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Glycemic Index
Avoid fluctuating blood sugar levels by understanding the Glycemic Index

It is most important to understand the concept behind glycemic values (Glycemic Index, or GI). In order to level out your blood sugar and avoid fluctuations in glucose you must eat slower digesting foods. These foods typically have a low glycemic index or load.

The glycemic index is a system in which a number is given to a particular carbohydrate food to determine how quickly or slowly the food breaks down into sugar in the bloodstream.

This number is important since people tend to consume many high-glycemic index foods such as refined carbohydrates (white pasta, white bread, white rice) that turn quickly into glucose (sugar) in our bodies. These foods do not sustain your appetite or energy (blood sugar) level and people end up overeating them.

If you incorporate low-glycemic index foods (foods that turn into sugar slowly), you can sustain a more even energy level and you also will not get hungry very quickly. This is due to non-fluctuating blood sugar. You know that sugar equals energy.

When you eat refined or high-glycemic index foods, your blood sugar quickly climbs and then drops. When the blood sugar drops, you feel hungry since your brain signals your body to eat in order to maintain your energy level. However, if you consume mostly low-glycemic index foods, your blood sugar tends to level out and not fluctuate. This results in diminished appetite and a more sustained level of energy! In addition, by metabolizing sugar more slowly and over a longer period of time we have a chance to utilize the sugar or glucose before it gets stored as fat (triglycerides)!

Glycemic Load is a newer and more accurate term. The glycemic index tells you how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. It does not tell you how much of that carbohydrate in grams is in a serving of food. The Glycemic Load is the amount of carbohydrate grams in a food multiplied by the GI of that carbohydrate.

Glycemic Index Values

Classification GI range Examples
Low GI 55 or less most fruit and vegetables (except potatoes, watermelon), grainy breads, pasta, legumes/pulses, milk, products extremely low in carbohydrates (fish, eggs, meat, nuts,oils)
Medium GI 56 - 69 whole wheat products, brown rice, basmati rice, orange sweet potato, table sugar
High GI 70 - 99 corn flakes, baked potato, watermelon, some white rices (eg. jasmine), croissant, white bread, candy
  100 straight glucose

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_index

Additional Resources:

Harvard Medical School's Glycemic Load for 100 Foods
"The Glycemic Index debate: Does the type of carbohydrate really matter?" American Diabetes Association

Marci Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE, is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with a degree in Nutrition and Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Marci is the author of The Diet Game: Playing for Life! More about Marci Sloane

The goal of Destination Diabetes is to be a useful and credible resource for the more than 20 million children and adults who have diabetes in the U.S. and their families. Destination Diabetes provides information on a wide range of diabetes health and wellness topics. Articles are written or reviewed by diabetes advisors who have experience in diabetes education.