Understanding the Glycemic Index and the Benefit of Low Glycemic Foods

By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD

What is the glycemic index (GI)? The glycemic index ranks foods according to their effect on your blood-sugar levels. Foods that are high on the GI (more than 70) — such as white bread or white potatoes — break down quickly in the bloodstream, rapidly raising blood-sugar levels. With high glycemic meals, you find that soon after you’re done eating, you’re hungry again — and tired!

On the other hand, foods farther down the GI (lower than 55) are metabolized more slowly, keeping your hunger satisfied and your appetite on a more even keel. In other words, low glycemic foods are better at providing a slow energy release throughout the day. There are experts who believe that by avoiding blood-sugar surges, you can help prevent many dangerous health conditions.

The goal is to eat foods that gradually raise blood sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream, thereby keeping your energy levels up and your hunger under control. More importantly, choosing low glycemic foods helps your body lose those extra pounds around your waist and decreases your risk factors for inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease.

What are the benefits of low glycemic meals?

  • Help with weight loss, especially around the waist
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Reduce the risk for heart disease
  • Improve blood cholesterol levels
  • Decrease inflammation inside the body
  • Reduce hunger and keep you satisfied longer
  • Maintain energy levels and promote physical endurance

Why is knowing more about glycemic index important?

Becoming familiar with the glycemic response of foods will help you make smarter choices. The goal is not to eliminate carbohydrates and breads from your daily diet. Your goal should be to include more nutrient-rich choices, such as whole grains and colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding these types of foods into your diet will promote health and are linked with higher energy levels, better sleep patterns, and happier moods.