What is it?
In simple terms, the glycemic index (GI) is a way of comparing carbohydrate foods based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. The highest glycemic foods will release glucose (sugar) almost instantly into the bloodstream while the lower glycemic choices will take much longer to digest, and the glucose will be released more gradually into the bloodstream.
Why do we care about the glycemic index?
With the rise of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the way your body handles carbohydrates has become an important issue. It seems advantageous for most people to include lower glycemic carbs more often than the higher glycemic ones. The reason for this is that the speed and amount of glucose entering your blood has an effect on insulin levels, and insulin levels have a lot to do with the way you feel and how much fat you store.
It appears that one way to keep your insulin levels normal is to maintain a gradual, steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, rather than the surge caused by high glycemic foods. This seems to be more easily accomplished by eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index and therefore, digest more slowly. This is particularly important for pre-diabetics, diabetics and those trying to lose weight.
Glycemic Index Range
The glycemic index has a range from 0 to 100, with 100 being pure glucose and 0 indicating no or negligible effect on blood sugar. In general, foods that have a glycemic index of 55 or below are considered lower glycemic foods, foods with a value between 56 and 69 are medium glycemic foods and those with a glycemic index value of 70 or above are high glycemic.
Note - Experts can’t seem to agree on some of the exact GI values, due to different testing methods, food composition and physiology of individuals, so I have not included glycemic index number values for the foods listed.
Fruits and vegetables are fresh and uncooked, unless otherwise indicated.
LOW-MEDIUM-HIGH GLYCEMIC Index FOOD CATEGORIES
LOW-MEDIUM-HIGH GLYCEMIC Index FOOD CATEGORIES
Low Glycemic Foods Medium Glycemic Foods High Glycemic Foods Apples 100% whole grain bread/pasta Amaranth Apricots Baked Beans Banana, over-ripe Artichokes Banana, ripe Cakes and most desserts Avocado Beets Candy, most Bananas, unripe Brown rice Cereals, most dry Barley Corn meal Corn syrup Blackberries Couscous Doughnuts Blueberries Grapes Dried figs and dates Bok Choy Melons English Muffin Broccoli Oatmeal (quick) French Fries Brussels Sprouts Orange Juice Graham crackers Bulgur Pasta (white, cooked al dente) Honey Cabbage Pineapple Jelly beans Carrots Pita Bread Oatmeal (instant) Cauliflower Popcorn Pancakes Celery Raisins Pasta, fully cooked Cherries Rye bread, most Potatoes, boiled, baked,instant, mashed Chia Seed Sweet Corn Pretzels Cucumber Sweet Potatoes Rice, instant, sticky Eggplant Winter Squash Rice cakes Eggs Stuffing Fish Sugar Flax Waffles Garbanzo Beans Watermelon Grapefruit White Bread Green Beans Green Leafy Vegetables Kidney Beans Kiwi Lentils Lettuce Lima Beans Milk Navy Beans Nuts Meat, unprocessed Oatmeal, old-fashioned Onions Oranges Peaches Peanut Butter, old-fashioned Pears Peas Peppers Plums Pumpernickel Bread, whole grain only Quinoa Raspberries Soybeans Sourdough Bread Summer Squash Strawberries Tomatoes
Certain foods have no significant effect on blood sugar
There are a number of foods in the list that would score zero on the GI scale which means that they would have little or no effect on your blood sugar. These include the following:
Almonds, Artichokes, Avocados, Beef, Bok Choy, Brazil Nuts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cheese, Crab, Cucumber, Eggs, Fish, Hazelnuts, Lamb, Leafy vegetables,Lettuce, Lobster, Macadamia Nuts, Pork, Shrimp, Tuna and Walnuts.
Fun Fact about Glycemic Index: How a food is cooked, particularly how long it is cooked can have an effect on its GI value. Starchy vegetables have a lower glycemic value when eaten raw or lightly cooked than when fully cooked. This is because cooking foods changes the complex starches into more simple sugars that digest more quickly. In the same way, pasta cooked al dente (still firm) has a lower glycemic value than fully cooked pasta.
Ways to lower Glycemic Index of foods
There are some ways you can affect the glycemic index of certain foods you eat:
Eat vegetables raw or lightly cooked.
Eat fruits that are just ripe but not overripe.
Serve pasta while it is still firm, al dente.
Eat baked potato with skin, if possible.
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