Controlling your weight simply: all about the glycemic index of common foods

The glycemic index (sometimes called the glycemic index) is a unit of measurement that is increasingly used in nutrition and especially when dieting. The problem is that many people do not really understand what it is and above all do not know how to interpret these values. We take stock to help you see more clearly and allow you to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Sugar, the “big bad” of weight gain

Fats are burned faster than sugars (carbohydrates). These can turn into fat and have a strong tendency to accumulate in the body, more so than fat. More and more nutritionists and doctors therefore believe that the main culprit of the global obesity epidemic is sugars (soda, white bread, sweets, etc.) and less so fats, as has long been thought.

Knowing the glycemic index of a food, that is to say the actual amount of sugar in relation to its impact on the body, is therefore important to avoid gaining weight.

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a unit of measurement expressed as a percentage that shows how much the sugar content found in a food increases the level of glucose in the blood (glycaemia). Simply put, the GI measures how quickly the sugar in a food reaches the bloodstream after it is ingested.

The importance of blood sugar

In addition to weight loss, glycemic control is essential in diabetic patients but also in athletes. As a general rule, blood sugar should not change too suddenly, that is, not rise or fall too quickly. Hyperglycemia can be a sign of diabetes or pre-diabetes and eventually lead to serious complications.

On the contrary, in the case of hypoglycaemia a serious risk exists at the level of the organs, these may lack the energy to perform all their functions. Fainting can be a symptom of hypoglycemia.

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According to the International Diabetes Federation, fasting blood glucose should be less than 100mg of glucose per dL of blood, then after a meal, less than 145mg/dL of glucose. But in no case the blood sugar should be lower than 80mg/dL, because below this value the person is in hypoglycemia.

On the contrary, values ​​higher than fasting or after eating may indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. This is why, in many situations, knowing the GI of foods will allow you to make wise choices in your diet, in order to avoid a sudden rise or fall in blood sugar.

The glycemic index of foods, long live the fibers

Foods contain different amounts of sugar in their composition. In addition, depending on the type of food, the speed at which sugar enters the bloodstream can vary greatly. In particular, it is known that foods with a high fiber content have a lower glycemic index, ie sugar enters the bloodstream more slowly and thus increases blood sugar levels less quickly.

The scale for measuring the glycemic index is expressed as a percentage, with a reference to 100% or 100 points for white bread or glucose. For example, if a food has a glycemic index of 25 (%), it has only 25% ability to raise blood sugar levels compared to white bread. Note that the GI can exceed 100%, as in beer.

Foods can be classified into 3 categories according to their GI:

  • Low glycemic index: less than or equal to 55%
  • Moderate glycemic index: between 56 and 69%
  • High glycemic index: greater than 70%
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In addition to the sugar level, various factors influence the glycemic index of a food. The fiber content, the fat and protein content, as well as the degree of ripening of the fruit or vegetable are some of the elements that appear in the complex equation of the glycemic index.

We can summarize the main factors of this equation:

  • Degree of ripeness: in general, the riper the fruit, the higher the glycemic index. Just think of a ripe banana, it tastes sweeter than the same less ripe fruit.
  • Food processes: the more a food is transformed by food processes, generally industrial, the higher the glycemic index will be. This is why whole foods generally have a lower GI.
  • Cuisine and type of cooking: During the cooking process, sugars become easier to digest, which helps to increase the GI of foods.

For example, a raw vegetable or fruit generally has a lower GI than if it is cooked.

  • Biological and genetic factors of each individual: in addition to all the factors associated with food, the digestive capacity also counts for the measurement of the GI.

Some people metabolize sugars more easily than others, causing blood sugar to rise faster. On the contrary, some people digest more slowly and lower blood sugar, which reduces the GI of foods. In this case, the GI of foods should be weighted for each individual, which is not easy to implement. You should also know that sugary drinks naturally have a higher glycemic index, because absorption is faster in the intestine.

Glycemic index of certain foods

To adopt a healthy and balanced diet, it is important to know the GI of certain foods. The following list is not intended to be exhaustive, but gives you a brief overview of foods that are often consumed.

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Low glycemic index:

  • Almond: 21
  • Soy: 23
  • Carrot: 35
  • Milk: 46
  • Apple: 52
  • Pear: 54
  • Moderate glycemic index
  • Pizza: 60
  • Orange: 62
  • Rice: 68
  • Cooked beans: 69

High glycemic index

  • Honey: 73
  • Orange juice: 74,
  • Sweet potato: 77
  • Oats: 78
  • Mango: 80
  • White rice: 81
  • Banana: 83
  • Ice: 84
  • Cookies (general): 90
  • White bread: 100
  • Glucose: 100

Important note on the GI

Many people mistakenly think that a healthy diet should be based only on foods with a low GI. Nevertheless, the ingestion of foods with a high or moderate glycemic index is also important, especially during main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

These foods with a high GI prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too much, possibly leading to hypoglycemia. It is therefore especially important to avoid foods with a high GI between meals. A nutritionist can give you more personalized advice on the GI of each food according to your metabolism.

Finally, note that foods with a moderate or high GI rich in fiber (eg rice, beans, sweet potato) give a feeling of satiety and reduce appetite between the three main meals of the day. We can never repeat it enough, eat foods rich in fiber.


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