The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index, or GI, indicates how a specific food influences blood sugar levels. Foods with high glycemic index values cause blood sugar levels to rise faster and higher than foods designated with a lower glycemic index rating.

Using the Glycemic Index

Glycemic IndexTo be honest, it’s not always easy to use the glycemic index. Although most people can usually tell which foods are calorie laden without too much thought, the glycemic index isn’t that clear. For example, cherries are generally thought of as a sweet fruit, but they only have a glycemic index rating of 22, whereas watermelon on the other hand is also sweet, but has a much higher glycemic index rating of 72.

Most people simply refer to a list of glyemic index values until they know where most of their usual food choices fit, but these rules of thumb can help you make an educated guess when your list isn’t available:

  • White foods usually have a high glycemic index .
  • Foods with a lot of fiber usually have a low glycemic index .
  • High-protein foods usually have a low glycemic index.
  • Fats in general, are low glycemic foods but try to stick with healthy fats whenever possible.

When using the glycemic index to make dietary choices, look at your diet as a whole. To maintain steady blood sugar levels, consistently create complex meals composed primarily of foods that are low on the glycemic index. Add in some foods that are in the median range of the glycemic index for variety and well-rounded nutrition. Only consume high glycemic index foods sparingly.

Low and High Glycemic Index Foods

Generally, any food with a GI under 55 is considered low glycemic foods, and anything over 70 is considered high glycemic foods. Review the following lists to see where your favorite items fall on the GI scale:

Low Glycemic Foods

  • Broccoli – 25
  • Corn – 48
  • Carrots – 47
  • Wholegrain Bread – 40
  • Sausage – 28
  • Kellogg’s All-Bran Breakfast Cereal – 42
  • Whole Milk – 27
  • Apple – 38
  • Linguine – 40
  • Yogurt – 14

Medium Glycmeic Foods

  • Steamed Potatoes – 65
  • Bran Muffin – 65
  • Cheese Pizza – 60
  • Fruit Loops – 69
  • Oatmeal Cookie – 55
  • Pineapple – 66
  • Fruit Punch – 67

High Glycemic Foods

  • Instant Mashed Potatoes – 74
  • French Baguette – 95
  • Rice Chex Breakfast Cereal – 89
  • Instant Rice – 87
  • Low-Fat Frozen Tofu – 115
  • Rice cakes – 77
  • Brown Rice pasta – 92
  • Corn Flakes – 83
  • Parsnips – 97

For some people, using the glycemic index as a dietary aid to pick low glycemic foods seems counter-intuitive because it says that many formerly-safe choices are no longer acceptable. For example, macaroni and cheese is a good choice with a GI of 39, but plain rice cakes are a definite no-no with a high glycemic index of 82. Pretzels and popcorn, generally thought of as safe snack foods, deliver GIs of 83 and 72 while those greasy potato chips have a GI that’s considered low at 54.

While the glycemic index is a wonderful tool that can help maintain stable blood sugar levels, it can’t be used in isolation. When planning your diet, include a healthy dose of common sense and make choices based on the complete nutritional picture for the best results. Using tools such as the glycemic index, the USDA’s, moderate exercise, and good judgment will help you manage and maintain a healthier lifestyle.



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