for longer after eating them.
2. May improve blood sugar control: Low-GI foods can be beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance. This is because they cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which is less likely to lead to spikes.
3. May reduce the risk of heart disease: Some studies have found that a low-GI diet may reduce the risk of heart disease. This may be because it helps to improve blood sugar control and because it generally involves eating more healthy, unrefined carbs.
4. May reduce the risk of cancer: Some studies have found that a low-GI diet may also reduce the risk of cancer. This may be because it helps to keep blood sugar levels under control and because it involves eating more healthy, unrefined carbs.
A list of low glycemic foods
5. Green beans
10. Brown rice
15. Sweet potatoes
16. Whole wheat bread
22. Lean meat
23. Olive oil
24. Peanut butter
26. Dark chocolate
27. Red wine
28. Black beans
30. Kidney beans
31. Navy beans
32. Pinto beans
33. Pumpkin seeds
34. Sunflower seeds
44. 100% whole grain bread
45. Air-popped popcorn
48. Chia seeds
49. Coconut water
50. Dried apricots
51. Dried figs
Low glycemic index foods are generally considered to be healthier because they cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which is less likely to lead to spikes. Try incorporating some of these foods into your diet if you’re looking for healthier options!
Risks of high glycemic index foods
1. Can cause spikes in blood sugar levels: High-GI foods can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. For this reason, it is generally recommended that people with diabetes avoid high-GI foods.
2. May increase the risk of heart disease: Some studies have found that a high-GI diet may increase the risk of heart disease. This may be because it leads to spikes in blood sugar levels, which can damage the arteries over time.
3. May increase the risk of cancer: Some studies have found that a high-GI diet may also increase the risk of cancer. This may be because it leads to spikes in blood sugar levels, which can promote the growth of cancer cells.
If you’re looking to cut down on high-GI foods, try avoiding processed foods such as refined carbs, sugary snacks and desserts, and anything made with white flour. Instead, focus on eating more low-GI foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods will help you feel fuller for longer and may reduce your risk of some chronic diseases.
A list of high glycemic foods
1. White bread
5. Rice cakes
6. Saltine crackers
8. Instant oatmeal
12. Pizza dough
13. White rice
14. Macaroni and cheese
15. Ice cream
High glycemic index foods can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. For this reason, it is generally recommended that people with diabetes avoid high-GI foods. If you’re looking to cut down on high-GI foods, try avoiding processed and refined carbs, sugary snacks and desserts, and anything made with white flour.
what is glycemic load?
The glycemic load is a measure of the impact a food has on blood sugar levels. It takes into account both the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrate in a food. It is defined as the GI multiplied by the amount of carbohydrate per serving of food in grams and dividing the total by 100. It was introduced as a measure of the overall effect of a food on blood glucose and insulin levels. The GL is a more accurate indicator of the relative response to carbohydrate ingestion.
Glycemic Load = (Carbohydrate content in grams x Glycemic Index) / 100
Foods with a high glycemic load raise blood sugar levels more than foods with a low glycemic load. Foods with a high glycemic load are often refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugary drinks. These foods are quickly digested and absorbed, causing spikes in blood sugar levels.
Low-glycemic-load foods, on the other hand, tend to be unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are slowly digested and absorbed, resulting in a gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
Low glycemic load: 10 or less
Medium glycemic load: 11-19
High glycemic load: 20 or more
International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values
The glycemic index values, glycemic load, and carbohydrate amount of various reference food products are based on an important publication by Foster-Powell et al. See the glycemic index chart below.
|Food product||GI||Carbohydrate content (g/serving)||GL per serving|
|Chocolate cake||38 ± 3||52||20|
|Coca Cola||53 ± 7||26||14|
|Apple juice, pure, clear, unsweetened||44 ± 2||30||13|
|Orange juice||50 ± 4||26||13|
|Pineapple juice, unsweetened||46||34||16|
|Bagel, white, frozen||72||35||25|
|Gluten-free white bread||76 ± 5||15||11|
|Gluten-free multigrain bread||79 ± 13||13||10|
|Basmati, white, boiled||58 ± 8||38||22|
|Parboiled rice (USA)||72||36||26|
|Yogurt||36 ± 4||9||3|
|Banana, ripe, all yellow||51||25||13|
|Dates, dried||103 ± 21||40||42|
|Pineapple, raw||66 ± 7||10||6|
|Plum, raw, NS||39 ± 15||12||5|
|Watermelon, raw||72 ± 13||6||4|
|Baked beans||48 ± 8||15||7|
|Chickpeas, canned in brine||42||22||9|
|Spaghetti, white or type NS, boiled||44 ± 3||48||21|
|Cashew nuts, salted||22 ± 5||13||3|
|Popcorn, plain||72 ± 17||11||8|
|Pretzels, oven-baked||83 ± 9||20||16|
|Mashed potato||74 ± 5||20||15|
|Sweet potato||61 ± 7||28||17|
|Yam (Canada)||37 ± 8||36||13|
|Ga kenkey, prepared from fermented cornmeal (Ghana)||12 ± 1||13||7|
|Cassava, boiled, with salt (Kenya)||46||27||12|
|Gari, roasted cassava dough (Manihot utilissima) (Ghana)||56 ± 3||27||15|
|Unripe plantain (Musa paradisiaca)(Ghana)||40 ± 4||34||13|
|Yam (Dyscoria) (Ghana)||66||36||23|
|Hummus (chickpea salad dip)||6 ± 4||5||0|
|Moroccan couscous||58 ± 9||29||17|
|Jasmine rice, white||109 ± 10||42||46|
|Rice noodles||40 ± 4||39||15|
The American diabetes association’s recommendation is that people with diabetes should aim for foods with a glycemic index below 50. However, it is important to remember that the glycemic index is only one factor to consider when making food choices. Other factors, such as the amount of fat and fiber in a food, can also affect blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is important to consult with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to create a meal plan that is right for you.
Our professional advice is to always check with a certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian or other qualified clinician to help you make the best choices for your individual needs.
Foster-Powell K, Holt SH, Brand-Miller JC. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jul;76(1):5-56. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/76.1.5.
This was first published on July 2, 2022 and Last Updated on March 16, 2023 by MyEndoConsult