The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks food depending on the rate at which the food is converted to glucose (sugar) in our body. As the glucose produced at the end of the digestion is absorbed in the blood, different foods raise the level of blood glucose (blood sugar) to variable extent.
It is therefore important for people with diabetes to avoid ‘high glycemic index foods’ and choose ‘low glycemic index foods’ to keep their blood sugar under control.
What does low and high glycemic index mean?
High GI foods are those that are quickly broken down into glucose. Typical examples of high GI foods include-
- Table sugar / cane sugar
- White bread
- Sweetened drinks
- Refined flours
- Jams, jelly
- Dry fruits (Dried figs, dates, raisins, apricots etc.)
High GI foods break down very quickly causing blood glucose levels to rise sharply. People with diabetes refer to sharp rises in blood sugar levels as ‘spikes’ in blood sugar.
Furthermore, for those who produce their own insulin, high GI foods can force the body to try to produce a surge of insulin to counteract the quick acting carbohydrates and a common consequence of this is a feeling of hunger within 2 to 3 hours, which can leave the dieter craving more food.
For people with diabetes, this can be particularly dangerous as the ability of the body to control blood glucose levels is reduced or non-existent. For this reason, people with diabetes have to be careful when it comes to eating high GI foods.
Low GI foods are those that are broken down more slowly by the body. Typical examples of low GI foods include-
- Whole grains (Whole wheat flour, brown rice, ragi, jowar, bajra etc.)
- Milk and milk products (curds, cheese, paneer)
- Leafy vegetables
- Nuts and oilseeds (Walnuts, almonds, peanuts and other oilseeds etc.)
- Soy products (Unsweetened soy milk, tofu etc.)
As low GI foods tend to break down more slowly, they are less likely to cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels compared to high GI foods and therefore they are a better option for keeping stable blood glucose levels.
Favouring low GI foods over high GI foods leaves you feeling more satisfied over a longer period of time, and less likely to feel hungry before the next meal. Hence the consumption of low GI foods also helps in weight loss.
Many people with diabetes are overweight or obese. Consuming low glycemic index foods can help manage both these conditions!