Glycemic Index: A tool to control diabetes

Glycemic Index: A tool to control diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic diseases in the world.  

If diabetes goes untreated, it can damage your nerves, heart, eyes, blood vessels, and kidneys. Although there is no cure for diabetes, with the right treatment and diet you can achieve diabetes control and lead a long, complication-free life.  

The most crucial factor that can cause diabetes is food which can spike your blood sugar levels.  

What is the Glycemic Index (GI)?  

Created in the early 1980s by Dr. David Jenkins, a Canadian professor; the Glycemic Index (GI) is a measurement system that tells how a particular food can affect your blood sugar levels.  GI gives a specific score to the food based on how it raises the blood sugar levels and is ranked from zero to 100 (with 100 being pure glucose). However, there is one problem with GI measurement. It can only measure the food that has carbohydrates. So, food like oils, meats, fish, spices, herbs, and fats do not have GI, but they also affect blood sugar levels. 

There are several factors that affect the GI of a particular food, including: 

  1. Cooking method: The more you cook the food, the easier it is to get digested and absorbed by the body, which increases the GI. 
  2. Ripeness: Ripe fruits and vegetables have a higher GI. Whereas unripe fruits and vegetables have complex carbs structures that take more time to break into sugars and have a lower GI. 
  3. Type of sugar that the food has: The GI ranges for sugars can vary depending on their chemical composition and structure -it can be as low as 23 for fructose and as high as 105 for maltose.  
  4. Processing of the food: Starch is made up of two molecules: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is difficult to digest, and amylopectin is simple to break down. Processing disrupts these amylose and amylopectin molecules, raising the GI. In general, processed foods tend to have a higher GI. 
  5. Composition of the food/meal: A meal containing various amounts of different nutrients like carbs, proteins, and fats can also alter the GI. Adding fibers, protein, or fat to a meal can help reduce glycemic response. 
  6. High, Medium, and Low GI foods: Foods are divided into three categories according to their glycemic score:  
  • Low GI foods: o to 55 in GI value. These foods are suitable for diabetes because they take longer to be digested and absorbed by the body, and do not lead to blood sugar level spikes.  
  • Medium GI foods: Between 56 to 69 in GI value, these foods have a higher glucose content than the low GI foods.  
  • High GI foods: between 70 and more in GI value. These foods should be consumed in a limited quantity in the diet of diabetics as they cause a rapid rise followed by a fall in blood sugar levels.  

Low Glycemic Index diet for diabetes 

Here is the list of food you can include in your daily diet to keep your blood sugar levels in check: 

  • whole grain/multigrain/rye/sourdough/pumpernickel/pita bread 
  • Breakfast cereals like oats, bran flakes 
  • Fruits (apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, tomatoes, and more) 
  • Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, and zucchini 
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, lima beans, butter beans, and kidney beans 
  • Pasta and noodles made of rice, vermicelli, durum wheat, and multigrain noodles 
  • Rice: basmati, long-grain, brown and wild 
  • Grains like quinoa, barley, pearl couscous, buckwheat, freekeh, semolina 
  • Dairy and dairy products primarily yogurt, coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk

Advantages of a low GI diet  

A diet with a low GI:  

  • improves your cholesterol levels. 
  • helps you lose weight 
  • reduces the risk of getting cancer 
  • reduces the risk of heart disease  
  • provides a high nutritional value  
  • reduce the high demand for insulin, and thus the load on the body 

Glycemic index charts are immensely helpful in making food choices to follow. 

Disadvantages of a low GI diet 

  • The major disadvantage of a low GI diet is that too many carbs in meals are tough for the body to cope with. For example, eating a substantial portion of cereal for breakfast will be low in GI but high in carbohydrates. You can solve this problem by using a portion control technique on those foods. 
  • GI doesn’t give the perfect nutritional diet plan to follow. It only focuses on foods with carbs and doesn’t consider nutrients like vitamins, fats, and proteins that are also important for the body. 

Glycemic load vs. Glycemic index 

The rate at which foods increase blood sugar levels depends on: 

  • the type of sugar/carbohydrate,  
  • its nutrient/sugar content, and  
  • the amount consumed. 

The GI does not include the quantity of food consumed. For this reason, the glycemic load (GL) rating was created. The GL is a measure of how a carb affects your blood sugar levels, considering both the type (GI) and the quantity (grams per serving).  

Want a perfect diet plan for you, whether you are a diabetic or not? Do you want to know more about diabetes and its complications? To learn more about diabetes and its management visit our Endocrinology page. You can also visit our website at or contact us at if you have any queries. Call us on +1-347-384-5690 to get answers to your queries or pay us a visit at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11212. And if you have diabetes or have its symptoms, come to us for diagnosis and treatment, we have the best endocrinologists and diabetes specialists to help you throughout the process. 

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