Understanding the Glycemic Index

Understanding the Glycemic Index

When you eat, you process the carbohydrates in your food causing your blood sugar levels to rise. High and fast rising blood sugar levels are the leading cause of many major health problems, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 (with sugar being 100) according to how much they increase your blood sugar levels. High GI foods cause extreme spikes in your blood sugar levels, whereas low GI foods cause a gradual and moderate rise. Thus, one of the best changes you can make to your diet is to substitute high GI foods for low GI ones.

Below, we give a list of common foods and classify them according to their GI values. We also provide a few low GI recipes to get you started.

The Rankings

Classification Type of Food Examples
Low GI Beans & Nuts white, black, kidney, lentil, soy, almond, peanut, walnut, chickpea
Seeds sunflower, flax, pumpkin, poppy, sesame
Grains whole wheat, millet, oat, rye, brown rice, barley
Vegetables almost all
Fruits almost all
Medium GI Grains enriched wheat, pita bread, basmati rice
Other grape juice, raisins, prunes, ice cream, bananas
High GI Grains white bread, white rice, corn flakes, bagels, pretzels
Other glucose, maltose, potato

Guidelines to A Low GI Diet

On the off chance that you don't want to carry around a copy of the above table in your pocket 24/7, here are a few guidelines to help you follow a low GI diet.

1. Replace white carbohydrates with colored ones. White rice, white bread, white bagels, regular potatoes, and others are all high GI foods. On the other hand, brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats, and sweet potatoes are all moderate to low GI. This is the #1 change you can make to improve your diet. Changing your carb sources in this way will stabilize your blood sugar levels, decreasing your risk of the diseases listed above. It will also make you feel more energetic throughout the day.

2. Fruits and vegetables are always great. Every good diet incorporates fruits and vegetables because they're packed with nutrients. Good news: They're low GI too!

Drawbacks to a Low GI Diet

The low GI diet tends to paint with a broad brush. On the whole, making changes like switching from white to whole grains or including more vegetables in your diet are certainly positive. On the other hand, adhering too closely to the glycemic index can cause problems. For example, parsnips have a higher GI value (52) than vanilla cake (42). So you'll want to use a little common sense when you apply it to your own diet. To get you started, though, here are two low GI recipes that you can't go wrong with.

Monk's Bowl

Monk's Bowl
 

Monk's Bowls consists of layers of fresh greens and grains draped in a flavorful soup, and topped with anything seasonal from chopped avocado to dried cranberries.

See the full recipe here.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad
 

This quinoa salad recipe gets its zest from the salad dressing, which is made out of lemons and limes, olive oil, and dijon mustard.

See the full recipe here.