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What Is the Glycemic Index of Foods and Why Is It Important?

Updated on September 13, 2017

The glycemic index was first established as a tool for diabetics. It was a mechanism they could use to gauge the speed at which certain foods would raise the blood sugar levels of the person consuming the food.

In order to have a point of comparison, foods were measured against glucose, with glucose being given a score of 100. Foods that raise the blood sugar levels quickly have a high score on the glycemic index (GI) and are closer to the glucose score of 100.

While originally developed for use by diabetics, the GI, and has become a mainstream tool used to promote health. Sports nutrition uses it to improve the output of athletes for races, as well as improve recovery after exertion. Additionally, those wanting to adopt healthy diets to lose weight have become familiar with the glycemic index to help them with their goals.

The glycemic index compares the rate at which a particular food will raise the blood sugar levels to the rate of glucose, or 100.
The glycemic index compares the rate at which a particular food will raise the blood sugar levels to the rate of glucose, or 100.

Glycemic Load

The GI, however, does not take the total of carbohydrates into account. This is where the term, “glycemic load” (GL) comes in. It is another measurement of how carbs turn into blood sugar, but because it takes into consideration the total carbs available in a specific portion of the food, it can be more of an accurate indicator of the rise in glucose in the blood and a normal body’s insulin response.

A GL score under 10 on this scale does not significantly raise blood sugar. Any foods that rank higher than a score of 20 will generally cause blood sugar levels to spike.

Why Is the Glycemic Index of Foods Important?

Juicing makes the nutrition in food more readily available for the body by opening up the plant cell walls and eliminating some of the fibrous structure. Soluble fiber, which remains in the juice, will help to slow digestion. When you are juicing, however, it can be important to juice fruits or vegetables, or make juice combinations, that provide nutritional value while not causing blood sugar spikes that stress your system.

How to Know a Food's GI

There are many good sources that chart the GI of foods. A chart is a great resource to keep on hand if you are watching for potential blood sugar spikes. One source for a chart of GL and GI values can be found as provided by the University of Sydney, AU.

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