What is glycemic index — and why is it important for diabetics

glycemic index

Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how a certain carbohydrate-rich food item can affect a person’s blood glucose levels. Foods with high glycemic index make blood sugar levels faster, while low GI foods are considered healthy for diabetics.  By understanding the glycemic index of foods, diabetics especially can plan their blood sugar management better. Also, multiple factors affect the glycemic index of a food including its nutrient composition, cooking method, as well as the processes it has undergone.

The glycemic index is not only useful in helping you become more aware of the food you put on your plate, but it can also accelerate your weight loss journey, lower blood sugar levels, and even curb your cholesterol. Let us delve deeper into the everything about glycemic index.

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement tool to know how different food items can increase the sugar level in your body. If the GI of any food item is higher, it is easily digested and can increase the sugar levels immediately, says internal medicine specialist Dr Farah Ingale.

Foods are generally categorised as low, medium, or high glycemic foods and are ranked on a scale of 0-100.

Everything you need to know about glycemic index!

What glycemic index is good for diabetes?

For diabetic patients, a Low GI index is recommended.

• Low GI: 1 to 55
• Medium GI: 56 to 69
• High GI: 70 and higher

What foods have a low glycemic index?

Low GI index is in the following food items:

• Fruits: apples, pears, plums, oranges, lemons
• Vegetables: cauliflower, green peas, carrots, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes
• Whole grains: buckwheat, rice bran, quinoa, amaranth
• Legumes: lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans
• Meat: lamb, pork, beef, chicken
• Seafood: tuna, salmon, shrimp, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
• Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, goose
• Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil
• Nuts: almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts
• Herbs and spices: turmeric, black pepper, cumin, dill, basil, rosemary, cinnamon

Benefits of low glycemic diet

Consuming a low GI diet means that you are swapping foods with a high GI for those with a lower GI. Some of the benefits of a low GI diet include:

1. Improves blood sugar regulation

As per the Nutrients journal, a low GI diet may help lower blood sugar levels and can help enhance blood sugar management in people suffering from type 2 diabetes.

2. Improved weight loss

As per research, adhering to a low GI diet may improve your short-term weight loss goals. However, there is more evidence required to verify its effect on long-term weight management.

3. Could be beneficial for people with fatty liver

A low GI diet could aid in reducing liver fat and liver enzyme levels in people suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

glycemic index
A low GI diet may help people with fatty liver. Image courtesy: Freepik

What foods are high in glycemic index?

Foods with a high GI include:

• Packed food: white bread, cakes, cookies, muffins, flatbread, Pie, Pizza, doughnut
• Rice: white rice, arborio rice, sushi rice, Koshihikari rice
• Cereals: instant oats, breakfast cereals
• Starchy vegetables: mashed potatoes, potatoes, french fries
• Snacks: chocolate, crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, pretzels
• Beverages: soda, fruit juice, sports drinks

What is the glycemic index test for diabetes?

A glycemic index is a test used to diagnose diabetes mellitus. It evaluates and measures how carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body. The blood sample is taken usually in 2 blood draws, one before ingestion of the glucose solution and one two hours after. The GI test is also used to screen for gestational diabetes and in this case, three blood draws are taken for investigation – one before food, one hour after food followed by two hours after the food, says the expert.

Glycemic Index v/s Glycemic Load

The GI assesses carbohydrates according to how quickly they raise the glucose level of the blood. The glycemic load (GL) rates carbohydrates according to the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrates in the food.

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