This system, known as
the glycemic index, measures how fast and how far blood sugar rises after you
eat a food that contains carbohydrates.
This system for classifying carbohydrates calls into question many of the old
assumptions about how carbohydrates affect health. White bread, for example, is digested almost immediately to glucose, causing
blood sugar to spike rapidly. So white bread is classified as having a high
glycemic index, brown rice, in contrast, is digested more slowly, causing a
lower and more gentle change in blood sugar. It has a lower glycemic index.
Glycemic index is a number. It gives you an idea about how fast your body converts the carbs in a food into glucose. Two foods with the same amount of carbohydrates can have different glycemic index numbers.
The smaller the number, the less impact the food has on your blood sugar.
35 or less = Low (good)
36 - 50 = Medium
55 or higher = High (bad)
Look for the glycemic index on the labels of packaged foods. You can also find glycemic index lists for common foods on the Internet. Harvard University has one with more than 100. Or ask your dietitian or nutrition counselor.
Foods that are close to how they're found in nature tend to have a lower glycemic index than refined and processed foods.
* These foods, even though they have high GIs, their pure sugar content (pure glucid) is quite low (approximately 5%.) Consuming these foods should not significantly affect blood sugar levels.
** There is practically no difference in the GIs of whole-milk products and non-fat milk products. It is important to keep in mind that milk products, even if their GI is low, have a high insulinic index.
Why Is GI Important?
Over the past 15 years, low-GI diets have been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, depression, chronic kidney disease, formation of gall stones, neural tube defects, formation of uterine fibroids, and cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, and pancreas.
Excerpts from WebMD
Some foods can make your blood sugar shoot up very fast. That's because carbohydrates like refined sugars and bread are easier for your body to change into glucose, the sugar your body uses for energy, than more slowly digested carbs like those in vegetables and whole grains. Eat a lot of those easy carbohydrates and you'll have a hard time controlling your blood sugar, even with insulin and diabetes medications.
The glycemic index gives you a way to tell slower-acting "good carbs" from the faster "bad carbs." You can use it to fine-tune your carb-counting and help keep your blood sugar more steady.
That number is a starting point on paper. It could be different on your plate, depending on several things.
Preparation. Fat, fiber, and acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) lower the glycemic index. The longer you cook starches like pasta, the higher their glycemic index will be.
Ripeness. The glycemic index of fruits like bananas goes up as they ripen.
Other foods eaten at the same time. Bring down the overall glycemic index of a meal by combining a high-glycemic index food with foods that have lower ones.
Your age, how active you are, and how fast you digest food also affect how your body reacts to carbs. If you have a diabetes complication called gastroparesis, which delays your stomach from emptying, your body will absorb food much more slowly.
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