What is Glycemic Index?

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Glycemic index is a ranking of foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels.

The carbohydrates that break down fast right after its ingestion has the highest glycemic index. That means your blood sugar will spike high rapidly after eating high glycemic index foods. Example of such food is white bread. White bread is converted into blood sugar almost immediately after consuming it.

On the other hand carbohydrates that break down slowly after their consumption, gets converted into blood sugar gradually and are known to be low glycemic index foods. Example of this is brown rice. This is digested slowly thus causing a lower and gradual change in blood sugar level.

What factors in the food determine its glycemic index?

  • Highly processed foods :

    Highly processed foods loose their fiber rich outer bran and vitamins and mineralsrich inner germ. This leaves it with endosperm which is rich in starch. Such highly processed carbohydrates are high in glycemic index.

  • Fiber content : fiber is a protective layer on starchy carbohydrates, making it less susceptible to immediate sugar release.
  • Ripeness :

    Ripe fruits and vegetables are richer in sugar than unripe ones.

  • Type of starch :

    Starches have different types of configuration. Some are easily broken down into sugars than others.

  • Fat and acid contents :

    A food high in fat or acid content is slower in releasing its sugar in blood stream.

  • Physical form

    Coarsely ground grains are less rapidly digested than finely ground grains. Therefore finely ground grains are high in their glycemic index.
    What is Glycemic Index?

What are health benefits of applying glycemic index knowledge to our food intake?

  • Foods high in glycemic index are more likely to:
    1. Increase risk of diabetes.
    2. Increase risk of heart disease.
    3. Cause obesity.
  • Foods low in glycemic index:
    1. Improves insulin sensitivity.
    2. Reduces insulin resistance.
    3. Reduces fat storage aiding weight loss.

Glycemic index does not tell us about the relative amount of carbohydrates present in a given food.