Carbs and the Glycemic Index

What is the Glycemic Index? (And a handy chart to help make choices once you know)

The glycemic index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested, absorbed and metabolized and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) levels. Low GI carbohydrates – the ones that produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels – is one of the secrets to long-term health, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also one of the keys to maintaining weight loss. Here is the evidence.

For diabetes: All of the evidence based recommendations for the management of diabetes from the major diabetes organizations around the world (the American Diabetes Association; Canadian Diabetes Association and Diabetes UK for example) now advise people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to use the GI or GL as part of the nutritional management of their condition.

For gestational diabetes: In their recently released guidelines, Initiative on gestational diabetes mellitus: A pragmatic guide for diagnosis, management, and care, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have recently recommended a focus on lower GI foods. “Low GI diets are associated with less frequent insulin use and lower birth weight than in control diets, suggesting that it is the most appropriate dietary intervention to be prescribed to patients with GDM,” they say.

For cholesterol: An analysis of 28 randomised controlled trials provided high-level evidence that high-fiber, low GI diets can significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, independent of weight loss.

For weight maintenance: The Diogenes study found that a moderately high protein, low GI diet is the best for longer-term weight management. 

Basically, low-carb/no-carb diets are bad for you. The body primarily relies on carbs for energy. When people cut carbs from their diets they tend to feel sluggish and more tired than other people. Also, it begins forcing the body to find other ways to fill its energy needs. This is why when carbs are reintroduced into the system, the body doesn't know how to use them and weight gain occurs.

There are good carbs, and bad carbs. A good rule of thumb is if something is heavy in sugar or is a basic carb is breaks down quickly, and unless the body needs it for energy right away it will be stored as fat. Complex carbs take longer to break down into sugars for energy, take more energy to convert into energy, and have a better chance to be used by the body before the need to store them as fat occurs. A typical diet should have roughly 40-45% of its calories come from carbs. Stay low on the glycemic index and focus on complex carbs like whole grains.

Here's a handy chart to help. Foods with a GI of 55 or less are considered low on the index and the safer choices (this doesn't mean you can eat Snickers all day.) These are just a sampling of some common foods. Remember a proper diet is as important as exercise to achieve the body you want and overall health. Feel free to share, like me on, and reach out with any questions or leave a comment below. And as always, Together, WEvolve.


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