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The Glycaemic Index (GI) can help people with diabetes decide the type and quantity of foods to eat to manage their condition. To put it simply, GI is a measure of how quickly the food ingested raises blood glucose levels after eating. The glycaemic response of a food is affected by the type and amount of carbohydrate consumed.

The GI ranks the carbohydrates contained in food on a scale from 0 to 100. Foods with a high GI are more easily absorbed and digested and tend to raise blood glucose levels faster. Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly and have a lower impact on blood glucose levels.

Typically (but not always), foods containing simple sugars and higher amounts of processed ingredients have a high GI, and foods rich in fiber, protein, and fats have a low GI.

  • Foods with a GI of less than 55 are considered low GI foods. These include fibrous fruits and vegetables, whole beans and legumes, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Foods with a GI between 56 and 69 are considered moderate GI foods. These include starchy foods like potato, sweet potato, white rice, corn/maize and couscous.
  • Foods with a GI higher than 70 are considered high GI foods. These include cakes, confectionery, white bread, doughnuts, etc

The GI system also reveals the nutrient density of foods that are consumed. High GI foods cause glucose molecules to rush through the bloodstream, making it harder for the body to manage them. It is therefore recommended to:

  • Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts
  • Eat fewer starchy vegetables and foods
  • Include as many fresh and colorful vegetables in your regular diet
  • Avoid processed and sugary foods such as cookies, sweets, etc.

The glycaemic response of a meal can be controlled by limiting consumption of high GI foods and/or consuming foods that are naturally low in GI. Factors that can impact the GI of a meal include the way it is prepared, the different ingredients included and their ripeness.

The glycaemic response of a meal can be controlled by limiting consumption of high GI foods and/or consuming foods that are naturally low in GI

Potential benefits of consuming low GI foods in people with diabetes

For people living with diabetes, foods that fall into the low to moderate GI categories are recommended for the following reasons:

Tips :

  • If consuming a high GI food, make sure to balance the meal by combining several low GI foods with it. For example, you can enjoy a potato salad with plenty of fresh greens and low GI vegetables to balance the overall GI of the meal.
  • Raw foods tend to have a lower GI than ripe ones. For example, a raw banana has a lower GI than a ripe one.
  • Control the portion size of meals by intentionally consuming less carbohydrates. For example, if you are tempted to eat a doughnut, take only a small bite or a quarter.
  • Consume as many fresh or unprocessed foods as possible. Enjoy freshly prepared meals instead of foods that are refined and high in preservatives.
  • Overcooking can often increase the GI of a food. For example, al-dente pasta has a lower GI than pasta that is well-done or overcooked.
  • Fibrous foods tend to have a lower GI. Including salads in at least two meals and vegetables in all three major meals is beneficial. You could also swap white rice with brown rice, white bread with wholegrain bread, and regular pasta with wholegrain pasta.


Ligia Lugo runs The Daring Kitchen blog where she shares her healthy recipes. Her hobby is experimenting with different cuisines and travel.

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  • rajesh

    October 28, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    A very informative article, Congratulations