Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


What's the Glycemic Index?


There's a lot of lingo thrown at you when you have diabetes. Here we've collected the must-know terms and translated them into plain language.

Glycemic Index 

(gly-SEE-mik) (IN-deks)

What it means: The glycemic index is a numerical scale of 0 to 100 that indicates the impact a given carb-containing food or beverage will have on blood glucose. The lower the GI, the slower the rise in blood glucose levels. 

What it means to you: While the total carbohydrate amount in a food is important to know and can help you plan your meals, the GI is an additional tool to help you make smart choices and avoid after-meal blood glucose spikes. High-GI foods (≥70) have carbs that are rapidly digested and therefore send glucose into the bloodstream quickly, resulting in a spike in blood glucose. Low-GI foods (≤55) digest more slowly and therefore cause a gentler rise in blood glucose levels. 

Take a baked potato, for example: It has a GI of 98, which is why you might have heard you should limit how much potato you eat. Pinto beans, on the other hand, have a GI of 14 and, like other beans, are generally considered “safe” for your blood glucose. Foods that are high in soluble fiber tend to have lower GI values, while foods that are highly processed and contain little fiber have higher GI values. Not all low-GI foods are the most healthful choice for people with diabetes (for example, whole milk has a lower GI than skim milk, but isn’t recommended), so GI is just one indicator to lean on when making food choices. One of the largest online databases of GI values is maintained by the University of Sydney, a major GI research center.

Published on February 23, 2015.

— Compiled by Paula Ford-Martin, MA. Paula is the author of The Everything Guide to Managing Type 2 Diabetes. 

Reviewed by Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE on January 17, 2015.
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