The Glycemic Index rates how fast carbohydrates break down into glucose and increase blood sugar levels. Foods are listed on a scale from "Low to Very High." A "Very High" listing means blood sugar will rise rapidly. Table sugar (sucrose) has a Very High listing. To maintain stable blood sugar levels you should try to use Low to Medium glycemic carbohydrates.
If you don’t grind grain into flour, it takes the body much longer to digest it. So you don't get quick sugar surges in your blood that cause excess insulin to pour out to normalize the blood sugar spikes. As a whole grain, not ground into flour, most grains don't cause as high a spike in blood glucose. In other words, “whole” grains should ideally be truly “whole” when eaten.
A great science project for kids is to rank carbohydrates on the Glycemic Index
Kids and their families can be shown through pictures, demonstrations of food preparation where they help arrange and style the food layout, or even in songs and jingles that not all carbohydrates are created equal. By choosing your carbohydrates wisely, you will be able to better control your blood sugar levels, thereby decreasing the peaks and valleys experienced in energy levels throughout the day.
Many decades ago fitness guru Jack La Lanne said, "If it tastes good, spit it out." See the video, If it tastes good, spit it out! - YouTube. But many people still associated 'healthy' foods for foods that don't taste good, even though foods can be made to taste good and also be healthy if you're not addicted to having food so sweet or salty that it would not taste good to someone who rarely ate those foods.
A big slice of white bread will spike your blood sugar. Whole wheat bread also will raise your blood sugar. See, "Whole Wheat Bread Causes Blood Sugar Rise." Whole wheat and white bread have essentially the same impact on blood sugar. You might as well be eating a big spoonful of sugar. Another way of saying this is that most bread has a high Glycemic Index. You need to find high-fiber whole sprouted grains, even flourless breads, and no-yeast breads. Jack La Lanne was about 50 years ahead of his time. Check out the site, "Quotes made famous by La Lanne, Obesity."
Baked goods can be made from nut, seed, or bean 'flour' or pea and sweet potato flour and ground grains such as amaranth, rice, or quinoa
Baked goods can be made from nut or bean flours or certain prepared root vegetables, for example, if you need to grind nuts or beans into meal. You also can add a little flax seed meal, without the rise in blood sugar (and corresponding rise in insulin). But don't ever eat more than seven tablespoons of flax meal in your baked goods or other foods because at that level, your thyroid is affected by the flax meal. So just use up to two tablespoons to be on the safe side when it comes to adding flax meal to your foods. Grinding nuts into a meal can be used also as well as garbanzo bean flour.
Different people's blood sugars rise at different levels in response to sugars. Some are affected more than others. It's genetic. And some people can't tolerate grains at all and need to grind legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, taro, casaba root, or potatoes to form into a bread.
It's the whitest foods that pave the road toward type 2 diabetes in both children and adults
Examples include white rice, white bread, white, bleached flours, and white flour pasta. You can add to that list, white sugar, white cakes, and white potatoes (mashed or fried--but raw, peeled white potatoes are okay). Try purple potatoes or sweet potatoes and yams instead in small amounts because they are sweet. Whole grains have more color and are healthier. White rice is not a whole grain. The vitamins have been scraped off the brown rice. Rice grows brown. See the site, "Diabetes Prevention: The Test."
White cheeses that are mostly fat still are different from bleached, process white grains since most cheeses don't quickly spike blood sugar since they contain fat and are part of fermented foods. The same applies to white tofu that's fermented. We're talking about white flours and sugars, not white proteins and fats such as processed dairy or almond milk.
You've heard the adages, the whiter the grain, the fiercer the pain
There are also sayings such as "The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead. The whiter the rice, the worse the advice." Why do white foods encourage type 2 diabetes to develop in many, but not all, people? It's because white grains turn to sugar quicker once they get into the stomach and bloodstream, and excess insulin pours out to lower the high spikes in sugar surges. The exception is white fruit such as apples and pears which are healthy. See, Four foods that help you to stop smoking: Apples, spices, legumes, and beans.
You want to eat low on the Glycemic Index. According to, the "Glycemic Index," which is a measure of how quickly a certain food raises your blood sugar, if your blood sugar is low and continuing to drop during exercise, you would prefer to eat a carb that will raise your blood sugar quickly.
If you want to keep your blood sugar from dropping during a few hours of mild activity, you may prefer to eat a carb that has a lower Glycemic Index and longer action time. If your blood sugar tends to spike after breakfast, you may want to select a cereal that has a lower Glycemic Index.
The numbers on the Glycemic Index site give that food's Glycemic Index based on glucose, which is one of the fastest carbohydrates available. Glucose is given an arbitrary value of 100 and other carbs are given a number relative to glucose. Faster carbs (higher numbers) are great for raising low blood sugars and for covering brief periods of intense exercise. Slower carbs (lower numbers) are helpful for preventing overnight drops in the blood sugar and for long periods of exercise.
The Glycemic Index numbers are compiled from a wide range of research labs, and often from more than one study. These numbers will be close but may not be identical to other Glycemic Index lists. The impact a food will have on the blood sugar depends on many other factors such as ripeness, cooking time, fiber and fat content, time of day, blood insulin levels, and recent activity. Use the Glycemic Index as just one of the many tools you have available to improve your control.
Many people still believe that eating too much sugar causes diabetes. This misconception arises because diabetes is diagnosed by measuring blood sugar (glucose). But dietary sugar is only part of the picture. According to two recent Harvard studies, a diet rich in certain high-carbohydrate foods—those low in fiber and with a high Glycemic Index (see below)—increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, at least in those predisposed to it.
Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes from Which Types of Food? Studies
According to the Glycemic Index site, prunes are listed as only number 15 on the Glycemic Index, whereas dates are listed at 103. Among commercial boxed cold cereals just to name a few of the many listed on the Glycemic Index, Rice Chex is listed as 89, Cornflakes as 83, and Raisin Bran as 73.
Total is listed as 73, Grapenuts are listed as 67, and Life as 66, compared to Old Fashioned Oatmeal at 48. Compare those cold cereals with a cup of cooked whole wheat groats. Among whole grains, barley is listed as only 25 on the Glycemic Index, whereas millet is 71. The lower on the Glycemic Index, the better the food, the less sugar hitting your bloodstream and taking a lot longer to enter the bloodstream.
The Glycemic Index site lists all types of foods. For example, plain yogurt is only 14 on the Glycemic Index.
There have been numerous studies, such as the Harvard Study, of how higher fiber is helpful in foods for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One study tracked 65,000 female nurses (age 40 to 65); the other followed 43,000 male health professionals. Within six years, a total of 1,438 participants in that study developed diabetes. There's even a book touting eating 30-35 grams of fiber daily to lose weight. It's called The Fiber35 Diet Program.
See the Harvard nutrition site, "Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way - What Should You Eat." Also see the site, "Health Benefits of a High Fiber Diet." In the study tracking male and female health professionals, men and women whose diet had a high Glycemic Index and low fiber content more than doubled their chance of developing diabetes.
Foods that quickly turn from starch to sugar in the bloodstream
Foods that seemed to pose the greatest risk were white bread, white rice, potatoes, and sugary soft drinks. In contrast, whole-grain breads and cereals (rich in fiber and with a lower Glycemic Index) appeared to reduce the risk of diabetes. Fruits and vegetables didn't seem to have an effect, good or bad.
The problem may be that too many foods that appear to have higher numbers on the Glycemic Index, meaning a diet high in carbohydrate-rich foods stress the pancreas. In responses, the pancreas produces more of the hormone insulin. The result is the insulin stimulates the body's cells to take in and store glucose.
As the years pass, your body may become resistant to insulin. In such insulin-resistant people, the cells become less and less sensitive to insulin. This is characteristic of Type 2 diabetes.
You also need genetic propensity because not all people eating a diet high on the Glycemic Index, with lots of foods that are low-fiber and high-starch will develop diabetes. You can be very thin and still get type 2 diabetes from foods, even if you don't gain weight.
There also is that genetic predisposition to diabetes. Even if you have the genes, work, lifestyle, or relationship stress along with too many processed foods will exacerbated your propensity to develop type 2 diabetes on a diet low in fiber and high on the Glycemic Index.
If you have the genes to develop diabetes, you could develop it later in life or maybe not at all. You'd also have to see whether you have a chromium deficiency in your vitamins or foods as well as an imbalance between your copper, zinc, and selenium and other minerals.
Obesity and low-fiber foods
Obesity and a low-fiber high "white foods" or high Glycemic Index list diet may be the leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Family history of the disease, advancing age, and lack of exercise are other important factors.
When you check out your minerals, make sure you have enough magnesium. The study found magnesium is helpful. In the study, scientists revealead that the mineral, magnesium has a protective effect against diabetes. A few studies have suggested that this mineral improves insulin sensitivity. But since whole grains are rich in magnesium, it's hard to say whether the proposed benefit is due to something else in the grain (notably its fiber) or the mineral.
What's a Diabetes-Prevention Diet?
As you tailor your foods to your genetic expression through your body shape and family history genogram (medical history) you might find a high-fiber, low-fat, high-fiber, semi-vegetarian diet that is known to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. But wait a minute. Some people with metabolic syndrome are told to eat a higher fat diet to prevent insulin from pouring out each time they eat. The fats are supposed to be 'good' fats such as extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil, for example, rather than cream and butter or whole fat dairy products full of saturated long-chain fatty acids.
Even coconut milk has medium chain fatty acids as a saturated fat. Some people with metabolic syndrome are told to eat mixed nuts, even nut butters such as almond butter or even, in some cases, peanut butter made with fresh roasted peanuts with no other fats or sugars added. Others are told to eat a small amount of cinnamon sprinkled on their nut butters to help blood sugar levels.
The Harvard studies emphasize eating whole-grain products. Stay away from highly refined, low-fiber grain products such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice in order to help control blood sugar. Such a diet also helps you manage your weight better. You get the whole grain's vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. It's one way to keep chronic diseases away as long as you can.
Also see the Harvard nutrition site, "Healthy Eating, a Guide to the New Nutrition." Scientists have learned much more about why some foods help prevent disease and why others promote it. The site describes the food-health connection and takes on controversial topics like food additives, cooking methods, the role of carbohydrates and more. Also check out the site, Healthy Eating: A Guide to the New Nutrition - Harvard Health.
Which is more important, the Glycemic Index or the ORAC value of a food when you're trying to manage your weight?
The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University developed the ORAC test. Can you manage or lose weight by measuring the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals? That depends on how large or small your portion size is, what time of day you eat, and the calories needed for energy to do your daily work.
To find out the antioxidant value of any fruit or vegetable, you look at its ORAC value. This is a test that only measures both the degree and speed with which a certain food inhibits those two measurements--the organic compounds in the plant food and the speed at which that food inhibits those measurements into a single value. That produces an accurate assessment of different types of antioxidants that have various strengths.
If you look at the recommendations from the US Dept. of Agriculture, the suggestions are to eat foods equivalent to 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily. But is this number fine, or is it too low? As you can see, fruits, particularly some types of berries are much higher in ORAC value than vegetables, but fruits have more sugars. And an organic Russet potato has a high ORAC value but is starchy and quickly turns to sugar in your bloodstream, but it is also high in potassium.
Antioxidant values of some foods
The antioxidant value of potatoes, russet, flesh and skin, raw described in ORAC units is:
1,322 μ mol TE/100g. The source is the USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 - Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - May 2010.
The ORAC value is expressed in micromoles of Trolox Equivalents per 100 grams of sample (this is the laboratory measure of ORAC). For a list of the ORAC value of many more foods, see, List of ORAC values of food items.
What Foods Are Highest in ORAC Value? (According to Life Extension Magazine, June 2010 issue, page 38)
Food ORAC Value
Acai berries 18,400
Black Currant 1,160
Red Grapes 1,100
Broccoli flowers 900
Kiwi fruit 900
Red bell pepper 710
Grapefruit, pink 483
What Foods are Low on the Glycemic Index?
Eating foods low on the glycemic index may prevent the sugar spikes that pour insulin into your blood, creating problems such as belly fat, metabolic syndrome, and too much insulin in the blood that's not working properly to balance your sugar levels (blood glucose levels).
The glycemic index is about the quality of the carbohydrates, not the quantity. The measurement of the glycemic index of a food is not related to portion size. It remains the same whether you eat a tablespoon full of a particular food or a cup. You'd want to know how fast or slow the particular food item turns to starch and sugar after you've eaten it.
Defining the Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index is about the quality of the carbohydrates, not the quantity. The measurement of the Glycemic Index of a food is not related to portion size. It remains the same whether you eat a tablespoon full of a particular food or a cup. To make a fair comparison, those who make up some of the tests of the Glycemic Index of food usually use 50 grams of available carbohydrate in each food.
What happens when you eat twice as many carbohydrates in a food that, for example, has a Glycemic Index of 50 than one that has a glycemic index of 100 and have the same blood glucose response? How do you manage your weight? You have to go with portion size and total calories.
Actually, the Glycemic Index indirectly measures a food's effect on blood sugar. It actually measured the "area under the blood sugar curve" following a set intake of that carb. Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies.
The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.
Check out the lists of foods that are low on the glycemic index at the Food & Diet in Diabetes website. For example, peanuts registers a 14 on the Glycemic Index, which is low, whereas a baked potato registers 85, which is high. And ice cream is in the middle at 61 on the Glycemic Index. Look at a comparison chart of foods listed on the Glycemic Index at Glycemic Index - NutritionData.com.
Balancing your hormones
For women, some nutritionists suggest that a better way to balance your hormones is to eat foods listed as low on the Glycemic Index and high as far as the food's ORAC value. One site that lists the actual measurements of the Glycemic Index foods listed there is the Nutrition Data.com site. Check out the Nutrient Search database. Also see the article, "How to Use the Glycemic Index."
In the year 2000, women were recruited for a 10-month study at the University of California, Davis, to determine how diet affects the risk for osteoporosis. The study compared women who are vegans to those women eating a typical American diet. The 2000 study was jointly sponsored by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Human Nutrition Research Center, based at UC Davis. Also see the article, "Pregnancy and the vegan diet."
The Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis has an article in PDF file format online, Some Facts About Vegetarian Diets, that notes, "Eliminating the meat can increase vegetable intake and reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Vegetarians can also turn to many ethnic cuisines, such as Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Asian, for plant-based dishes that include protein in the form of beans, nuts, and higher-protein grains." Also check out my other Examiner article, Should pregnant women stay on their usual vegan diets?
What foods are lowest on the Glycemic Index?
Low Glycemic Index Foods (55 or less)
Oat bran bread
Converted or Parboiled rice
Al dente (firm) pasta
Medium Glycemic Index Foods (56-69)
Split pea or green pea soup
Shredded wheat cereal
Whole wheat bread
High Glycemic Index Foods
Instant mashed potatoes
Baked white potato
The Glycemic Index of Some Foods
Some Fruits and Vegetables High on the Glycemic Index
Raisins (As fruit is dried, it becomes sweeter.)
Medium on the Glycemic Index
Orange Juice and whole oranges
Fruits and vegetables low on the Glycemic Index
Starches High on the Glycemic Index
Corn flakes cereal
Whole Grain Bread
Bagels (made with wheat flour)
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