Gloria P. Oberbeck, M.D. | Board Certified in Family Medicine | (303) 828-9200

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Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

The glycemic index (GI) is a number that indicates how quickly a particular food will raise the blood sugar. The higher the number, the higher the blood sugar response. Not all of theses foods taste “sweet.” Even some complex carbohydrates are broken down quickly into sugar in the body, particularly potatoes, instant rice, corn, and grains that have been ground into flour (even whole wheat).

Foods with a high glycemic index signal the body to produce large amounts of insulin, a hormone that carries blood sugar into the cells to be used for energy or stored for later use. After eating high GI foods, large amounts of insulin may be released causing a rapid drop in blood sugar (called “reactive hypoglycemia”) that can lead to shakiness, “spaciness,” or fatigue several hours after eating, as well as an increase in appetite. Chronic high blood sugar and insulin levels result in inflammation throughout the body and changes that can lead to diabetes.

High glycemic index foods are to be avoided by people who are trying to lose weight, people who are at risk for diabetes and people who have “hypoglycemic” symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, try to avoid foods with a high glycemic index and emphasize foods below 45.

Some foods have low impact on the blood sugar despite their high glycemic index when they are eaten in normal portion sizes. Carrots, for instance, have a high glycemic index, but it takes 6.6 cups of carrots to deliver the same amount of carbohydrate that is found in one cup of cooked spaghetti! The Glycemic Load takes the amount of carbs in a typical serving into account along with the glycemic index to give a more balanced view of how eating typical servings of a particular food will affect blood sugar. Low GI/GL foods eaten at regular intervals will keep insulin levels moderated throughout the day.

The following link will provide more information and a list of common foods: (simple chart) (comprehensive list)