Glycemic Index (GI)

The glycemic index indicates how fast and how high a given food raises blood sugar. It applies only to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sugars or starches. 

Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. 

Go easy on foods with a high glycemic index. Since these foods raise blood sugar to high levels shortly after eating them, the body has to release large amounts of insulin to keep blood sugar in the normal range. Foods with high indexes cause peaks and valleys in blood sugar. Such great fluctuations in blood sugar are not good. 

A glycemic index of 70 or higher indicates a food with a high index; values between 56 and 60 are medium glycemic foods; values of 55 or less are low glycemic foods. 

The only way to know a food's glycemic index is to look it up on a chart with such values. These charts are in nutrition books and on the Web. You can't guess at a food's index. For example, you would think that table sugar has a high glycemic index. It doesn't. It has a medium value. On the other hand, a baked potato has a high glycemic index. 

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