Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Cheat Sheet

What is the Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic Index is a numerical Index that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response (i.e. their conversion to glucose within the human body). Glycemic Index uses a scale of 0 to 100, with higher values given to foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar. Pure glucose serves as a reference point, and is given a Glycemic Index (GI) of 100.

Glycemic Index values are determined experimentally by feeding human test subjects a fixed portion of the food (after an overnight fast), and subsequently extracting and measuring samples of their blood at specific intervals of time. The earliest known work on the Glycemic Index was done by Dr. David Jenkins and associates at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada. More recently, an effort to expand the Glycemic Index has been made by Jennie Brand-Miller and her associates at the Human Nutrition Unit of the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia.

The Glycemic Index Yields Some Surprises
Nutritionists used to believe that all simple sugars digested quickly and caused a rapid rise in blood sugar, and that the opposite was true for “complex carbohydrates”. But that’s not always the case. While many sweet and sugary foods do have high GI’s, some starchy foods like potatoes or white bread score even higher than honey or table sugar (sucrose)!


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Table 1

The average GI of 62 common foods derived from multiple studies by different laboratories

High-carbohydrate foods   Breakfast cereals   Fruit and fruit products   Vegetables  
White wheat bread* 75 ± 2 Cornflakes 81 ± 6 Apple, raw 36 ± 2 Potato, boiled 78 ± 4
Whole wheat/whole meal bread 74 ± 2 Wheat flake biscuits 69 ± 2 Orange, raw 43 ± 3 Potato, instant mash 87 ± 3
Specialty grain bread 53 ± 2 Porridge, rolled oats 55 ± 2 Banana, raw 51 ± 3 Potato, french fries 63 ± 5
Unleavened wheat bread 70 ± 5 Instant oat porridge 79 ± 3 Pineapple, raw 59 ± 8 Carrots, boiled 39 ± 4
Wheat roti 62 ± 3 Rice porridge/congee 78 ± 9 Mango, raw 51 ± 5 Sweet potato, boiled 63 ± 6
Chapatti 52 ± 4 Millet porridge 67 ± 5 Watermelon, raw 76 ± 4 Pumpkin, boiled 64 ± 7
Corn tortilla 46 ± 4 Muesli 57 ± 2 Dates, raw 42 ± 4 Plantain/green banana 55 ± 6
White rice, boiled* 73 ± 4     Peaches, canned 43 ± 5 Taro, boiled 53 ± 2
Brown rice, boiled 68 ± 4     Strawberry jam/jelly 49 ± 3 Vegetable soup 48 ± 5
Barley 28 ± 2     Apple juice 41 ± 2    
Sweet corn 52 ± 5     Orange juice 50 ± 2    
Spaghetti, white 49 ± 2            
Spaghetti, whole meal 48 ± 5            
Rice noodles 53 ± 7            
Udon noodles 55 ± 7            
Couscous 65 ± 4            
Dairy products and alternatives   Legumes   Snack products   Sugars  
Milk, full fat 39 ± 3 Chickpeas 28 ± 9 Chocolate 40 ± 3 Fructose 15 ± 4
Milk, skim 37 ± 4 Kidney beans 24 ± 4 Popcorn 65 ± 5 Sucrose 65 ± 4
Ice cream 51 ± 3 Lentils 32 ± 5 Potato crisps 56 ± 3 Glucose 103 ± 3
Yogurt, fruit 41 ± 2 Soya beans 16 ± 1 Soft drink/soda 59 ± 3 Honey 61 ± 3
Soy milk 34 ± 4     Rice crackers/crisps 87 ± 2    
Rice milk 86 ± 7            

Data are means ± SEM.

*Low-GI varieties were also identified.
Average of all available data.

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