Glycemic Index: What Is It, Why Is It Important, And More

You might have seen the glycemic index mentioned on several food items. But have you ever thought about what the GI value of a food item indicates?

A glycemic index is a measurement tool widely preferred for blood sugar management. Every food item has some glycemic value that may vary depending on several factors.

But, having brief knowledge of the glycemic index allows you to eat a healthy diet and prevent yourself from several severe health conditions.

Hence, this article will briefly discuss the glycemic index to help you eat healthily.

The glycemic index (GI) could be defined as the value or measurement system determining a food item’s effect on blood sugar levels.

Generally, the glycemic index of food ranges between 0-100, in which 0 means no sugar and 100 means pure glucose. 

The glycemic index has been differentiated into three ranges, i.e., low, medium, and high. 

  • Low GI: 55 or Less
  • Medium GI: 56-69
  • High GI: 70 or Above 


Here, the low GI of food means the food may not cause serious changes in blood sugar levels. Higher GI values indicate more fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

How Glycemic Index Is Calculated?

The glycemic index of a food is calculated by observing the change in blood glucose levels after ingesting the food.

Here, healthcare specialists check the blood sugar values after eating with the baseline values to determine the glycemic index of that particular food. 

But, the glycemic index may vary for two different food items containing the same amount of carbohydrates.

Generally, the human body responds differently to different things; hence, variation is observed.

Factors Affecting Glycemic Index

  • Starch

    Food’s Glycemic index may be affected by the type of starch content. Generally, starch is a carbohydrate that contains amylose and amylopectin.

    Among the two, amylose is about 20-30% starch molecules, and the rest is amylopectin. Here, food containing amylose gets low GI as amylose absorbs less water.

    Thus, lack of water makes the molecule form tight lumps resulting in slow ingestion.

    On the other hand, food containing amylopectin, like gluttonous rice, gets high GI. Amylopectin absorbs excess water resulting in a higher rate of digestion.

  • Viscosity Of Fiber

    Fiber viscosity plays a significant role in determining a food’s glycemic index. The fiber’s viscosity makes the food in the intestine into a gel-like or gooey substance.

    Thus, the gel-like or thick consistency of the food slows the enzymatic activity and digestion process. 

    Hence, food with highly viscous fiber gets a low glycemic index as a slow rate of digestion lowers the rate of increase in blood glucose levels.

    On the other hand, food items like cereals, wheat bread, etc., get a high glycemic index due to their low viscosity.

  • Fat And Protein Content

    Food fat and protein content could be used to determine the glycemic index. Food items with higher healthy fat and protein content may help slow gastric emptying.

    Gastric emptying is a digestion process in which the food exits the stomach and enters the small intestine, i.e., the duodenum. 

    Slow gastric emptying results in slow absorption of food matter; hence, the body’s blood sugar level gets reduced.

  • Sugar Content

    Sugar content or adding sugar to a food item may lower the glycemic index.

    It is believed that sugar may compete with starch to get liquid for gelatinization, which would slow down digestion.

    Thus, sugar-coated food items get a lower glycemic index than the general form. But, the sugar coating should be low to avoid a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. 

    Additionally, the type of sugar also plays a significant role in a food item’s glycemic index. Fructose and maltose have a considerable difference in their glycemic index.

  • Processed Foods

    Processed foods have a greater glycemic index than unprocessed food items. Processing foods like grinding, rolling, etc., breaks the amylose and amylopectin molecules.

    Thus, processing makes the food easily digestible, releasing higher glucose into the blood, and increasing the glycemic index.

  • Cooking

    Cooking any food item significantly increases the glycemic index. Preparation and cooking of food swell and soften the starch content making them easily digestible.

    Thus, the cooking duration impacts the glycemic index, i.e., long-term cooking fastens the digestion and absorption of the food, increasing the glycemic index.

Benefits Of Low Glycemic Diet

A low glycemic diet is a healthy diet that people should consider to lead a healthy life.

Generally, a low glycemic diet could be prepared by replacing food items having high GI with low GI.

Hence, opting for such a diet plan offers the following benefits,

  • May Improve Blood Sugar Regulation

    People consuming a low-glycemic diet may comfortably regulate their blood sugar levels.

    Generally, low-GI food consumption slowly digests and releases sugar into the blood, keeping the blood sugar level under control.

    Thus, such a diet could benefit people suffering from type-2 diabetes.

  • May Boost Weight Loss

    People consuming easily digestible and high-GI food items in their diet may feel hungry frequently.

    Thus, they may end up overeating calories, disturbing their daily calorie intake. Here, a low glycemic diet may help keep you full for longer and suppress your untimely hunger.

    Besides, low-glycemic food has a high protein content that may contribute to an individual’s weight loss.

    But, such a diet promotes short-term weight loss; long-term weight management requires additional research.

  • May Reduce Risk Of Cancer

    It is believed that following a high-glycemic diet could potentially cause certain cancers, including colorectal, endometrial, and breast cancer. Thus, a low-glycemic diet could be a safe option to avoid such severe conditions.

  • May Reduce Cholesterol Levels

    A low glycemic diet could be beneficial in managing blood cholesterol levels.

    It is believed that low-glycemic foods have a fair impact on reducing total and LDL cholesterol concentration.

    Moreover, consuming low-glycemic food with dietary fiber-rich food may enhance the benefit.

  • May Reduce Heart Risks

    People consuming easily digestible high-glycemic index food may increase the risk of developing heart problems like attacks, strokes, etc.

    Thus, lowering the high GI and increasing the low GI food intake may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Why Foods With High Glycemic Index Bad For Health?

Generally, food with a high glycemic index is easy to digest and a treat to taste buds. But, they aren’t an excellent choice regarding an individual’s health. 

Higher glycemic indicates faster digestion of carbohydrates in the food. Thus, the body experiences a massive boost in blood sugar levels resulting in increased insulin release by the pancreas.

Further, the increased blood sugar level drops instantly, causing an immediate imbalance. Such an imbalance leads to increased hunger and overeating, which may cause several health conditions. 

People eating high glycemic index food regularly may experience weight gain, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Thus, you should avoid frequent high-GI food consumption to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

Conclusion

Generally, food with a high glycemic index is easy to digest and a treat to taste buds. But, they aren’t an excellent choice regarding an individual’s health. 

Higher glycemic indicates faster digestion of carbohydrates in the food. Thus, the body experiences a massive boost in blood sugar levels resulting in increased insulin release by the pancreas.

Further, the increased blood sugar level drops instantly, causing an immediate imbalance. Such an imbalance leads to increased hunger and overeating, which may cause several health conditions. 

People eating high glycemic index food regularly may experience weight gain, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Thus, you should avoid frequent high-GI food consumption to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.