Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food can make your blood sugar (glucose) rise. Only foods that contain carbohydrates have a GI. Foods such as oils, fats, and meats, do not have a GI, though in people with diabetes, they can affect the blood sugar.

In general, low GI foods increase glucose slowly in your body. Foods with a high GI increase blood glucose more rapidly. 

It is important for people with diabetes to be aware that indulging in foods with a high glycemic index can make it harder to control blood sugar. But it is also equally important to understand that not all carbohydrates work in a similar pattern. Some may trigger a rapid spike in blood sugar, while others will have a more gradual effect, with consequently a slower rise in blood sugar.  The GI scale goes from 0 to 100, with pure glucose having the highest value of 100.

Paying attention to the GI of foods can be another tool to manage diabetes, along with carbohydrate counting. Following a low-GI diet may also help with weight loss.

Some people with diabetes use the glycemic index (GI) to assist in selecting foods for meal planning. The glycemic index classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to how quickly or slowly they raise the level of blood sugar in an individual’s body. People with diabetes can therefore quite efficiently avoid foods with a high glycemic index while getting their nutrition from foods with a lower GI.

It is vital to eat low GI foods, in order to help you gain better control over your blood sugar.

The glycemic index has its advantages, but it is not always the best way to gauge which foods are safe for diabetics, owing to the following reasons:

  • GI doesn’t show how single food items versus a combination of foods can impact blood sugar differently.
  • GI doesn’t consider all the variables which affect blood sugar, such as how food is prepared or how much is consumed.
  • GI doesn’t include foods that have low or no carbohydrates and only includes foods containing carbohydrates.
  • GI doesn’t rank foods based on nutrient content.

It can be difficult to follow the glycemic index. For one thing, there's no standard for what is considered low, moderate, and high glycemic foods. Packaged foods generally don't list the GI ranking on the label, which can make it difficult to ascertain which packaged foods are diabetic friendly, and which are not.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Agarwal

Consultant Internal Medicine & Diabetologist

Star Hospitals, Hyderabad

For Appointments, Contact: 040 - 4477 7700