High Glycemic Foods

High Glycemic Foods

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a way of comparing carb foods based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. The highest glycemic foods will release glucose (sugar) almost instantly into the blood while the lower glycemic choices will require much more time to digest, and the glucose will be released more slowly into the blood.

Why is the glycemic index important?

With the rise in the incidence of Type II diabetes, heart disease and obesity, the way the body handles carbs has become a vital issue. It seems beneficial for most people to include lower glycemic foods more often than the higher glycemic choices. The reason for this is that the quantity and speed of glucose entering your blood has an effect on insulin levels, and insulin levels have an effect on 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 steady, gradual release of glucose into the blood, 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.

Range of glycemic values

The glycemic index has a range from 0 to 100, with 100 being pure glucose and 0 indicating little or no 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.

Please note that fruits and vegetables are fresh and uncooked, unless otherwise indicated.

Click here for a printable copy of this list.


Low Glycemic FoodsMedium Glycemic Foods High Glycemic Foods
Apples 100% whole grain bread/pastaAmaranth
Apricots Baked BeansBanana, over-ripe
Artichokes Banana, ripeCakes and most desserts
Avocado BeetsCandy, most
Bananas, unripe Brown riceCereals, most dry
Barley Corn mealCorn syrup
Blackberries CouscousDoughnuts
Blueberries GrapesDried figs and dates
Bok Choy MelonsEnglish Muffin
Broccoli Oatmeal (quick)French Fries
Brussels Sprouts Orange JuiceGraham crackers
Bulgur Pasta (white, cooked al dente)Honey
Cabbage PineappleJelly beans
Carrots Pita BreadOatmeal (instant)
Cauliflower PopcornPancakes
Celery RaisinsPasta, fully cooked
Cherries Rye bread, mostPotatoes, boiled, baked,instant, mashed
Chia Seed Sweet CornPretzels
Cucumber Sweet PotatoesRice, instant, sticky
Eggplant Winter SquashRice cakes
Eggs Stuffing
Fish Sugar
Flax Waffles
Garbanzo Beans Watermelon
Grapefruit White Bread
Green Beans
Green Leafy Vegetables
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Navy Beans
Meat, unprocessed
Oatmeal, old-fashioned
Peanut Butter, old-fashioned
Pumpernickel Bread, whole grain only
Sourdough Bread
Summer Squash

Experts cannot seem to agree on some of the exact GI values, due to a lack of uniformity in testing methods, food composition and physiology of individuals, so I haven't included glycemic index numbers for the foods listed.

Some foods have no significant effect on blood sugar

There are foods in the list that would score zero on the GI scale. In other words, 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.

Ways to lower GI of foods

There are some ways you can affect the glycemic index value of certain foods you eat:

  • Eat whole fruit and vegetables, rather than juice versions.
  • Eat vegetables raw or lightly cooked.
  • Serve pasta while it is still firm, al dente.
  • Eat baked potato with skin, if possible.Use old-fashioned rolled or steel-cut oats rather than quick-cooking oats, and don't overcook.

Glycemic Index cmpared to Glycemic Load

No discussion of glycemic index would be comlete without mentioning glycemic load. This is a concept that not only takes into account the GI value of the food, that is how quickly the food releases glucose into the blood, but also the amount (in grams) of carbs in the food. These two factors will determine not only how high the blood sugar level will rise, but also the length of time it will remain elevated. This is important, because the amount of time the blood sugar remains high has an impact on health, both now and in the future.

Another way to describe glycemic load is that it takes into account the quantity of carbs in the food as well as the quality. Where the GI only tells you the quality of the carbohydrate, the glycemic load value factors in the quantity of the carbohydrates in your food choices.

Foods are usually divided into three groups with regard to their glycemic load:

  1. Foods with a High glycemic load will have a value of 20 or more
  2. Foods with a Medium glycemic load will have a value of 11-19
  3. Foods with a Low glycemic load will have a value of 10 or less.

If you know the GI value for a specific food you will be able to figure out the glycemic load of that food by multiplying the GI value by the carbs per serving and dividing by 100. There are also charts available, which will give you the glycemic load of selected foods.

The glycemic load of a food will depend on the serving size and can be figured using this equation:

(GI value x carb amount in grams) divided by 100 = Glycemic load

If you don't want to do the math

Rather than spending a lot time figuring the glycemic load of the foods you eat, a shortcut is to simply eat higher glycemic foods in smaller amounts or combined with protein foods or low-glycemic carbs. At the same time, eat more lower glycemic fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and avoid foods with a lot of added sugar, such as candy, soft drinks and baked products, especially those made with white flour.

Snacks and breakfast

The glycemic index of foods is most important when foods are eaten alone, such as for breakfast or snacks. A high glycemic breakfast or snack will send your blood sugar soaring and cause a flood of insulin into your bloodstream, and then a corresponding drop in blood sugar a few hours later. This is a roller coaster you don't want to ride on, since you will go from a sugar high to a sugar low, and be left feeling sluggish.

However, if you choose low glycemic snacks, or combine a healthy higher glycemic food with a protein food you will avoid the spike in blood sugar that could affect the way you feel and your long-term health.

For example...

This means if you have a piece of fruit as a snack, have some nuts or a piece of cheese with it. If you have toast, make it whole grain with old-fashioned peanut butter. Put some sliced almonds on your oatmeal. Eat a piece of string cheese or a handful of cashews with your grapes. Top your baked potato with a small amount of cheese and lots of veggies.

Fun Fact about High Glycemic Foods: How a food is prepared, particularly how long it is cooked can have an effect on its Glycemic Index 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.

Here is a list of Don't and Do's to help you take advantage of the glycemic index.

High Glycemic Foods - DON’T:

  • Add extra sugar to cereal and fruit.
  • Drink sugared fruit drinks and soft drinks.
  • Consume large amounts of high-glycemic foods, even healthy ones.
  • Make white bread and products made from white flour a regular part of your diet.
  • Choose instant oatmeal.
  • Eat higher glycemic foods, even healthy ones, without adding some protein food.
  • Skip carbs altogether or radically limit them.
  • Fixate so much on the composition of your food that you forget to enjoy it!

High Glycemic Foods - DO:

  • Familiarize yourself in a general sense with high and low glycemic foods.
  • Eat fruit, particularly bananas, when just ripe, but not overripe.
  • Choose whole-grain breads with seeds, cracked wheat, oats or other nuggets and made with a minimum of sugar.
  • Snack wisely, choosing low-glycemic foods and combining carb foods with protein foods.
  • Make oatmeal with old-fashioned or steel-cut oats.
  • Enjoy smaller amounts of healthy higher glycemic foods, such as starchy vegetables and sweet fruits.
  • Combine carbs at breakfast, especially high-glycemic carbs with healthy protein foods.
  • Choose lower glycemic foods on a daily basis, including most vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and many fruits.
  • Eat a balanced diet made up of a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and monounsaturated fats.

Click here to go from High Glycemic Foods to Healthy Eating Support home page.

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