Things You Need to Know About Glycemic Index

The Glycemic index was discovered and designed by a nutrition professor out of the University of Toronto. He took subjects into the lab in order to see how high certain carbohydrates raised blood sugar. This was a turning point in how diabetics could eat.

Carbohydrates were once thought to be “all bad” to diabetics and nutrition took a hit as they missed out on certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It turns out, not all carbs are “all bad” and there are actually good carbs, somewhat good carbs, and bad carbs. This was discovered by giving the subject certain carbs and checking their blood sugar levels after a certain amount of time. One amazing fact is that it was found fattier or higher fiber carbs spiked blood sugar less, than what were thought to be “low-carbohydrate” foods. The subjects actually had lower blood sugar after a bowl of chocolate ice cream, than after eating a slice of bread.

How Glycemic Index Works

What they found in the lab is that table sugar or pure glucose was the highest number out of all the foods. They gave that a 100 on the index. Then, they compared many other carbohydrate foods to how high they raised the blood sugar.

They gave the subjects a variety of other foods one at a time, then checked the blood sugar within a specified time frame. Carbohydrates without adequate fiber or protein tended to “spike” blood sugars and others that were higher in protein and fiber burned more slowly in the body. On the glycemic index, the higher the number on the scale, the more the blood sugar tends to spike after eating it. The lower the number, the less the blood sugar tends to rise.

According to these numbers, three groups were assigned. Foods with- low-glycemic, moderate-glycemic, or high-glycemic. Diabetics can enjoy foods from any of these groups, just by practicing portion control. If the food is low on the index, you can have bigger portions. If it is high, eat less of that food. Here is an example of the groups:

  • Low Glycemic Foods – 55 or lower (larger portions okay)
  • Moderate Glycemic Foods – 56 to 69 (eat less of these)
  • High Glycemic Foods – 70 or higher (eat sparingly)

Now, here are some of the foods and how they measure up on the glycemic index. They are organized by group and serving size to get you started. It is always best to try and eat below 70 if possible, and if you want to indulge just be sensible about it.

Low Glycemic Foods (55 or lower) Glycemic Number
Fruits (1 cup or 1 Medium)
Apples 40
Apricots 31
Cherries 22
Grapefruit 25
Strawberries 40
Orange 42
Beans and Legumes (1 Cup)
Butter Beans 31
Kidney Beans 28
Lentils 26
Peanuts 13
Peas 22
Soy Beans 15
Split Peas 32
Vegetables (1 Cup)
Asparagus 8
Broccoli 6
Cabbage 6
Carrots 47
Corn 54
Spinach 6
Tomatoes 6
Cereal (1 Cup)
Bran 50
Oatmeal, Regular 55
Drinks (8 oz.)
Apple Juice 39
Carrot Juice 43
Orange Juice 46
Tomato Juice 23
Lemonade 54
Breads and Grains (1 Cup or 1 Slice)
Rye Bread 50
Pearl Barley 25
Quinoa 53
Uncle Ben’s Instant White Rice 38
Corn Tortilla 52
Wheat Tortilla 30
Whole Grain Spaghetti 42
Snacks and Miscellaneous
Low-Fat Yogurt 33
Corn Chips 42
M & M’s (Peanut) 33
Popcorn 55
Hummus 6
Banana Cake 47
Moderate Glycemic Foods (56 to 69)
Fruits (½ Cup or 1 Medium)
Grapes 59
Watermelon 72
Raisins 64
Dried Dates 103
Vegetables (½ Cup)
Sweet Potato 61
Beets 64
Cereal (¾ Cup)
Fruit and Fiber 61
Muesli 56
Drinks (8 oz.)
Cranberry Juice 56
Fruit Punch 67
Pepsi 58
Breads and Grains (½ Cup or 1 Slice)
Bagel, Whole Grain 69
Baguette, Whole grain (Small, thin) 57
Oat Bread 65
Hamburger Bun 61
Whole Wheat Bread 69
Pita Bread 68
Snacks and Miscellaneous
Shortbread 64
Ice Cream 62
Macaroni and Cheese 64
Potato Chips 56
High Glycemic Foods (70 or higher)
Fruits (¼ Cup or 1 Small)
Dried Dates 103
Watermelon 72
Vegetables (¼ Cup)
Baked Potato, Russet 85
Broad Beans 79
French Fries 75
Mashed Potatoes 85
Parsnips 97
Pumpkin 75
Red Potatoes, Boiled 89
Cereal (½ Cup)
Coco Puffs 80
Corn Flakes 77
Fruity Pebbles 113
Grape Nuts 75
Oatmeal, Instant 79
Drinks (8 oz.)
Rice Milk 92
Gatorade, Regular Full Sugar 89
Breads and Grains (¼ Cup or 1 Slice)
Gluten Free Bread, Multigrain 79
Rice Bread 72
Baguette, White (Large) 95
Bagel, White 72
White Bread 75
Kaiser Roll 73
White Rice 73
Snacks and Miscellaneous
Waffles, White Flour 76
Graham Crackers 74
Rice Cakes 82
Soda Crackers 74
Fruit Rolls 99
Pretzels 83

Tips For Success

The glycemic index can help you manage your blood sugars and maintain a healthy diet packed with nutrients. You just need to use it carefully. Here are some tips to help you be successful:

  • The “Glycemic Load” of foods is lowered by including proteins and fiber with your carbs. Some carbs contain them, and if not eat something on the side. Try peanut butter or cheese with crackers to help “slow the burn.”
  • The higher on the scale, the smaller portion you can eat.
  • The longer your fruits and vegetables ripen, the more the fiber breaks down. This makes the GI number rise. Try to eat fruits and vegetables fresh and crisp.
  • The more you cook or process a low or moderate GI food, the higher the number gets. For example, baked or even mashed russet potatoes can be high on the scale. Learn to eat things like, baked sweet potatoes, al dente pasta, or mashed cauliflower.
  • You can “mix and match” your GI foods. Eat a small portion of a high GI food and a larger portion of a low GI food in the same meal.
  • Try not to avoid foods that have important nutrients if they are high on the GI index. You will miss out on things your body needs. For instance, oatmeal may have a higher number, but is an excellent grain source. Oatmeal is bulky and digests more slowly. Just stick to a reasonable portion size.

The glycemic index can be pretty easy to use, and your whole family can enjoy the same meals you make. No special diet, no cooking special meals, and buy whatever you normally buy at the store!

Source: American Diabetes Association.


Photo of author

Staff Writer at

Leave a Comment