The Glycemic Index: How to Understand This Important Nutritional Metric

The Glycemic Index: How to Understand This Important Nutritional Metric

Have you ever noticed the way different foods make you feel after eating them? Some give you energy, some make you tired, some leave you feeling satisfied, while others actually make you hungrier. These effects can all be linked back to a food’s Glycemic Index, which is a key measure of how different foods effect your biology. Let’s dive into what it all means.

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose levels. It is a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster and greater increase in blood sugar. Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed, causing a quick spike in blood sugar, while those with a low GI are absorbed more slowly, resulting in a slower, more gradual increase in blood sugar. Your levels of blood sugar make a world of difference in how you are feeling, in particular, because of how it triggers your insulin response.

Here are the general categories of GI:

  1. Low GI (0-55): These foods cause a slow and gradual increase in blood sugar. Examples include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  2. Medium GI (56-69): Foods in this range cause a moderate increase in blood sugar. Examples include certain fruits, whole wheat products, and some types of rice.
  3. High GI (70 and above): These foods cause a rapid and significant increase in blood sugar. Examples include white bread, sugary cereals, and some processed foods.

The link between GI and insulin:

Consuming high GI foods, which lead to a quick and pronounced increase in blood sugar levels, require a swift and substantial release of insulin to manage the influx of glucose. This rapid response can sometimes result in a subsequent dip in blood sugar, potentially leading to feelings of hunger and cravings.

On the other hand, low GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly, causing a gradual and sustained increase in blood sugar. This slower rise triggers a more moderate release of insulin, promoting a steadier and more prolonged energy supply.

So, next time you’re thinking about what to eat, keep in mind that the GI score of the foods you choose will directly influence how you feel for the rest of the day. Keeping your insulin levels within a healthy range is critical, and a leading indicator of long-term health outcomes.

Back to blog