What Is Glycemic Index & List Of Foods With Their GI

Plan your diet wisely and say 'no' to foods that increase blood sugar levels rapidly.

Medically reviewed by Kristen Arnold, RDN, CSSD Kristen Arnold Kristen ArnoldRDN, CSSD facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Swathi Handoo MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health linkedin_icon Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition Aparna Mallampalli BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition linkedin_icon Experience: 5 years
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Glycemic index (GI) is a value given to foods depending on how quickly or slowly they increase blood glucose levels. Foods with lower GI digest slowly and do not increase blood glucose levels rapidly, which is not the case with high-GI foods.

Wondering why your diet plan is not yielding desirable results? Well, chances are that you have not made the best food choices. Knowing all about GI helps you determine which foods suit your diet and which do not.

In this article, we have classified foods based on GI (low, medium, or high) and discussed which foods are ideal for you. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Glycemic Index?

Glycemix index - concept
Image: Shutterstock

The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they increase blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Glucose is given a value of 100. If the test food is assigned a value below 100, that food is expected to impact your blood sugar lesser than glucose. If the test food is assigned a value over 100, that food is expected to impact your blood sugar more than glucose.

Low GI foods tend to aid weight loss while high glycemic index foods help with energy recovery after exercise or offset hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels) (1).

But, hold on! How does that even make sense? Is it just another fancy number game?

Absolutely not!

Why Should Glycemic Index Matter?

It would matter because foods having a low glycemic index (GI) tend to release blood glucose slowly and steadily. Foods having high glycemic index release blood glucose rapidly.

The glycemic index classification of foods is used as a tool to assess prevention and treatment for diseases. Especially those where glycemic control is of importance – like diabetes. Glycemic management is important for people with diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can lead to complications.

Low GI diets improve the serum lipid profile, reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations, and aid weight control.

Such foods are also associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Including them in your diet can decrease the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease (2).

Alright, if it is so important, how do we know the glycemic value of the foods we eat every day?

Worry not! In the following sections, we have listed groups of ingredients that have low and high glycemic indices.

Keep this in mind while looking at the charts:

High GI: Food is assigned a value of 70 or higher.
Medium GI: Food is assigned a value of 56-69.
Low GI: Food is assigned a value of 55 or less.

Now, take a close look at the groups below and see which ones can you include in your regimen (3).

Note: The GI values of a few items are in terms of average ± standard error of mean (SEM.)

In This Article

  1. Fruits And Fruit Products
  2. Vegetables
  3. High-Carbohydrate Foods
  4. Breakfast Cereals
  5. Dairy Products
  6. Legumes
  7. Snacks

1. Fruits And Fruit Products

Close up of fresh fruits
Image: Shutterstock
ProductGI
Grapefruit25
Apple, raw36 ± 2
Pear, raw38
Apple juice41 ± 2
Dates, raw42 ± 4
Orange, raw43 ± 3
Peaches, canned43 ± 5
Strawberry jam/jelly49 ± 3
Orange juice50 ± 2
Banana, raw51 ± 3
Mango, raw51 ± 5
Grapes, raw59
Pineapple, raw59 ± 8
Raisins64
Watermelon, raw76 ± 4

2. Vegetables

Close up of fresh vegetables
Image: Shutterstock
VegetableGI
Carrots, boiled39 ± 4
Vegetable soup48 ± 5
Green peas51
Parsnips52
Taro, boiled53 ± 2
Plantain/green banana55 ± 6
Potato, french fries63 ± 5
Sweet potato, boiled63 ± 6
Pumpkin, boiled64 ± 7
Potato, boiled78 ± 4
Instant mashed potato87 ± 3

3. High-Carbohydrate Foods

ProductGI
Barley28 ± 2
Fettucine32
Corn tortilla46 ± 4
Spaghetti, wholemeal48 ± 5
Spaghetti, white49 ± 2
Chapati52 ± 4
Sweet corn52 ± 5
Specialty grain bread53 ± 2
Rice noodles53 ± 7
Oatmeal55
Udon noodles55 ± 7
Couscous65 ± 4
Quick-cooking Basmati rice, white67
Brown rice, boiled68 ± 4
White rice, boiled73 ± 4
Whole wheat/wholemeal bread74 ± 2
White wheat bread75 ± 2

4. Breakfast Cereals

Various breakfast cereals
Image: Shutterstock
CerealGI
Quinoa53
Porridge, rolled oats55 ± 2
Muesli57 ± 2
Millet porridge67 ± 5
Wheat flake biscuits69 ± 2
Rice porridge/congee78 ± 9
Cornflakes81 ± 6

5. Dairy Products

ProductGI
Soy milk34 ± 4
Milk, skim37 ± 4
Milk, full fat39 ± 3
Yogurt, fruit41 ± 2
Ice cream51 ± 3
Rice milk86 ± 7


protip_icon Quick Tip
Milk products have a lower GI because they have higher fat and protein content. Similarly, ice cream has a low GI because it contains a lot of fat.

6. Legumes

Different kinds of legumes
Image: Shutterstock
FoodGI
Peanuts7
Soya beans16 ± 1
Kidney beans24 ± 4
Cashews, salted27
Chickpeas28 ± 9
Black beans30
Lentils32 ± 5
Black-eye peas33
Baked beans40

7. Snacks

FoodGI
M-&-M peanuts33
Chocolate40 ± 3
Corn chips, plain, salted42
Potato chips51
Soft drink/soda59 ± 3
Popcorn65 ± 5
Pretzels, baked83
Rice crackers/crisps87 ± 2

Isn’t that a long enough list to set an entire week’s glycemic diet plan?

I already have a few recipes with the low and medium GI foods in my mind. I’m sure you would have some as well!

Before you rush to your kitchen with those creative recipes, take a step back and think.

How Is Glycemic Index Calculated?

GI is a relative measure. It is usually expressed relative to glucose (control food).

Typically, healthy volunteers are given a test food that provides 50 grams (g) of carbohydrate. On a different day, a control food (white, wheat bread or pure glucose) that provides the same amount of carbohydrate is given.

Blood samples for the determination of glucose concentrations are taken prior to eating, and at regular intervals for a few hours after eating. The changes in blood glucose concentration over time are plotted as a curve.

The GI is calculated as the incremental area under the glucose curve (iAUC) after the test food is eaten, divided by the corresponding iAUC after the control food (pure glucose) is consumed.

Simply put, this is the formula used:

GI=iAUCtestfoodx 100
iAUCglucose

What Is Glycemic Load?

The glycemic load (GL) is a measure that takes into account the planned portion size of a food item as well as its glycemic index.

For those interested, here’s some math:

GLFood=GIFoodxamount (g) of available carbohydrateFood per serving
100
protip_icon Quick Tip
Watermelon may have a high GI, but a serving contains so few carbohydrates that it has a glycemic load of only 5. This is because glycemic load takes into account the portion too.

What’s My Take?

Glycemic index is an easy and simple way of analyzing what goes into your body or is a measure to analyze the extent of change in blood glucose in your body(glycemic response). It can also help you choose healthier alternatives for your daily meals. By choosing foods with a lower glycemic index, individuals can help support healthy metabolism and blood sugar regulation.

Understanding the glycemic impact of the foods you eat may help you maintain good health and maintain a stable glycemic variability, which refers to the oscillation of blood glucose of a person throughout the day.

GI values can vary depending on the ripeness of the food, the degree of processing, and the cooking method.

Moreover, a lower GI value does not necessarily mean the food is a better choice. For example, a chocolate candy bar and a cup of brown rice may both have a GI of 55, but the overall nutritional value is very different.

Glycemic index is often consumed with glycemic load. Both the metrics are different. Learn more about them below.

Glycemic Index Vs. Glycemic Load

Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are metrics that help assess the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Glycemic index measures how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food increases blood glucose levels compared to a reference food (like glucose or bread). Foods with a high GI lead to a rapid spike in blood sugar levels that is not healthy in the long run.

Glycemic load, on the other hand, considers both the quality and quantity of carbohydrates in a serving of food (4). It provides an accurate picture of how a specific portion of food affects blood sugar levels. GL considers the GI and the total carbohydrate content in a typical serving, and offers a more practical approach.

Infographic: Glycemic Index Of Common Foods

The glycemic index plays a vital role when choosing the proper diet for your body or treating certain health conditions. If you want to keep your blood sugar levels in check, eating low-GI foods can help. High-GI foods can help boost energy levels, while medium-GI foods aid in body maintenance. Scroll down to find out the GI of some common food items.

glycemic index of common foods (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

The glycemic index (GI) of a specific food can be calculated based on how slow or fast it spikes blood glucose levels. This is important for individuals with diabetes or those who are at risk for developing diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance and other health complications. Maintaining a healthy glycemic balance or glycemic stability and glycemic regulation is key to prevent these conditions. Low GI diets can further slow down the glycemic effect of a meal and may aid in weight management, improve serum lipid profile, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Understanding the glycemic level of the foods we eat can help us make healthier choices and maintain glycemic balance for optimal health. While fruits and vegetables like apples, grapefruits, pears, carrots, and green peas have low GI values, watermelon, boiled potato, and instant mashed potato have high GI values. That said, foods with a lower GI value may not always be recommended if they have a poor nutritional value. Hence, always check the nutritional profile of foods before consuming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is peanut butter low glycemic?

Yes. Both peanuts and peanut butter have a low glycemic index and raise blood sugar levels slowly after meals.

Is cheese low GI?

Yes. Cheese has a low glycemic index, and its consumption does not result in blood sugar spikes.

Is papaya low glycemic?

No, papaya has a GI index of 60, which means it is a medium or moderate GI food that tends to be on the lower GI side.

Why are foods such as meat and butter not on the glycemic index?

Meats are largely made up of proteins and fats while butter is a high-fat food. Since GI is a measure of how rapidly carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar levels, these two ingredients are usually absent from this system.

How can I incorporate low glycemic index foods into my diet and meal planning?

You can look up low glycemic index foods present in your area, grocery store, or farmer’s market and then plan out meals and search for recipes that feature them. Choose whole organic foods over processed ones and ensure your meals are nutrient-dense and balanced.

Key Takeaways

  • The glycemic index determines how various foods impact blood sugar levels.
  • Increase the intake of low glycemic index foods in your diet, as consumption of those won’t spike blood sugar levels.
  • Avoid food that spikes blood sugar levels, such as cakes and bread.
  • Foods with low GI may aid in weight loss.
glycemic index

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn about the best low glycemic index foods for those with diabetes. Discover which foods are best for controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy diet in the video below. Watch it now!

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Glycemic index for 60+ foods” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
  2. The glycemic index: physiological significance” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, US National Library of Nutrition.
  3. International Tables of Glycemic Index…” Diabetes Care, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. The concept of low glycemic index and glycemic load foods…” , African Health Sciences, US National Library Of Medicine.
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Kristen Arnold

Kristen ArnoldMS, RDN, CSSD

Kristen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a board-certified specialist in Sports Dietetics with 9 years of experience. She also has a Master’s in Human Nutrition from The Ohio State University. She owns a private practice nutrition counseling business focusing on performance nutrition for athletes. Kristen is also a coach for bicycle racers with Source Endurance where she coaches entry-level...read full bio

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