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Feature Articles: Weight Control


Glycemic Index of Foods: The Facts

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County
University of Missouri Extension


Advertisers want us all to use their product and have come up with myriad of ways to sell their special diet approach. Several diets are now saying their diet is based on the Glycemic Index of foods and that is the newest and best way to lose weight.

According to an article written by Marion J. Frantz and published by the American Dietetic Association, the Glycemic Index (GI) ranks foods based on how they immediately affect the body’s blood sugar levels. Foods are given a number ranking from 0 to 100 based on their effects on blood sugar compared to glucose. Glucose is 100 and is a high Glycemic Index food. A food with a GI of over 70 is considered at high GI food. Other examples of high GI foods include white bread and crackers, mashed potatoes, and dessert foods like cookies and cakes. A food is considered low if it has a GI of less than 55. Some examples of low GI foods include fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans and low-fat dairy products.

There is research that shows that low Glycemic Index diets help prevent type II diabetes, have a positive impact on those with heart disease and promotes better weight control in the obese. That makes complete sense when you look at the above list of low GI foods. It’s the same type of foods we have been recommending for years for overall health: low fat meats, whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables and low-fat milk.

At this time, the Glycemic Index is not listed on the food label and lists of foods and their GI are not readily available. An interesting thing to note is that the GI value of a food changes as a result of how ripe the food is, how it is cooked, how it is processed and where it is grown. In addition, the GI of a food changes based on the combination of foods it is eaten with.

The bottom line is that if you want to go to the trouble of finding the list of foods and their Glycemic Index, you will be eating healthfully if you are choosing mostly foods that have a low GI. The good news is that you can have a healthy diet that can promote weight loss if that is your goal, prevent or control type II diabetes and help combat heart disease if you choose foods wisely using the recommendations of MyPlate.


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Last update: Monday, May 19, 2014