A Useful Guide to Glycemic Index

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Glycemic IndexSome foods can make your blood sugar spike rapidly while others release sugar at a slower pace. This is because some carbohydrates can be turned into glucose more easily than others. The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to how fast they can be digested, absorbed and metabolized. This is an important consideration while planning diets for diabetics.

GI Classification

GI of individual food portions can be classified as:

  • Low: >=55 
  • Mid:  56 – 69
  • High: 70=<

Here are a few food items based on their GI ratings:

  • Processed or refined foods have a higher glycemic index than foods in their natural form.
  • Low GI foods include whole wheat bread, rolled oats, muesli, pasta, barley, corn, sweet potato, peas, lentils, legumes, non-starchy vegetables, and most fruits.
  • Medium GI foods include quick oats, whole wheat bread, rye bread, brown or basmati rice, and couscous.
  • High GI foods include bagels, white bread, puffed rice, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, short-grain white rice, macaroni and cheese, rice cakes, popcorn, pretzels, potatoes, and pumpkin.

Can the Glycemic Index Change?

The glycemic index of food may not necessarily stay constant. It depends on how the food is prepared, treated, its ripeness, and the other foods it is combined with while eating. Some of the examples are:

  • The longer starchy foods like pasta are cooked, the higher their glycemic index. 
  • Similarly, treating food with vinegar or lemon juice can reduce its glycemic index. 
  • The juice of the fruit has a higher glycemic index than the whole fruit.
  • The glycemic index of certain fruits like bananas increases as they ripen.
  • Combining food that has a high glycemic index with others that have a low glycemic index can reduce the overall glycemic index of your meal. For example, you may want to combine potatoes with meat instead of pasta. Since fats and meat do not contain carbohydrates, they don’t have a glycemic index. 
  • It is also important to note that two individuals eating the same food may have different reactions to it. This is because age, activity levels, and other such lifestyle factors can also affect the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glucose. 
  • Your health also plays an important role. For example, in the case of diabetics diagnosed with gastroparesis, food is absorbed at a very slow pace.  

Benefits of a Low Glycemic Index Meal

A low glycemic index meal can help:

  • Manage weight
  • Control diabetes
  • Improve heart health and mental performance 
  • Keep you energized through the day

It is not necessary for food with a low glycemic index to be very healthy. You also need to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and calories. Along with the type of food, the quantity it is consumed in is also important. This means that you need to be careful about the portion sizes. The ideal diet is one that matches personal preferences and helps meet goals for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and weight management.

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