Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What is Glycemic Index?

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a dietitian or a nutritionist. All the contents in this post are my understanding from reading books and online material. There could be some points that were suggested to me by medical professionals. Do not use this as medical advice.  

I have seen many people who are diabetic avoid sugar in their coffee and tea. It is good. I am not saying otherwise. But, the same people enjoy a piece of sweet or dessert in the form of a cookie or cake or even pie. Is that smart? I won't judge since everything in moderation is fine. If you are taking coffee 3 times and use 1 tsp of sugar each time, you are consuming 3 tsps of sugar a day. But, a cookie or cake will have more than 3 tsp of sugar for sure. You might say well, I don't eat dessert everyday. If that is the case, it is alright to do so. At the same time, some people have a misconception of not eating something because that is sweeter in taste. Example is Sweet Potato. It is sweeter to taste, but is better than a regular potato for a diabetic person. Why? you might ask. Answer is lower glycemic index of sweet potato compared to that of a potato.

Glycemic Index is a ranking system of carbohydrate foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels.  Higher the glycemic index, faster it gets broken down to sugar and hence faster is the raise in blood sugar. It is divided into three categories. Foods that are lower than 55 GI are good, 55 - 70 do raise the blood sugar a bit but over 70 raises them really high.  Idea is to make your body work for longer time to break down a carbohydrate so that the blood sugar level doesn't shoot up.

There is a catch here too. There are some carbohydrate foods which are high in GI, but has very less of sugar in it. Examples are watermelon and carrot (quoted by the Sugar Solution by prevention). At the same time, there are some food that are low in GI, but are full of fat and nutritionally not very good. So, choose from lower GI food items to keep the blood sugar at a constant level.

Here are some of the commonly used food GI values. I obviously cannot give you the values for every food item, but have tried to give you what I could find.
(From the 'Sugar Solution by prevention magazines')
GI of some commonly used grains and beans.. (Look at the comments too)
GI of some fruits and vegetables..
Some more info about GI - from here.

What are the Benefits of the Glycemic Index?

Eating a lot of high GI foods can be detrimental to your health because it pushes your body to extremes. This is especially true if you are overweight and sedentary. Switching to eating mainly low GI carbs that slowly trickle glucose into your blood stream keeps your energy levels balanced and means you will feel fuller for longer between meals.
  • Low GI diets help people lose and manage weight
  • Low GI diets increase the body's sensitivity to insulin
  • Low GI carbs improve diabetes management
  • Low GI carbs reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Low GI carbs improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Low GI carbs can help you manage the symptoms of PCOS
  • Low GI carbs reduce hunger and keep you fuller for longer
  • Low GI carbs prolong physical endurance
  • High GI carbs help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after exercise
Some good reads about this topic:

Check out what all these ladies are up to today..

Diabetes Diet/Management: Srivalli, Champa, Harini, PJ
Kid Friendly Recipes: Kalyani, Shylaja, Veena
Seven Days of Soup:Usha, Sowmya
30 Minutes Meals: Priya Suresh 
Seven days of Cakes:  Anusha

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  1. Informative post..Champa..Thanks for sharing dear...

  2. Thanks for posting such informative posts on diabetes. Its nice to have all the information with respect to Indian food in one place rather than having to search multiple sites. Thank you for taking time and giving this information.

  3. good one. It is good u mentioned watermelon,carrot, beets and pumpkin. It is a misconception dispelled!!

  4. Very informative post Champa. I was also very much intrigued on this GI when I did a similar post. Will have to compare and update mine..:)

  5. love all ur posts Champa....they have very informatve and diabetic-friendly!
    Smitha's Spicy Flavors

  6. There is so i learn everyday from your posts. Sure you must be doing a lot of research. Good one:)

  7. I thought root veggies like carrot and beets arent good for diabetic people,thanks for sharing more information, bookmarking this page to share with my friends..

  8. Great series Champa. It is helpful for everyone to know about nutrition and create balanced meals.

  9. Nice post Champa.Very neatly presented


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