Today: Jul 09 , 2020

What is Glycemic Index and Why Does It Matter?

08 May 2016   Christy Foote | Core Nutrition Coach
Avoiding Sugar Highs and Lows

Chances are, if you are not diabetic, you probably aren’t familiar with the glycemic index (GI) of foods. Should you be concerned with the glycemic index of foods? Yes, and here is why. If you aren’t aware of which foods spike your blood sugar the quickest, you may be giving yourself unnecessary energy highs and lows along with unwanted weight gain.

The Glycemic Index Scale

While researching GI (Glycemic Index), I found my eyelids getting heavy. So, I will do my best to make this entertaining and get to the point. Glycemic Index is a system that ranks foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on their effect on your blood-sugar levels. The lower the score, the less spike in blood sugar. The lower the spike equals the lower roller coaster effect on energy level and moods.

Sugar Highs and Lows

I am sure you have experienced the high effect of sugar after eating a tasty s’more or watching a child after eating one. If only that rush feeling lasted, right? Maybe when when we get to heaven, but not on this earth. When we eat something with a high GI, our bodies are overwhelmed trying to remove the sugar from the blood stream and when they are done, picture our little sugar destroying gobblers flat out exhausted. That is why you feel “low” after they are done purging sugar.

Let’s focus on which foods won’t trigger the sugar purging munchers in our bodies. Fats and proteins don’t because there are no carbohydrates in fats and proteins. No one ever said they got a rush feeling after eating a nice steak, right!?!? Carbohydrates are what the make your body’s sugar munchers come alive and give us blood sugar spikes.

Not all carbohydrates are equal on the spiking scale. Do you feel hyper after eating an apple like you do after eating a piece of cake? No, one reason is because it takes longer for the apple to turn into sugar than it does a piece of cake. A high GI (Glycemic Index) is considered 70 or more. Medium GI is 56-69 and low is 55 or less.

Assuming that you don’t carry a Glycemic Index sheet with you while grocery shopping, here is a basic list of foods from American Diabetes Association. Now you will have in the back of your mind which foods will keep you away from sugar spikes.

Low GI Foods (55 or less)

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

Medium GI (56-69)

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

High GI (70 or more)

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

So, if you are trying to lose weight and/or manage your energy level throughout the day, choose to eat foods with lower glycemic index. And of course protein and healthy fat to slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates.

Cherries, Sweet Potatoes, Oatmeal

What does that look like? Choose cherries instead of watermelon or pineapple. Instead of a white russet potato, have a sweet potato. Want oatmeal? Just make sure it’s not instant. These small choices you make throughout each day will make an overall difference in your blood sugar staying level. Those little sugar munching friends inside you will get a break and won’t use up all your energy! And just think, you will feel more energetic!

For more ways to lose weight, gain energy and endurance, go to:

About Christy Foote, Core Nutrition Coach:

Christy is a Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the ISSA (International Sports Science Association), she specializing in helping busy women attain their nutrition goals.


American Diabetes Association, Glycemic Index and Diabetes (May 2014) , retrieved from: