ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Your Guide to Understanding the Glycemic Index

Updated on August 29, 2011

The Glycemic Index

Science has long suspected that not all carbohydrates are created equally. With the inception of the glycemic index, science is now able to quantify that inequality. The glycemic index measures how much and how quickly carbohydrate-based foods raise the blood glucose (blood sugar) level. But a food's glycemic index number is only part of the story; to thoroughly understand the impact a particular food will have on your blood glucose level, you also need to know the glycemic load.

The glycemic index measures a particular food's effects on blood sugar levels against glucose or white bread's effects. Once that relationship is determined, the food is assigned a glycemic index number.

The glycemic load of a particular food is based upon the grams of carbohydrate in a portion of that food and its glycemic index. Glycemic index and glycemic load were developed together to describe the quality and quantity in a meal or diet of its carbohydrates.


Video: What Is the Glycemic Index?

What Is the Importance of the Glycemic Index?

You might consider the information about the glycemic index to be all well and good for people with diabetes, but you're not one of them, so why should you be concerned? If you are overweight or obese, there is a good chance that you have developed insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, along with increased weight makes you an excellent candidate to develop type 2 diabetes--the chronic disease that is effecting more and more people who adhere to the standard Western diet. Beginning to moderate your eating habits by making informed decisions about the food you eat is the first step to taking control of your long-term health.

Carbohydrate-based foods are broken down by the digestive processes into the basic energy substance, glucose. In response to the presence of glucose in the blood stream, the beta cells of the pancreas release insulin. Insulin is the gatekeeper to cell walls; it must be present for glucose to move from the circulating blood into the individual cells of your body. When insufficient insulin is produced--or the body requires more insulin than normal to perform the same tasks (as in insulin resistance)--too much glucose remains in your blood stream, causing your blood glucose levels to rise.

Just as putting sugar in your car's gas tank would gum up the works, so does excess glucose in the blood stream. "Sticky" blood--elevated blood glucose--can cause build-up in your blood vessels. This build-up is called arteriosclerosis. Such build-up in the arteries supplying blood to your heart muscle results in coronary artery disease, the leading cause of myocardial infarctions. The kidneys become affected over time through filtering blood with elevated glucose levels. Your body begins to heal more slowly. And if all this isn't enough, you cannot lose weight effectively when your blood glucose levels are altered.

Where Do I Find Information on the Glycemic Index of Food?

There are many resources available both online and offline that provide the glycemic index of carbohydrate-based foods. The most comprehensive online resource that provides the glycemic index of more than 1,600 foods is provided by the University of Sydney. Here you can enter specific foods to learn their glycemic index, you can search broad food terms to receive a list of foods ranked by their glycemic index and you can also find glycemic load values of food.

After you begin to familiarize yourself with the glycemic values of foods, you'll begin to see patterns in some values such as breads and pastas made from whole grain will have lower glycemic values than those made from white flour. The lower the glycemic index of a food, the less it will spike your blood glucose levels. You don't have to avoid all foods with higher glycemic levels all the time; the key is moderation and information. Once you take advantage of the information available, you can make choices based on that information.

The most important person in your health care team is you.


Research Related to the Glycemic Index

The study titled "The Possible Benefits of Nuts in Type 2 Diabetes" published in the Sept. 1, 2008 publication "Journal of Nutrition" examined the potential benefits different types of nuts may play in helping to regulate blood glucose levels. It is accepted by the scientific community that nuts may have positive effects on lipids in the blood and one study has demonstrated that the addition of nuts to the diet reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease in study participants.

The Mediterranean diet, now a model of a healthy diet whose proponents include the American Heart Association, includes small portions of nuts in its daily eating plans. This diet first came into popularity when researchers discovered the good health and longevity of a group of people living in a region of Greece whose lifestyle includes this diet and regular physical activity. Scientists, in working to determine the health benefits of this eating plan, are studying all its potential health benefits.

In this study, researchers noted that when nuts where eaten in the same meal as carbohydrate-based foods, the blood glucose levels after the meal were lower than when the same meal was eaten without the addition of the nuts. This is a preliminary finding that will require more scientific-based studies before it can be positively concluded that nuts may help to regulate after-meal blood sugar levels. Even so, this study's researchers point to the known nutritional benefits of nuts in the diet as a reason for them to be included in the diet of those with diabetes.

It can be reasoned that if nuts are healthy and are to be included in a diabetic diet, they are also a good inclusion in the diets of people who do not have diabetes to aid in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by helping to moderate blood glucose levels.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      9 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Rajan Jolly, thanks for the read and the comment. I agree with you that the glycemic index and the glycemic load of a food or food product only tells part of the nutritional story. High fat foods may not necessarily have a high GL or GI, but they are certainly loaded with calories.

      Thank you for Sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      9 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Very useful and informative. There is a lot of stress being laid on the fact that high GI foods are bad without referring to their GL. I think we should be more concerned with GL and another factor, the calories contained in foods, than GI alone.

      Voted up & useful.

      Sharing this on G+1.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      9 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Alocsin, I'm glad to have been able to add to your knowledge base. I know you are well-versed in nutrition and health.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'd heard about this before but didn't know what it was until your hub. Thanks for the info and why non-diabetics should be concerned about this. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Toknow, glad you found the information to be useful. There is so much health and nutrition info to be found on the Internet it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. I make sure I use the most recent scientific sources for topics that affect people's health and well-being.

    • toknowinfo profile image


      10 years ago

      Great article. I will bookmark this, since there is so much valuable info here. Thanks for putting this together and for sharing your knowledge. Rated up and useful.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Hi Tim, thanks for dropping by and the comment. I think even healthy people can benefit from knowing about how foods affect our blood sugar levels. It also stands to reason that most foods with a high glycemic index/glycemic load provide a lot of calories per portion, so in watching one number, a person can kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very informative article. I'm board diabetic right now.

      Thanks.... Tim


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)