The glycemic index is a ranking of foods based on how quickly they elevate your blood glucose levels. Choosing foods with a lower GI level can help you maintain your blood sugar levels and weight. Find out how GI values work and which foods are best for people with diabetes.

  • The glycemic index (GI) measures how foods with carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. Foods are ranked in comparison to a reference food such as white bread or glucose. If you eat a food with a high GI value, your blood sugar may go up more than a food with a low or medium GI.
  • Referring to the GI helps people with diabetes plan healthy meals. Choose foods with a low or medium GI. If you eat a food with a high GI, balance the meal by combining it with low GI foods. Food combining may be critical to preventing blood sugar highs.
  • Meats and fats do not have a GI because they do not contain carbohydrates. The GI is used to rank foods that have any carbohydrates such as grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Two factors that lower the GI of foods are fat and fiber. In most instances, the more processed or cooked a food is, the higher the GI. Also, highly ripened fruits and vegetables have a higher GI. Consume fresh fruits rather than ones that have been around for a few days. Avoid overcooked and processed foods.
  • Refer to the GI which can be found on line when you are unsure. Variety makes a difference and sometimes GI values are surprising. For example, the ADA reveals converted long grain rice has a lower GI than brown rice. However, short-grain white rice has a higher GI than brown rice. Instant products generally have a higher GI index.
  • Low GI foods are valued at 55 or less and include low carb pasta, rolled oatmeal, carrots, sweet potato, barley and corn. Medium GI foods are valued at 56-69 and include quick oats, whole wheat bread, and basmati rice. High GI foods are valued at 70 or more and include white bread, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, russet potato, pretzels and pineapple.
  • Whether the GI is high or low, keep in mind proper portion sizes. The right portion sizes help you manage blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Certain nutritious foods have a higher GI than foods with little nutritional worth. Keep in mind basic nutritional principles. Exercise moderation of foods with few nutrients and eat a variety of healthy foods.
  • The GI is a helpful but you also need to consider the type of carbohydrates in foods. In general, the total carbohydrate in a food and how much you eat at one time is a stronger predictor for blood glucose levels than strictly following the GI.
  • Diabetic foods were developed to help you avoid soaring blood sugar levels. Try tasty treats such as brown sugar substitute and Walden Farms dressings or dips. These choices make it easier to avoid the temptation of high-carbohydrate foods.

To maintain blood glucose levels, follow the GI, watch portion sizes and count carbohydrates. Also engage in regular physical activity and monitor blood sugar levels regularly to ensure you stay on track.