The Glycemic Index and Diabetes

The glycemic index measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises the sugar in your blood.

The glycemic index and diabetes

The glycemic index measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises the sugar in your blood. A food with a high glycemic index raises your blood sugar more than a food with a medium or low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods include legumes (dried beans and peas), fruit and whole-grain breads and cereals. High glycemic index foods include white bread, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, shortgrain white rice, Russet potatoes, pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers, melons and pineapple. Avoiding spikes in blood sugar by watching the carbohydrates you eat is important to help you manage your diabetes, but relying solely on the glycemic index to keep your blood sugar in check isn’t a good idea.

While you can look up the glycemic index of a certain food, most people don’t eat just one food at a time. For example, a potato may have a high glycemic index when it’s baked, but if it’s eaten in a casserole with green beans, meat or other food its glycemic index is much lower. How a food is cooked or processed can also change its glycemic index. Rolled or steel-cut oatmeal has a low glycemic index, but instant oatmeal has a high glycemic index. The glycemic index is probably best used for snacks, since these foods are often eaten by themselves.

The best way to keep your blood sugar in check is to use the glycemic index as a guide in choosing healthy carbohydrates but not to rely on it for choosing all the foods you eat. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, for example, are healthy because of the nutrients they contain, not their glycemic index. Just because a food has a high glycemic index doesn’t mean it’s not good for you. For instance, fruits tend to have a higher glycemic index, but they’re still good for you and make great snacks. And don’t forget to watch your portions—just because a food has a low glycemic index doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you like.

The best way to manage your diabetes is with a meal plan that’s tailored to your personal preferences and lifestyle and helps achieve goals for blood sugar, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight management.

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