The glycemic index and you

By: Ms.Sue Mah, Apr 11, 2013

What is the glycemic index and what does it mean when foods are low GI or high GI?

Know the difference between high GI and low GI

The glycemic index (GI) is a scale from one to 100 that ranks how quickly carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels.

Foods with a high GI tend to raise blood sugar levels quickly. White bread and glucose (sugar) have a GI rating of 100 because they are digested quickly, and raise blood sugar levels higher and faster than most other foods.

On the other hand, foods with a low GI are digested more slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. Generally, whole grain and unprocessed foods have a lower GI.

Eating foods with a low GI may help you:

  • Control your blood sugar level
  • Control your cholesterol level
  • Control your appetite, and 
  • Lower your risk of getting heart disease and Type II diabetes

Try to include at least one low or medium GI food at every meal and snack.

Low GI foods(Choose most often)

  • 100 per cent stone ground whole wheat bread
  • pumpernickel bread
  • steel cut oats
  • all bran cereals (not bran flake cereals)
  • barley
  • bulgur
  • parboiled or converted rice
  • pasta al dente
  • sweet potato
  • beans
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • fruits such as apple, peach,pear, and plum 

Medium GI foods (Choose occasionally)

  • whole wheat bread
  • rye bread
  • quick oats
  • oatmeal
  • couscous
  • basmati rice
  • brown rice
  • overcooked pasta
  • boiled new/white potato
  • black bean soup
  • green pea soup
  • popcorn
  • rye crisp crackers
  • cantaloupe
  • raisins

High GI foods (Choose less often)

  • white bread
  • bagels
  • instant oatmeal
  • bran or corn flakes
  • crispy rice cereal
  • white rice
  • baked potato
  • mashed potato
  • French fries
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes
  • soda crackers
  • dried dates
  • watermelon

Sue Mah, MHSc., RD, is a registered dietitian and a leading nutrition writer, presenter and media spokesperson. She consults to the food industry, government and health organizations. Visit Sue’s website at