A food’s Glyceamic Index – GI – indicates the rate at which the carbohydrate in that food is broken down into glucose (single sugar units) and absorbed from the gut into the blood. In high GI foods, this occurs quickly, causing your blood glucose (sugar) level to rise rapidly. In low GI foods, carbohydrate is digested slowly resulting in a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.
Some examples of low GI and high GI foods include:
If you would like to find out the GI of a particular food, look it up on the database at www.glycemicindex.com
GI is an important tool when choosing a balanced diet for long-term health, although, on its own, GI does not make a food ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Some high GI foods, such as hot potatoes and fresh watermelon, contain many valuable nutrients. While some low GI foods, such as chocolate and corn chips, are far less beneficial as they contain large amounts of saturated fat and sugar.
We rarely eat only one food. When foods are eaten as part of a meal, the GI is affected by other components of the meal. The amount of protein and fat being eaten, and the types of starch and fibre will affect the overall GI of the meal. If you eat low GI foods in a meal, this will reduce the overall GI of the dish. For example, eating rice bubbles (high GI) and milk (low GI) for breakfast would be considered moderate GI.
Eating mainly low GI foods every day is encouraged as it provides a slow, continuous supply of energy from one meal to another. For those wanting to lose weight, low GI foods as part of a balanced diet may be helpful. The carbohydrate in low GI foods is digested slowly, making you feel fuller for longer. Regardless of GI though, it is still important to consider the amount eaten. Most people need to eat fewer calories and become more active when trying to lose weight.
People who have diabetes can use the GI of foods to help control blood glucose levels. For more information about how GI can assist those with diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.nz.
If you play sport, looking at the GI of foods can help you make choices to aid performance. While you are exercising the blood in your body is pumped to the muscles, lowering the available supply. At this time, you need high GI foods, to give you energy quickly, such as lollies, ripe bananas and sports drinks. Eat low GI foods for a great energy base prior to exercise – such as baked potatoes or porridge.
Last reviewed: 21/06/2022
Last modified: June 21, 2022