Optimum Nutrition vs Glycemic Index

Choose lower GI foods for an optimum nutrition.

The Glycemic Index is a classification of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the level to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating.

High GI indicates the food is rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Low-GI foods, being slowly digested and absorbed, result in gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels which is beneficent for health.

However, the impact of food on the blood sugar also depends on other factors such as: ripeness, content of fat, fiber, how processed the food is, cooking time, time of day, blood insulin levels and the individual time necessary for digestion.

The Glycemic Index must be used as informative for health control.

High GI level foods will result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body determining the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels.

One of the undesirable effects of raised insulin levels is that it inhibits the release of growth hormones which will eventually depress the immune system.

Low Glycemic Index value is less than 55.

GI values between 55 and 70 are considered intermediate.

High Glycemic Index value is higher than 70.


Here are some examples of values for food GIs:

Product GI
Level Value
Grains Pearl barley Low 25
Spaghetti, protein enriched Low 27
Fettuccine Low 32
Rye Low 34
Vermicelli Low 35
Spaghetti, whole wheat Low 37
Ravioli, meat filled Low 39
Spaghetti, white Low 41
Wheat kernels Low 41
All-bran cereals Low 42
Macaroni Low 45
Rice, instant Low 46
Multi grain bread Low 48
Rice, parboiled Low 48
Porridge, non instant Low 49
Barley, cracked Low 50
Whole grain bread Low 50
Pound cake Low 54
Oat bran cereals Medium 55
Rice, brown Medium 55
Spaghetti, durum wheat Medium 55
Muesli Medium 56
Pita bread, white Medium 57
Rice, wild Medium 57
Digestive biscuits Medium 58
Rice, white Medium 58
Danish pastry Medium 59
Hamburger bun Medium 61
Muffin (unsweetened) Medium 62
Macaroni cheese Medium 64
Rye-flour bread Medium 64
Shortbread biscuits Medium 64
Cake, tart Medium 65
Water biscuits Medium 65
Barley, flakes Medium 66
Cake, angel Medium 67
Croissant Medium 67
Shredded wheat cereals Medium 69
Whole meal bread Medium 69
Millet High 71
White bread High 71
White rolls High 73
Puffed wheat High 74
Doughnut High 76
Waffles High 76
Rice cakes High 77
Wafer biscuits High 77
Rice krispies High 82
Cornflakes High 83
Rice pasta, brown High 92
Baguette High 95
Dairies Yogurt low-fat (sweetened) Low 14
Milk, chocolate Low 24
Milk, whole Low 27
Milk, Fat-free Low 32
Milk ,skimmed Low 32
Milk, semi-skimmed Low 34
Ice-cream (low-fat) Low 50
Ice-cream Medium 61
Fruits Cherries Low 22
Grapefruit Low 25
Apricots (dried) Low 31
Apples Low 38
Pears Low 38
Plums Low 39
Peaches Low 42
Oranges Low 44
Grapes Low 46
Kiwi fruit Low 53
Bananas Low 54
Fruit cocktail Medium 55
Mangoes Medium 56
Apricots Medium 57
Apricots (tinned in syrup) Medium 64
Raisins Medium 64
Pineapple Medium 66
Watermelon High 72
Dates High 103
Vegetables Artichoke Low 15
Asparagus Low 15
Broccoli Low 15
Cauliflower Low 15
Celery Low 15
Cucumber Low 15
Eggplant Low 15
Green beans Low 15
Lettuce, all varieties Low 15
Low-fat yogurt, artificially sweetened Low 15
Peppers, all varieties Low 15
Snow peas Low 15
Spinach Low 15
Young summer squash Low 15
Tomatoes Low 15
Zucchini Low 15
Soya beans, boiled Low 16
Peas, dried Low 22
Kidney beans, boiled Low 29
Lentils green, boiled Low 29
Chickpeas Low 33
Haricot beans, boiled Low 38
Tomato soup, tinned Low 38
Carrots, cooked Low 39
Black-eyed beans Low 41
Chickpeas, tinned Low 42
Lentil soup, tinned Low 44
Baked beans, tinned Low 48
Yam Low 51
Kidney beans, tinned Low 52
Lentils green, tinned Low 52
Sweet potato Low 54
Potato, boiled Medium 56
Potato, new Medium 57
Potato, tinned Medium 61
Black bean soup, tinned Medium 64
Beetroot Medium 64
Potato, steamed Medium 65
Green pea soup, tinned Medium 66
Potato, mashed Medium 70
Broad beans High 79
Potato, micro waved High 82
Potato, instant High 83
Potato, baked High 85
Parsnips High 97
Peanuts Low 15
M&Ms (peanut) Low 32
Snickers bar Low 40
Chocolate bar — 30g Low 49
Jams and marmalades Low 49
Crisps Low 54
Popcorn Medium 55
Mars bar Medium 64
Table sugar (sucrose) Medium 65
Corn chips High 74
Potato Chips High 75
Jelly beans High 80
Pretzels High 81
Beverages Soya milk Low 30
Apple juice Low 41
Carrot juice Low 45
Pineapple juice Low 46
Grapefruit juice Low 48
Orange juice Low 52

The GI table does not include foods that do not contain carbohydrate (like fresh meat, chicken, fish, eggs and cheese). There are only processed foods containing meat and flour.

For high GI foods the advice is that they should be eaten (if at all) together with foods with a low GI. Thus, the GI value of the meal is lowered. However, for optimum nutrition, it would be preferable that these foods are replaced by lower GI foods.

The glycemic index informs on how a food raises blood sugar levels, not how much sugar is in the food. The amount of carbohydrate also affects blood glucose level. For this purpose scientists have developed the concept of Glycemic Load (GL). It describes the quality (GI) and the quantity of carbohydrate in a meal. The glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of food by that food's glycemic index. Thus, foods with a high level of water or air in their structure will not cause a steep rise in the blood sugar even if their glycemic index is high.

There are also other factors that influence the raise in blood sugar determined by carbohydrates:

  • Physical form — the finer a grain is ground the faster the digestion, the higher the GI.
  • Fiber content — high fiber content results in slower digestion and thus slower release of sugar molecules into the bloodstream.
  • Fat and acid content — the higher the fat or acid content the slower the carbohydrates' conversion into sugar.
  • Ripeness — ripe fruits and vegetables usually have more sugar-higher GI index- than unripe ones.
  • Starch — starch configuration differs from case to case - some are easier to break into sugar molecules than others. For example, the starch in potatoes is quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Cooking procedure and combinations — the way of cooking influences directly the GI (e.g. when baking a potatoe, starches become more accessible to the digestive system). When combined with fat, the GI decreases, as carbs turn into sugar more slowly.