Written by Rachael Link, MS, RD on June 2, 2020 — Medically reviewed by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, Nutrition

The glycemic index is a tool that’s often used khổng lồ promote better blood sugar management.

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Several factors influence the glycemic index of a food, including its nutrient composition, cooking method, ripeness, & the amount of processing it has undergone.

The glycemic index can not only help increase your awareness of what you’re putting on your plate but also enhance weight loss, decrease your blood sugar levels, và reduce your cholesterol.

This article takes a closer look at the glycemic index, including what it is, how it can affect your health, và how to lớn use it.

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What is the glycemic index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a value used lớn measure how much specific foods increase blood sugar levels.

Foods are classified as low, medium, or high glycemic foods and ranked on a scale of 0–100.

The lower the GI of a specific food, the less it may affect your blood sugar levels (1).

Here are the three GI ratings:

Low: 55 or lessMedium: 56–69High: 70 or above

Foods high in refined carbs and sugar are digested more quickly và often have a high GI, while foods high in protein, fat, or fiber typically have a low GI. Foods that contain no carbs are not assigned a GI and include meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils.

Other factors that affect the GI of a food include the ripeness, cooking method, type of sugar it contains, and amount of processing it has undergone (2).

Keep in mind that the glycemic index is different from the glycemic load (GL).

Unlike the GI, which doesn’t take into trương mục the amount of food eaten, the GL factors in the number of carbs in a serving of a food to determine how it may affect blood sugar levels (1).

For this reason, it’s important to lớn take both the glycemic index & glycemic load into consideration when selecting foods to help support healthy blood sugar levels (1).


The glycemic index is used to measure how much a specific food increases your blood sugar levels. The higher the GI, the greater the effect on blood sugar levels.

The low glycemic diet involves swapping out foods with a high GI for those with a lower GI.

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Following a low glycemic diet may offer several health benefits, including:

How lớn follow

A healthy, low glycemic diet should comprise mostly low GI foods, such as:

Fruits: apples, berries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruitNon-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach, tomatoesWhole grains: quinoa, couscous, barley, buckwheat, farro, oatsLegumes: lentils, đen beans, chickpeas, kidney beans

Foods without a GI value or with a very low GI can also be enjoyed as part of a balanced low glycemic diet. They include:

Meat: beef, bison, lamb, porkSeafood: tuna, salmon, shrimp, mackerel, anchovies, sardinesPoultry: chicken, turkey, duck, gooseOils: olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oilNuts: almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pistachiosSeeds: chia seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, flax seedsHerbs & spices: turmeric, black pepper, cumin, dill, basil, rosemary, cinnamon

Although no foods are strictly off-limits on the diet, foods with a high GI should be limited.

Foods with a high GI include:

Bread: white bread, bagels, naan, pita breadRice: white rice, jasmine rice, arborio riceCereals: instant oats, breakfast cerealsPasta and noodles: lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli, macaroni, fettuccineStarchy vegetables: mashed potatoes, potatoes, french friesBaked goods: cake, doughnuts, cookies, croissants, muffinsSnacks: chocolate, crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, pretzelsSugar-sweetened beverages: soda, fruit juice, sports drinks

Ideally, try lớn replace these foods with foods that have a lower GI whenever possible.


Following a low glycemic diet involves swapping out foods that have a high GI with low GI alternatives. A low glycemic diet may help manage blood sugar levels, reduce your cholesterol, & boost short-term weight loss.

Determining the GI of foods that you often eat can be useful if you’re following a low glycemic diet.

Here are the GI values for a few ingredients (10, 11):


Apples: 36Strawberries: 41Dates: 42Oranges: 43Banana: 51Mango: 51Blueberries: 53Pineapple: 59Watermelon: 76


Carrots (boiled): 39Plantains (boiled): 66Sweet potatoes (boiled): 63Pumpkin (boiled): 74Potatoes (boiled): 78


Barley: 28Quinoa: 53Rolled oats: 55Couscous: 65Popcorn: 65Brown rice: 68White rice: 73Whole wheat bread: 74White bread: 75


Soybeans: 16Kidney beans: 24Chickpeas: 28Lentils: 32

Dairy products and dairy alternatives

Soymilk: 34Skim milk: 37Whole milk: 39Ice cream: 51Rice milk: 86


Fructose: 15Coconut sugar: 54Maple syrup: 54Honey: 61Table sugar: 65summary

Knowing where your favorite foods fall on the glycemic index can make it much easier to follow a low glycemic diet.

For certain foods, the cooking method used can affect the glycemic index.

For example, fried foods tend khổng lồ contain a high amount of fat, which can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and decrease the GI (12, 13).

Meanwhile, roasting và baking can break down resistant starch — a type of starch that resists digestion & is commonly found in foods lượt thích legumes, potatoes, & oats — thus increasing the GI (12, 14).

Conversely, boiling is thought khổng lồ help retain more of the resistant starch and lead lớn a lower GI, compared with other cooking methods (12).

The longer you cook foods lượt thích pasta or rice, the greater the digestibility of their starch content, & thus the higher their GI. As such, it’s best to lớn only cook these foods until they reach an al dente texture, meaning that they’re still firm when biting into them (15, 16).

In addition khổng lồ the cooking method used, the degree of ripeness may also affect the GI of some fruits, including bananas. This is because the amount of resistant starch decreases during the ripening process, leading to lớn a higher GI (17).

For example, bananas that are fully ripened have a GI of 51, whereas under-ripe bananas have a GI of just 30 (11).

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The degree of ripeness, as well as the way that certain foods are cooked and prepared, can affect the GI of the final product.