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Use glycemic index to help control blood sugar

P.J. Skerrett, Managing Editor, Harvard Health

A diabetic should know Glycemic index (GI). Even if you aren’t, know about GI as low glycemic index diets have been linked to reduced risks for cancer, heart disease, and other conditions. Glycemic index rates carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they boost blood sugar (blood glucose).

Carbohydrates are the main nutrient in bread, pasta, cereals, beans, vegetables, and dairy foods. All carbs are made up of sugar molecules. carbohydrate-containing food affects blood sugar depending on its sugar content and on how quickly the digestive system breaks the food into sugar molecules. The glycemic index measures how well a food boosts blood sugar compared to pure glucose. A food with a glycemic index of 30 boosts blood sugar only 30% as much as pure glucose.

GI and Health benefit


If you are diabetic, pay attention.

You can’t rely on the glycemic index alone for choosing a healthy diet. Some foods, like carrot and watermelon, have a high glycemic index, but a serving contains so little carbohydrate that the effect on blood sugar is small.

The glycemic index of a particular food can also be influenced by what it is eaten with.

There are three categories of carbohydrate-containing foods:

· Low glycemic index (GI of 55 or less): Most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, oats, pasta, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts.

· Moderate glycemic index (GI 56 to 69): White and sweet potatoes, corn, white rice, couscous, breakfast cereals such as Cream of Wheat and Mini Wheats.

· High glycemic index (GI of 70 or higher): White bread, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, cakes, doughnuts, croissants, waffles, most packaged breakfast cereals.

Swaps High GI to lower GI food

Instead of this high glycemic index food Eat this lower glycemic index food
White rice Brown rice or converted rice
Cornflakes Bran flakes
Baked potato Pasta
White bread Whole-grain bread
Corn Peas or leafy greens
Fruit roll-up Whole fruit


The complete list of the glycemic index and glycemic load for more than 1,000 foods can be found in the article "International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008" by Fiona S. Atkinson, Kaye Foster-Powell, and Jennie C. Brand-Miller in the December 2008 issue of Diabetes Care, Vol. 31, number 12, pages 2281-2283.

Author: TxNaturalPediatrics

By training, I am a American Board Certified Pediatrician. But in my younger years I grew up with natural alternatives. As a mom I have tried to incorporate both for my kids and it has worked wonders. And finally, as I am studying natural & alternative medicines, I realize the beauty and wisdom of living closer to earth. Hence in my practice I integrate both...for acute ailments I follow American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation but for simple and/or chronic conditions I prefer natural alternatives. In western training we were raised to think that "health is the absence of symptoms and problems". But eastern sensibilities has educated me that "Health is state that allows one to use the full capabilities of their body, mind and intellect. Therefore, healthy living is a balanced state of well being: physically, mentally, socially and spiritually." This implies that healing is not a "one-pill-fits-all", but a personalized experience.

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