Diabetes 101: Glycemic Index

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How is it going with you these days? Hope all is good.

For my Friday posts, I generally try to pick simple topics or try to simplify complex ones. Topics that help us in staying aware and in making better decisions with our health, nutrition and fitness. If there is something that you want me to write on, do let me know on Instagram DM.


A few days back, I have been asked to write more on diabetes and I think it’s a great idea for us to know more about diabetes, pre-diabetes and related terms. Why is it such a good idea?

Did you know that India, unfortunately is also called as ‘Diabetes Capital’ of the world!

Yes, India or Indians are on the top when it comes to diabetes! And the current exponential rise in these cases are mostly lifestyle related which includes our eating patterns. So, please let’s not blame it on our genes and rather look into re-evaluating our diet and lifestyle. Our parents probably did not pass it on to us but we can definitely pass it on to our next generation.

For today, it is about Glycemic Index or GI. Many of us probably have heard about this term. It is an important term when we are trying to manage diabetes or even prediabetes. Let’s understand it better today.

What is GI or Glycemic Index?

GI is basically a scale on which we can measure foods in terms of how fast they raise our blood-sugar levels. Or how fast our body can covert the carbs in food into glucose. An international GI database is maintained by Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Services in Sydney, Australia. 

Ideally, sudden and large spikes in blood sugar levels should be avoided. How? This tool called ”Glycemic Index” could help us in managing prediabetes or diabetes very easily.

If used properly, this tool can be of immense help while making better dietary choices. It can also:

  • Be used as a weight management tool
  • Be used to plan/have healthier meals
  • Be an important part of diabetes-management
  • Be used in Cholesterol management

However, if you are a diabetic, it is always a good idea to check with your diabetes-specialist doctor or nutritionist before you start making huge changes in your diet. With this disclaimer in place, let’s move on to the different categories of GI values:

  • 1-55: Low GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed slowly in our body e.g. green leafy veggies, lentils, chickpeas, beans, raw carrot etc
  • 56-69: Medium GI value e.g. sweet corn, bananas, multigrain bread etc
  • 70 and higher: High GI value – mostly foods that get absorbed in our body quickly e.g. white rice, white bead, potatoes etc

A more detailed GI value table is easily available on internet if we google it. We can search here also:


Drawbacks of GI Table           

However, there is a slight catch;

  1. GI values do not tell us anything about nutritional values of a food and just because something is of low GI value, doesn’t automatically make it the healthier option for everyone
  2. It doesn’t take into account the portion sizes as well. And portion-size does matter…a lot!
  3. The GI value of a certain food can change due to a few factors such as
    • Method of cooking – how you cook, how long you cook etc
    • Food combinations
    • Ripeness e.g. bananas
    • Processing

As a nutritionist, I worry more about Nutritional Value (a regular ice-cream has a GI of 65 and watermelon 72, which do you think is a healthier choice? ) and at most, Glycemic Load of a particular food. This allows for more flexibility when it comes to eating a variety of foods, even those with high GI values. Glycemic Load takes into account the portion-size of the food as well and this is why we find that if the portion size is controlled or right combinations are made, foods with high GI values can be enjoyed too!

It is a great idea to make healthier food choices based on GI values especially for diabetes-management however let us not use the concept in isolation and completely restrict nutrition-dense foods. GI values are carbohydrates-derived but other nutritional factors such calories, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber are equally important. Well, not to say that carbs are not important because they certainly are.

I hope this post today made the Glycemic Index simpler for you and gave you the bigger picture. Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace