The glycemic index (GI) is a tool that is frequently used in assessing foods for better blood sugar management. There are many factors that impact the glycemic index of a food and they include nutrient composition, cooking method, ripeness, and the amount of processing the food has undergone.
The glycemic index may aid people in being aware of what they are eating every day and enhance weight loss, minimize blood sugar levels, and decrease cholesterol.
The glycemic index also provides a way for people to differentiate between good carbohydrates from bad carbohydrates. People can use this to fine-tune their carb count and keep their blood sugar more stable.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a number that gives people an idea of how quickly their body converts carbs in a food into glucose. Two foods with the same amount of carbohydrates may have varying glycemic index numbers.
The lower the number, the less impact the food will have on the blood sugar.
- 55 or less = Low
- 56- 69 = Medium
- 70 or above = High
The Glycemic index can be found on the label of packaged foods and people can also find glycemic index lists for common foods easily on the internet.
What are the factors that can influence glycemic index levels?
Glycemic index may vary depending on the following factors:
- Preparation – the glycemic index is lessened by fibre, and acid (like lemon juice or vinegar). When people cook starches like pasta for a long time, their glycemic index will increase.
- Ripeness – the glycemic index of fruits such as bananas increases while they ripen.
- Other foods that are eaten at the same time – the overall glycemic index of the meal can be reduced by combining a high glycemic index food with foods with a low glycemic index.
Age, the level of activity, and the time taken to digest food also affect the body’s response to carbs. The food will be slowly absorbed by the body if people are suffering from diabetes linked complications like gastroparesis.
What are the benefits of a low glycemic index diet?
A low glycemic diet involves switching from a diet with high GI foods to those with a lower GI.
Following a low glycemic diet can provide many health benefits, including:
- Improved blood sugar control – following a low GI diet can lower blood sugar levels and enhance blood sugar management in people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
- Improved weight loss – following a low GI diet can improve short-term weight loss.
- Lowered cholesterol levels – following a low-GI diet can help reduce levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which are elements which are associated with an increased risk for heart diseases.
How should a low-glycemic diet be followed?
A healthy, low-glycemic diet should consist mostly of low GI foods, including:
- Fruits such as apples, berries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit
- Non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, tomatoes
- Whole grains such as quinoa, barley, oats
- Legumes such as black beans, lentils, chickpeas, rajma
People can also consume foods without a GI value or those with a very low GI as part of a balanced low glycemic diet. Among them are:
- Seafood such as tuna, salmon, shrimp, mackerel, sardines
- Poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck
- Oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil
- Nuts such as almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pistachios
- Seeds such as sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
- Herbs and Spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cumin, dill, basil, rosemary, cinnamon
There are no foods as such that people should strictly avoid in a diet. However, in a diet, foods with a high GI should be restricted and they include:
- Bread such as white bread, bagels, naan, pita bread
- Rice such as white rice, jasmine rice, arborio rice
- Cereals such as instant oats, breakfast cereals
- Refined flour Pasta and Noodles such as lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli, macaroni
- Starchy vegetables such as mashed potatoes, potatoes, french fries
- Baked goods such as cake, doughnuts, cookies, croissants, muffins
- Snacks such as chocolate, crackers, microwave popcorn, chips
- Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sports drinks, flavoured fruit juice, sweetened tea
People must try to replace these foods with low GI foods whenever possible.
Glycemic index of foods
If people are following a low glycemic diet, then it may be helpful for them to determine the GI of the foods that they eat most often.
Here are the GI values for some commonly consumed food items:
- Apples – 36
- Strawberries – 41
- Dates – 42
- Oranges – 43
- Banana – 51
- Mango – 51
- Blueberries – 53
- Pineapple – 59
- Watermelon – 76
- Carrots (boiled) – 39
- Plantains (boiled) – 66
- Sweet Potatoes (boiled) – 63
- Pumpkin (boiled) – 74
- Potatoes (boiled) – 78
- Barley: 28
- Quinoa: 53
- Rolled oats: 55
- Couscous: 65
- Popcorn: 65
- Brown Rice: 68
- White rice: 73
- Whole Wheat Bread: 74
- White bread: 75
- Soybeans – 16
- Rajma – 24
- Chickpeas – 28
- Lentils – 32
Dairy products and milk substitutes
- Soy milk -34
- Skim Milk – 37
- Whole milk – 39
- Ice cream – 51
- Rice milk – 86
- Fructose – 15
- Coconut sugar – 54
- Maple syrup – 54
- Honey – 61
- Table Sugar – 65
The glycemic index, or GI, is a measure used to determine how much a portion of food might affect the blood sugar levels of people. Many factors influence the glycemic index of a food, including nutrient composition, ripeness, cooking process, and the amount of processing it has gone through. Following a low-glycemic diet can provide many health benefits as it might help balance blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and enhance short-term weight loss.