For diabetics and pre-diabetics, maintaining a stable and consistent blood sugar level is important to managing their disease.  The glycemic index is an easy way to learn how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index(GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100 according to to the amount in which they raise the blood sugar levels after eating.  Foods with a high glycemic index are quickly digested and absorbed.  As a result, these high GI foods raise the blood sugar sharply and create large fluctuations in the blood glucous levels.


On the other hand, a food that has a low glycemic index is digested and absorbed at a slower rate and creates a consistent and longer lasting blood sugar level.  These foods are often referred to as complex carbohydrates and they keep you feeling fuller longer.

According to the University of Sydney, foods that have a low glycemic index score have been proven to improve both blood sugar and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and 2).  They have also have been found to help reduce insulin resistance.

Low Glycemic Index foods (55 or less):

  • 100% stone wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
  • Pasta, rice, barley, and bulgar
  • Sweet potatoes, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes, and lentils
  • Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots
  • Nuts, such as peanuts and cashews

Medium Glycemic Index Foods (55 – 69):

  • Whole wheat, rye or pita bread
  • Quick oats
  • Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous

High Glycemic Index Foods (70 or more):

  • White bread or bagel
  • Corn flakes, puffed rice, brand flakes, instant oatmeal
  • Short grain rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
  • Russet potato, pumpkin
  • Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers
  • Melons and pineapple

Note: Meats and fats do not have a glycemic index because they do not contain carbohydrates.

There are a few ways to balance out high glycemic foods.  The first is to pair it with a lower glycemic food to balance each other.  Another is to limit the amount of severely cooked or processed foods.  For example, eat a baked potato instead of mashed potatoes.  Lastly, substitute low GI foods into your favorite meals, like a long-grain white rice instead of a short-grain.

Curious or unsure about a food’s glycemic index score? Check out the international database here