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The Glycemic Index: Choosing Carbs Wisely

Posted by Billy Kanter, CPED on Jun 12, 2024 12:00:00 PM
Billy Kanter, CPED
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In the world of healthy eating, the glycemic index (GI) gets thrown around a lot. But what exactly is it, and how can it help you make informed choices about the carbohydrates you consume? This blog post will break down the GI, its limitations, and how to use it effectively for a balanced diet.
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What is the Glycemic Index?

The GI is a ranking system that assigns a value to carbohydrate-containing foods based on their impact on blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is the reference point, with a GI of 100. Foods are then categorized as:

  • Low GI (55 or below): These foods cause a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. Examples include lentils, beans, most fruits (except very ripe ones), and some vegetables.
  • Medium GI (56-69): These foods cause a moderate rise in blood sugar. Examples include whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
  • High GI (70 or above): These foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Examples include white bread, white rice, sugary drinks, and pastries.

Why Does GI Matter?

Blood sugar spikes followed by crashes can wreak havoc on your energy levels, mood, and overall health. Following a diet rich in low-GI foods can help with:

  • Maintaining stable blood sugar: This is especially important for people with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Improved weight management: Low-GI foods tend to be more filling and keep you feeling satisfied for longer, reducing cravings.
  • Enhanced energy levels: Avoiding blood sugar crashes prevents those afternoon slumps and keeps your energy consistent.

Limitations of the GI

While the GI is a valuable tool, it's important to consider these limitations:

  • Doesn't account for portion size: A small portion of a high-GI food might have less impact than a large portion of a low-GI food.
  • Food combinations: Pairing a high-GI food with protein, fiber, or healthy fats can slow down its absorption and reduce its GI impact.
  • Individual variability: How your body responds to different foods can vary.

Using the GI Effectively

Here are some tips to leverage the GI for a balanced diet:

  • Focus on incorporating more low-GI options: Prioritize whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and most fruits.
  • Pair high-GI foods with protein or healthy fats: This helps slow down sugar absorption.
  • Consider the overall glycemic load: This takes into account both the GI and portion size.
  • Experiment and track your response: Notice how different foods affect your blood sugar and energy levels.

The Bottom Line

The GI is a helpful tool to understand how carbohydrates affect your blood sugar. Use it as a guide to make informed choices, but remember, it's not the only factor to consider. Focus on a balanced diet that incorporates a variety of healthy carbohydrates alongside protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Speak with a registered dietitian for personalized advice tailored to your specific needs and health goals.


Topics: Anodyne Blog, Patient, Lifestyle

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