Glycemic Index Table

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Understanding Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a powerful tool for gaining control over weight and blood sugars; but in order to use it effectively, it must be understood. Nearly everyone knows that carbohydrates are in some way responsible for weight gain, and that it directly affects blood sugar levels. The glycemic index and glycemic load can simplify the process of gaining control over diabetes. 

You will recall that nearly everything eaten is broken down primarily into liquid or very small particles, so that it can be absorbed by very small blood vessels (capillaries), and placed into the bloodstream. All carbohydrates and fats, and approximately 60% of all proteins, are converted into glucose. Glucose is picked up, along with nutrients (vitamins and minerals), from the digestive tract and is transported to the liver. The liver filters the blood that is transporting the nutrients. It removes toxins and bacteria before the blood is distributed throughout the body. Glucose is converted to glycogen which is a compact form of energy. Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscle tissue, the brain, and all of the major organs. Glycogen provides energy for all of the body’s cells; which enables them to function. Excess glucose is converted into triglycerides and stored in the liver; the balance is stored in the adipose tissue as belly fat (pot belly).

There are two types of carbohydrates; complex carbohydrates, and simple carbohydrates. The complex carbohydrates act like a time release capsule, which means that they break down and convert very slowly. They have very long chains of sugar molecules, which take more time to break down into simple sugars. Their cell membranes are made up of cellulose fiber, which resists digestion. Breaking down these cellulose fibers and larger, longer, structures take longer, which slows the absorption process. The capillary vessels cannot pick up the larger substances until they have been reduced in size.

Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are shorter, smaller, structured foods. They readily enter the very small openings in the capillary vessels, so they enter the bloodstream very quickly. They do not have to be broken down as much as the complex carbohydrates and their structures are not as difficult to break apart; digestion is rapid. Examples of these foods are fruit juices, corn syrup, sugary foods, and honey.

The complex carbohydrates are less likely to spike blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), while the simple carbohydrates are converted into glucose quickly and enter the bloodstream quickly. They typically cause blood sugar spikes- high blood sugar readings. Those that breakdown into glucose slowly and enter the bloodstream gradually over time are called low glycemic index foods. Those that enter the bloodstream quickly, and usually spike blood sugars, are called high glycemic index foods. When blood sugars spike, because of eating high glycemic index foods, they typically are followed by a crash (hypoglycemia). The body manages four things very aggressively: glucose, sodium, pH (acidity), and fluid levels. After the liver places the glucose into the bloodstream, sensors (GK enzyme) in the brain, pancreas, liver and intestine alert the pancreas that the blood sugars are raising. The pancreas produces a hormone (insulin) that is released into the bloodstream. It is released in proportion to the amount of glucose detected. In other words it will release only as much as is perceived needed to remove the glucose from the bloodstream.

Since lower glycemic index foods are less likely to raise the blood sugar levels less insulin will be produced and released. Likewise, high glycemic index foods will result in a more rapid rise in glucose levels, which will prompt a higher level of production of insulin to be released into the bloodstream. Type II diabetics have a condition called insulin resistance which prevents the body’s cells from utilizing both glucose and insulin properly. Consequently, both will buildup in the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by producing even more insulin.

Excess insulin will impact the amount of glucose that is stored as fat. When glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, the body uses insulin in an attempt to remove it. If the muscle tissues, brain and organs do not uptake the glucose, the excess insulin will force the excess glucose into storage as fat. It is converted into triglycerides and is forced into the adipose tissue and stored as belly fat. The excess insulin will also block its release. Lower glycemic index foods increase insulin sensitivity within the body. Lower amounts of insulin will allow the body more time to use the glucose, and will limit the amount of glucose stored as fat. Overall, lower glycemic index foods provide clear benefits for weight control.

A number of factors are considered in determining the glycemic index of a given food item. For example, the type of starch (amylose vs. amylopectin) that is found in the food, how the starch molecules are physically entrapped within the food, the fat and protein content of the food, and the amount of organic acids or salt that are present in the food all impact the glycemic index. Some substances, such as vinegar, will lower the glycemic index of food. Fats (like olive oil) or soluble dietary fiber will slow the gastric emptying rate (how fast the food moves from the stomach into the intestines), resulting in a lower glycemic index.

Unrefined grains and brown rice will lower the glycemic index because they contain higher amounts of fiber. Refined (processed) flour has all of its fiber removed. Consequently white flour and white flour products have a very high glycemic index. Some bakers add additives (enzymes) to their unrefined grain breads to make the crust soft. The enzyme makes the starches in the bread more accessible which results in a very high glycemic index. Organic breads have a very hard crust.

Activities such as exercise can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. Muscle tissues burn more glucose for energy during periods of vigorous activity. Low glycemic index foods extend the time that it takes for the glucose to be released into the bloodstream, which maintains a more constant glucose supply preventing the sudden drops in blood sugar. It is primarily carbohydrates and starches that are converted into glucose. However, it should be noted that proteins, which contain no carbohydrates, are partially converted into carbohydrates in the body (up to 60%).

How the Glycemic Index is Determined

To determine the glycemic index of a food item 50 volunteers (healthy - non-diabetic) that have fasted for at least 12 hours are fed 50 grams of a single food item; for example spinach. Their blood sugars are measured starting before they eat the food item, and again periodically over a period of several hours. The readings are recorded. The values are plotted on a graph to demonstrate how quickly the food item is broken down into glucose, absorbed into the bloodstream, and removed by the insulin (absorbed). The rate that the glucose levels raise is as important as how quickly the level drops. The mathematical curve is compared to a standard. The standard curve is that of sugar (glucose or white bread); which has an assigned value of 100. The area under the curve is calculated for the standard and for each sample. The values are multiplied by 100 and compared. The average values for all of the participants are published as the glycemic index for that specific food item. Since a serving size is rarely 50 grams (the amount given to the volunteers), the actual impact on a person will vary based upon the actual size of a serving. A serving size of 50 grams of marshmallows is obviously much larger than a 50 gram serving of cabbage; and neither represents what a normal serving would contain.

Scientists developed a second value (glycemic load) which converts the glycemic index into a value that represents what a normal serving size would generate. Glycemic index is a more realistic value for comparing how the body will react to specific food items. For example: if 50 grams of a food item has a glycemic index of 75 and the serving size is 6 grams the glycemic load will be 0.75 X 6 = 4.5 (the glycemic index is expressed as a decimal). Recall that the value of 75 is compared to that of pure sugar which has a value of 100. The value of 75 suggests that the food item will spike the sugar levels about 3/4 of that which would result with pure glucose. The glycemic value of hundreds of food items can be found on various Internet sites. Many of them are processed foods; so they will not appear in the glycemic index table below. Certain foods do not have published glycemic index values; because it is very difficult to get 50 volunteers to starve themselves for 12 hours, then eat 50 grams of a very unpleasant food item like chili powder. It is not uncommon for the values from one laboratory to differ from those of another laboratory for the same food item. The difference is usually due to the fact that the average of separate groups of 50 volunteers will vary.

What is important is that the values, even though they may vary, are still representative of how a food item will react on the average. Knowing how a food item that is low on the glycemic scale will react, will serve as a reliable guide for selecting foods when planning meals.

The key is that anyone attempting to lose weight, or gain control over their diabetes, should consume low glycemic index foods only. Since no two individuals will have an identical reaction to the same food item, each individual should start by selecting low glycemic index foods for their diet, and evaluate how each food item reacts in their body. Some diabetics, for example, will experience blood sugar spikes from certain low glycemic index foods like fruit. Once they discover what effects a particular food item has on their body they can include or exclude those items from their list of meal items. It is also important to note that the glycemic index or load is for a single food item. Meals rarely are limited to one food item; but instead can include several. A total of 100 on the glycemic index or 10 of glycemic load per day or less is recommended. The glycemic index, or load, of an entire meal (conversion rate) will vary based on what is eaten. The result of glycemic load, for the meal, could actually be lower than the sum of the individual glycemic loads of the individual items. High fiber foods, especially those that have soluble-fiber, will significantly lower the glycemic load of a meal. Fat and protein will also lower the meal's glycemic load.

Fiber is the indigestible portion of food. Certain foods such as legumes, certain grains like oat bran, nuts seeds, vegetables, phylum seed husks, and fruits have large amounts of fiber. Soluble fiber comes from the parts of plants that store water in the plant. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and expands forming a gel. It slows the passage and absorption of food in the intestines, which results in a lower glycemic index and load. Most of the carb-blocking products on the market (like PGX), are primarily glucomannan, which is a soluble fiber. Glucomannan is a very efficient water-soluble polysaccharide that forms a dense gel when exposed to water. Legumes naturally contain large amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

To calculate the glycemic index, or load, for a meal, multiply the percent of total carbohydrates of each of the food items in the meal, by their respective glycemic index or load, then add (total) the results. The resulting sum is the glycemic index or load for the meal. Again, the results may be skewed if the meal contained high fiber foods, fats or proteins. As stated up to 60% of proteins are converted into carbohydrates; however, less than 4% of the meats and fats results in the formation of glucose; it can take up to four hours for that to occur. That is why proteins like meat have an assigned glycemic index of zero. It is important to note that when meat is added to other carbohydrates in a meal, the meat does not alter the rate that the carbohydrates are converted into glucose or absorbed into the bloodstream. For this reason, meats (proteins) are ignored when calculating the total glycemic index of a meal. Since fiber is not digested it does not become glucose, nor is it absorbed into the bloodstream.

The net carbohydrates of a food item are determined by subtracting the net grams of fiber from the net grams of carbohydrates. If a serving of fruit has 16 grams of carbohydrates, and has 8 grams of fiber (16 - 8 =8 net grams of carbohydrates). The serving has a net of 8 grams of carbohydrates. It is the net grams of carbohydrates that will be converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. There are other factors that will alter the glycemic index of foods. The cooking temperature can substantially alter the glycemic rating of a food item. The highest glycemic index is found when a food is cooked and served. Reheating food or serving cooked foods (left-over food) cold will have a lower glycemic index. The longer a food is cooked, or the higher the temperature, the higher the glycemic index; which is one of the arguments for raw diets. Refrigerating food items increases the glycemic index. Ripeness of food items can substantially alter the glycemic rating of a food item; particularly with fruit like bananas. The amount of natural sugars can increase as the fruit becomes ripe. The value can be altered by as much as 30%.

Different varieties of the same food can have very different glycemic index values. Extra-long grain rice, particularly brown rice, has a substantially lower glycemic index than short grain rice, especially sticky rice. The glycemic index can vary from 38, which is low glycemic index, to 94 which is a high glycemic index rating. The difference is determined by the amount of amylose that it contains, and the magnesium/calcium ratio of the different types.

The table that follows lists over 300 food items and their corresponding glycemic index rating. Do not eat anything in the high glycemic index tables, and limit the consumption of the food items in the Medium GI tables. There are many other food items that may not appear on the table. Items like sodas, energy drinks, and processed foods are not listed; because they contain synthetics that are detrimental to overall health, and should not be consumed. Never buy vegetables or fruit in a can. Their nutritional value is near zero, due to processing and cooking at ultra-high temperatures, and they contain preservatives and other chemical additives. Also, most cans now have a polymer lining that is currently the subject of heated debate. Some bakery products are listed, but their consumption is not advised. Processed flour and all products made from it are highly pro-oxidative (including most pasta food items). Dairy products are listed, but should also be severely limited due to the fact that they are highly pro-oxidative as well. Cereals are typically high on the glycemic index scale, and most are made from processed flour which renders them unacceptable. Oatmeal (old fashion) is one exception.

Everyone, especially diabetics, should experiment with each of the low glycemic index foods, especially fruit (certain fruit contain large amounts of glucose). Each person will need to determine how sensitive his/her system is to each specific food item. Some foods, like pastas and pizza, have a tendency to disrupt glucose levels for up to 20 hours.

All vegetables, fruit, and legumes are high in living enzymes. Every effort should be made to minimize over-cooking to prevent killing the living enzymes in the food item. Food should never be cooked at temperatures above 120 degrees F. Many fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw, which maximizes the exposure to living enzymes, however, anything eaten raw should be washed thoroughly to remove pesticides, herbicides, and parasites. Food grade hydrogen peroxide (35%) in water is an effective way to wash raw food items. Add a capful to one gallon of water to wash vegetables and fruit. All fruit and vegetables are high in natural fiber. Legumes are especially high in soluble-fiber, which is very important. Always choose a vegetable or food item by color intensity. The darker (or brighter) a food item is, the higher the antioxidant content, and bioflavonoid content. For example, purple onions are much higher in nutrients than yellow onions. White onions are very low in nutritional value. Red, yellow, orange or other bright colored peppers are superior to green peppers.

Protein items such as meat (beef, pork, chicken and turkey) and seafood have a glycemic index of zero, despite the fact that some of the protein is converted to carbohydrates during digestion. They typically do not interfere with glucose levels. All forms of commercially raised livestock will contain antibiotics, growth hormones, nitrates, and nitrates. It is always best to purchase organically raised meat products.

How to Use the Glycemic Index Tables

The key to overall good health is multifaceted. It is vitally important that the body receives 100% of the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals every day. A minimum of 60 minutes of exercise is required at least 3 times each week. The body must be properly hydrated. All excess body fat, especially belly fat (pot belly) must be shed. The diet must be changed to eliminate all processed foods, wheat, dairy, caffeine, saturated fats, artificial sweeteners and alcohol. Sodas and colas should be eliminated, and only very rare meats consumed. Dairy should be limited to small servings of cottage cheese. All meals should be low glycemic index only, and the portion sizes limited.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult for individuals to get 100% of the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals due to genetic engineering of seeds, neglected soils, and food processing. Inflammation, high glycemic index foods, and insulin resistance, along with high blood sugars cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A good quality multivitamin taken daily will ensure that the body gets what it needs. However, the multivitamin must be derived from organic foods-not synthetic. Recent studies have shown that the vast majority of adults are deficient in numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Diabetics are typically deficient in up to 10 essential vitamins and minerals, half of which play important roles in the management of glucose and insulin.

Everyone is unique in that their body requires a specific number of carbohydrates each day to provide fuel for their body, based on their metabolism and their activity level. As discussed, if low glycemic index foods are selected, and the portion size controlled, their body will produce less insulin (non-insulin dependent diabetics). As long as the amount of carbohydrates (grams per day) is equal to the number the body requires in order to function; weight gain will cease. For diabetics blood sugars will be easily controlled, and will stay closer to normal ranges.

The trick to using this table is to log what is eaten each day. Record your body weight, calories, protein, and net carbohydrates each day. Total up the values at the end of the day. At the end of the first week, if the body weight has remained constant, the neutral point (range) has been found. The neutral point is the range where weight remains stable; no gain or loss. If weight gain was observed, the number of carbohydrates should be cut slowly until the neutral point is found. The neutral point range will become the target range for each day. If weight loss is the goal, the carbohydrate count should be slowly lowered until up to 3 pounds per week is lost.

Maintain that level until the goal weight (ideal weight) is reached. It may be necessary to adjust the carbohydrate count per day as weight is lost. Never cut the carbohydrate count per day below 30 grams per day. Type II diabetics will need to lower their carbohydrate consumption to below 70 grams per day typically or less. Type I diabetics and non-diabetics can consume around 40-50 grams per meal.

Make certain that the proper fiber level is maintained (35 grams per day for men, 30 grams per day for women). It may prove difficult for some, especially type II diabetics, to get the proper amount of fiber in their diet. It likely will be necessary to take fiber supplements.

If a food item does not appear on the low glycemic index table, it may not have been tested as of this date, or it may not be low glycemic index; check the medium and high glycemic index table to locate it. If it is a prepared food it will not be listed, partly because it should not be eaten, and largely because many manufacturers do not provide a glycemic index value for their products.

It is always wise to buy fresh foods; preferably organic. Always wash fresh food items thoroughly. A cap full of food grade hydrogen peroxide (35%) in a gallon of water will kill dangerous bacteria and parasites. After washing, most vegetables will stay fresh for up to a week longer, because the bacteria that would normally cause decomposition is gone.

Always cook vegetables at the lowest possible temperature (below 120 degrees F) to avoid killing enzymes and destroying vitamins and minerals. Meat must, however, be cooked well enough to kill dangerous bacteria. Steaming, crock pot, or pressure cooking is an economical and effective way to cook food (both meat and vegetables). Never grill, broil, or fry food. Boiling removes the water soluble vitamins; so unless the water will be part of the recipe, don't boil vegetables. Never use canned vegetables other than legumes. Fish should always be wild caught, never farmed. The table does not list all of the spices; they can be highly beneficial. Generally, the amount used in a recipe is too small to impact the overall glycemic load of a meal.

The glycemic load should be maintained between 10 and 20 per day; the lower the better. Or a glycemic index of 100 or less. There are foods on the table that have very low glycemic index values or have a glycemic index of zero. These foods (listed in bold type) are considered "free foods", because the body burns more calories converting them than they provide.

Blood Type Ranking

Items that have a blood type followed by a number 1, 2, or 3 indicate that the food items are as follows:

O, A, B, or AB followed by a numeric 3 (example B3) are detrimental foods for that blood type; they should be eliminated from the diet.

Blood type O, A, B, or AB followed by a numeric 2 (example A2) are neutral foods for that blood type.

Blood type O, A, B, or AB followed by a numeric 1 (example O1) are beneficial for that blood type.

If no blood types are listed the rankings are unknown. All listings are for "secretor" types for each blood type. Non-secretors are not listed due to their rare nature. Ratings are based on research conducted by Dr. Peter D'Adamo. If you don't know if you are a secretor or non-secretor assume that you are a secretor; the vast majority of people are secretors.

Note: the symbol < means less than, and the symbol > means greater than.

Low Glycemic Index Food Items (<50).