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What is the Glycemic Index?

What is the Glycemic Index?

August 16th, 2009  |  Published in Pilates  |  1 Comment

What is the Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic Index is a numerical Index that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response (i.e. their conversion to glucose within the human body). Glycemic Index uses a scale of 0 to 100, with higher values given to foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar. Pure glucose serves as a reference point, and is given a Glycemic Index (GI) of 100.

Glycemic Index values are determined experimentally by feeding human test subjects a fixed portion of the food (after an overnight fast), and subsequently extracting and measuring samples of their blood at specific intervals of time. The earliest known work on the Glycemic Index was done by Dr. David Jenkins and associates at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada. More recently, an effort to expand the Glycemic Index has been made by Jennie Brand-Miller and her associates at the Human Nutrition Unit of the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia.

The Glycemic Index Yields Some Surprises
Nutritionists used to believe that all simple sugars digested quickly and caused a rapid rise in blood sugar, and that the opposite was true for “complex carbohydrates”. But that’s not always the case. While many sweet and sugary foods do have high GI’s, some starchy foods like potatoes or white bread score even higher than honey or table sugar (sucrose)!

Why is the Glycemic Index Important?

Your body performs best when your blood sugar is kept relatively constant. If your blood sugar drops too low, you become lethargic and/or experience increased hunger. And if it goes too high, your brain signals your pancreas to secrete more insulin. Insulin brings your blood sugar back down, but primarily by converting the excess sugar to stored fat. Also, the greater the rate of increase in your blood sugar, the more chance that your body will release an excess amount of insulin, and drive your blood sugar back down too low.

Therefore, when you eat foods that cause a large and rapid glycemic response, you may feel an initial elevation in energy and mood as your blood sugar rises, but this is followed by a cycle of increased fat storage, lethargy, and more hunger!

Although increased fat storage may sound bad enough, individuals with diabetes (diabetes mellitus, types 1 and 2) have an even worse problem. Their bodies inability to secrete or process insulin causes their blood sugar to rise too high, leading to a host of additional medical problems.

The theory behind the Glycemic Index is simply to minimize insulin-related problems by identifying and avoiding foods that have the greatest effect on your blood sugar.

Glycemic Indexes and Glycemic Loads for Common Foods

The table below shows values of the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) for a few common foods.

GI’s of 55 or below are considered low, and 70 or above are considered high. GL’s of 10 or below are considered low, and 20 or above are considered high.

GI and GL for Common Foods
Food GI Serving Size Net Carbs GL
Peanuts 14 4 oz (113g) 15 2
Bean sprouts 25 1 cup (104g) 4 1
Grapefruit 25 1/2 large (166g) 11 3
Pizza 30 2 slices (260g) 42 13
Lowfat yogurt 33 1 cup (245g) 47 16
Apples 38 1 medium (138g) 16 6
Spaghetti 42 1 cup (140g) 38 16
Carrots 47 1  large (72g) 5 2
Oranges 48 1 medium (131g) 12 6
Bananas 52 1 large (136g) 27 14
Potato chips 54 4 oz (114g) 55 30
Snickers Bar 55 1 bar (113g) 64 35
Brown rice 55 1 cup (195g) 42 23
Honey 55 1 tbsp (21g) 17 9
Oatmeal 58 1 cup (234g) 21 12
Ice cream 61 1 cup (72g) 16 10
Macaroni and cheese 64 1 serving (166g) 47 30
Raisins 64 1 small box (43g) 32 20
White rice 64 1 cup (186g) 52 33
Sugar (sucrose) 68 1 tbsp (12g) 12 8
White bread 70 1 slice (30g) 14 10
Watermelon 72 1 cup (154g) 11 8
Popcorn 72 2 cups (16g) 10 7
Baked potato 85 1 medium (173g) 33 28
Glucose 100 (50g) 50 50

Learning More
Additional information and values for Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load can be found at


  1. Rachelle says:

    August 28th, 2009at 7:29 PM(#)

    I’ll never eat potatoes again:O

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