It’s no secret that when you’re diagnosed with diabetes, knowing what to eat and what’s healthy for your body becomes much more difficult. One relationship you have to understand is the glycemic index and diabetes; knowing where a food stands on the glycemic index is key to staying healthy as a diabetic. (See Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods Here.)
What Is the Glycemic Index?
Sugar is also known as glucose, and it is the body’s main source of energy for most of your daily activities. The glycemic index guide provides important numerical values to help determine how quickly a food can raise your blood sugar levels.
Diabetics cannot properly use or produce the hormone insulin, which controls blood glucose levels. As a result, a person with diabetes will have dangerous blood sugar swings. Blood sugar can drop too low, and lead to hypoglycemia symptoms like confusion, dizziness, or palpitations; a person could even fall into a coma. When blood sugar jumps too high, hyperglycemia may result, which puts your body at greater risk for infection.
The glycemic index food list is essential to help prevent and manage the highs and lows of diabetes.
A diabetic should consume mainly a low-glycemic index (GI) diet, which includes foods with a glycemic index of 55 or less. These foods raise blood sugar levels slowly, and control insulin resistance and diabetes complications. The low-GI diet will also improve cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease and certain cancers, and help you lose some weight.
What are some low-GI foods? Your low-glycemic foods for treating diabetes would include 100% stone-ground whole wheat breads and pastas, cooked barley, quinoa, white beans, cooked chickpeas, green lentils, raw carrots, and most fruits and non-starchy vegetables like plums, apples, broccoli, tomatoes, and cabbage.
Medium-GI foods are valued between 56 and 69, and can be included in a GI diet with moderation. Some medium-GI foods include oats, couscous, raisins, bananas, long-grain white rice, and rye, buckwheat, or pita breads.
You should avoid high-GI foods most often, but they can be combined with low-GI foods to help balance your meal. Any food with a value of 70 or greater is on the high-glycemic foods list. White foods will often have a high GI, and may include processed foods with white flour and white sugar. Even gluten-free breads will spike your blood sugar.
Potatoes, cooked carrots, corn, rice cakes, watermelon, sweetened cereals, soda, chocolate bars, beer, and basmati, wild, or brown rice will also quickly increase your blood sugar levels.
What Is Glycemic Load?
The glycemic load takes carbohydrates to the next level. The glycemic index considers the speed that carbohydrates turn into blood sugar, but the glycemic load (GL) addresses the amount of carbohydrates per serving of a food. High-GL foods will increase blood sugar and impact insulin levels.
How do you determine the GL of a food? Simply multiply the amount of carbohydrates within a specific serving size of a food by that food’s glycemic index and divide this number by 100.
In general, a low glycemic load is 10 or less, a medium GL is 11 to 19, and a high GL is considered 20 or above.
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods: Cheat Sheet for Diabetes
What are the glycemic index and glycemic load of your favorite foods? Below is a glycemic index and glycemic load chart for the 100-plus most popular foods. Keep this chart bookmarked in your browser for easy reference.
|Food Group||Food||Glycemic Index||Serving Size||Glycemic Load Per Serving|
|Vegetables||Spinach||0||30g (1 cup)||0.0|
|Mushrooms||0||70g (1 cup)||0.0|
|Green Beans||0||135g (1 cup)||0.0|
|Cauliflower||0||100g (1 cup)||0.0|
|Celery, raw||0||62g (1 stalk)||0.0|
|Cabbage, cooked||0||75g (1/2 cup)||0.0|
|Broccoli, cooked||0||78g (1/2 cup)||0.0|
|Frozen Peas||48||72g (1/2 cup)||3.4|
|Yams||51||136g (1 cup)||16.8|
|Sweet Potatoes||54||133g (1 cup)||12.4|
|Yellow Corn||55||166g (1 cup)||61.5|
|Parsnips||97||78g (1/2 cup)||11.6|
|Beets, canned||64||246g (1/2 cup)||9.6|
|Fruits||Sweet Cherries, raw||22||117g (1 cup)||3.7|
|Plum||24||66g (1 fruit)||1.7|
|Grapefruit||25||123g (1/2 fruit)||2.8|
|Prunes||29||132g (1 cup)||34.2|
|Dried Apricots||32||130g (1 cup)||23.0|
|Apple, with skin||39||138g (medium)||6.2|
|Strawberries||40||152g (1 cup)||3.6|
|Grapes||43||92g (1 cup)||6.5|
|Pears, canned||44||248g (1 cup)||12.3|
|Orange||48||140g (1 fruit)||7.2|
|Mangos||51||165g (1 cup)||12.8|
|Peaches, canned||52||251g (1 cup)||17.7|
|Fruit Cocktail||55||214g (1 cup)||19.8|
|Kiwi, with skin||58||76g (1 fruit)||5.2|
|Papayas||60||140g (1 cup)||6.6|
|Raisins||64||43g (small box)||20.5|
|Apricots, canned||64||253g (1 cup)||24.3|
|Cantaloupe||65||177g (1 cup)||7.8|
|Pineapple||66||155g (1 cup)||11.9|
|Watermelon||72||152g (1 cup)||7.2|
|Legumes||Peanuts||13||146g (1 cup)||1.6|
|Soy Beans||20||172 (1 cup)||1.4|
|Kidney Beans||27||256g (1 cup)||7.0|
|Lentils||29||198g (1 cup)||7.0|
|Chickpeas, boiled||31||240g (1 cup)||11.3|
|Pinto Beans||39||171g (1 cup)||11.7|
|Lima Beans||31||241g (1 cup)||7.4|
|Baked Beans||48||254g (1 cup)||18.2|
|Dairy||Ice Cream||38||72g (1/2 cup)||6.0|
|Low-Fat Ice Cream||47||76g (1/2 cup)||9.4|
|Whole Milk||40||244g (1 cup)||4.4|
|Plain Yogurt||36||245g (1 cup)||6.1|
|Beverages||Tomato Juice||38||243g (1 cup)||3.4|
|Apple Juice||41||248g (1 cup)||11.9|
|Soy Milk||44||245g (1 cup)||4.0|
|Grapefruit Juice||48||250g (1 cup)||13.4|
|Orange Juice||57||249g (1 cup)||14.25|
|Cola||63||370g (12 oz.)||25.2|
|Hot Chocolate||51||28g (1 packet)||11.7|
|Cranberry Juice||68||253g (1 cup)||24.5|
|Gatorade||78||16g (3/4 scoop)||11.7|
|Candy/Sweets||Peanut M&Ms||33||30g (1 ounce)||5.6|
|Strawberry Jam||51||2 tablespoons||10.1|
|Jelly Beans||78||1 ounce||22|
|Snickers Bar||68||60g (1/2 bar)||23.0|
|Table Sugar||68||2 tablespoons||7.0|
|Grains||Quinoa||53||150g (1 cup)||13.0|
|White Rice||89||150g (1 cup)||43.0|
|Brown Rice||50||150g (1 cup)||16.0|
|Bulgur||48||150g (1 cup)||12.0|
|Couscous||65||150g (1 cup)||9.0|
|Pearled Barley||28||150g (1 cup)||12.0|
|Cereals||Oatmeal||55||250g (1 cup)||13.0|
|Muesli||66||30g (1 cup)||16.0|
|Bran Cereal||55||30g (1 cup)||12.0|
|Puffed Wheat||80||30g (1 cup)||17.0|
|Cheerios||74||30g (1 cup)||13.3|
|Rice Krispies||82||33g (1.25 cup)||23.0|
|Baked Goods||Graham Cracker||74||14g (1 squares)||8.1|
|Kaiser Roll||73||57g (1 roll)||21.2|
|Bagel||72||89g (1/4 in.)||33.0|
|Glazed donut||76||75g (large)||24.3|
|White Bread||70||25g (1 slice)||8.4|
|Wheat Bread||70||28g (1 slice)||7.7|
|Banana cake (made with sugar)||47||60g||14|
|Banana cake (made without sugar)||55||60g||12|
|Sponge cake (plain)||46||63g||17|
|Pita bread, white||68||30g||10|
|Popcorn||55||8g (1 cup)||2.8|
Factors Affecting the GI of a Food
There are certain factors that affect the GI of a food. For instance, fiber and fat will likely lower the glycemic index of foods. Meat and protein may not be high in fiber, but they also have a low GI. And while fat may not raise your blood sugar, it is still important to consume healthy fats from foods like extra virgin olive oil, seeds, nuts, and wild fish.
It is best to concentrate on nutrient-dense, high-fiber foods, which will slowly increase blood sugar levels. The riper a vegetable or fruit is, the higher its GI. Also, the more processed the food, the greater the glycemic index of that food. For example, juice has a greater GI than a piece of fruit. Cooking methods will also influence the GI of a food; for instance, cooked carrots have a high GI, while raw carrots have a low GI.
The variety of a food is also important for the glycemic index of foods. Brown rice has a low GI, and wild and white rice have a higher GI.
What else should you consider with GI foods? The GI value indicates the type of carbohydrate in foods, but portion sizes are also important to manage your weight and blood sugar levels.
Other General GL and GI Diet Guidelines
Even healthy people can benefit from low-GI and low-GL foods. These foods can also help reduce your risk of heart disease, decrease inflammation in your body, and assist you in maintaining a healthy weight.
Diabetics should also limit their consumption of processed and refined foods, including processed pantry foods and dairy products, even though they are low-GI foods.
Finally, people with diabetes should also eat every two or three hours. An example of a good blood sugar–balancing meal would be one-eighth protein, one-eighth starch, three-quarters low-GL vegetables, and one tablespoon of good fats or oils, such as olive, grape seed, or avocado oil.
Being Diagnosed with Diabetes
The story of carbohydrates is not simple or complex. Just ask my friend Mark. He was called into his doctor’s office last week. He was told he has type 2 diabetes and that he should see a dietician for advice on the appropriate foods to eat.
Needless to say, Mark is overwhelmed. After all, he has been eating whatever he wanted for years. To change now is definitely going to be hard for him.
In the past, many nutrition experts have told him the importance of eating more complex carbohydrates and moderate simple carbohydrates. Heeding this advice, Mark drastically reduced his consumption of simple carbohydrates like soft drinks, candies, and other sugary products, and has piled his plate with greater amounts of complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, pasta, and potatoes.
However, now that Mark is diabetic, simple and complex carbohydrates both can potentially spike his blood sugar (or glucose) levels. This is where understanding the glycemic index and diabetes comes into play.