best natural foods

Glycemic Index Chart

he Glycemic Index Chart, which serves as a reference for the glycemic index theory, gives an indicatation of what happens when we eat certain carbohydrate foods.

Specifically, it tells us how easily the food is digested and how how quickly it raises the blood sugar level. On the glycemic index chart, foods are classified as follows:

Note that there is some dispute among proponents of the glycemic index theory about how the classification should go. Some classify foods with an index of 50 and above as "high", less than 50 as "low" and below 35 as "very low".

In any case, such information can be helpful for people with diabetes as they are not able to cope with increases im the blood sugar level. For the general population, they are recommended to eat mainly low glycemic index foodsas such foods are said to help people:

  • lose and control weight
  • improve diabetic control
  • lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • reduce blood cholesterol levels
  • avoid over-eating since these foods keep a person feeling full for a longer period.

The glycemic index chart gives very specific information and is better than the vague classification of simple vs complex carbohydrates. The common belief is that simple carbohydrates are digested quickly while complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, but this is not always the case. The glycemic index chart gives a far more accurate picture of what each and every food does to the blood sugar level after it has been eaten.

Unfortunately, the glycemic index theory has also given rise to...

Obsession and fear

In recent years, some people have developed a certain fear of carbohydrates, to the extent that they try to eat as little carbohydrates as possible. Overall, carbohydrates have taken on a reputation as a "bad / harmful" food to be avoided or minimised.

This is partly due to the popularity of high protein low carbohydrate diets that have shown to be effective in helping weight loss - even though many studies show that such weight loss is temporary. However, promoters of the glycemic index theory have fanned the fears by their constant harping to avoid or at least minimise medium and high glycemic index foods, which include most grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes?

Meanwhile, a look at some numbers on the glycemic index chart will illustrate why there is also confusion. The chart shows, for example, that the following foods are "bad" high glycemic index foods to be "avoided":

Food Glycemic Index
French baguette 95
Baked potatoes 95
Sticky rice 90
Brown rice (boiled) 87
Carrots (cooked) 85
White rice 83
Millet 70
Cabbage 70
Cola drinks / Sodas 70
White sugar 70

Personally, I find such rankings incredulous. Are some scientists saying that eating baked potatoes, brown rice, carrots, etc is worse than drinking Cola? And that there is no difference between eating millet, cabbage and white sugar?

Another problem is inconsistency. In the case of French baguette, for example, most glycemic index charts give a high figure of 95. Yet t I have also seen a very much lower figure of 57 +/- 9, meaning it could be as low as 48!

Meanwhile, the more "healthy" medium and low glycemic index foods include:

Food Glycemic Index
Ice cream 60
Baked potatoes 60
Ketchup 55
Nutella® 55
All Bran TM 50
Brown rice, unpolished rice 50

Hmmm... Have I been eating the wrong healthy foods all along? Maybe I should indulge more often in ice-cream and ketchups, and check out grossly artificial foods like Nutella® and All BranTM which I have not eaten before.

And what is this brown rice that has a relatively low glycemic index of 50 versus the other brown rice? The one with the higher glycemic index of 87 is boiled. So is the lower glycemic index version raw? Are we to eat rice this way?

Cooking does certainly increase the index rating. On one glycemic index chart, I see these values for celeriac or celery root:

Food Glycemic Index
Celeriac (raw) 35
Celeriac (cooked) 85

Does this mean we should eat most of our foods raw? Some people believe so and they advocate eating mainly raw salads, sprouts, fruits and fruit juices. I, too, was once influenced by this idea but, after some initial improvements in my health, I developed new problems including asthma and a skin rash that would not go away. See my discussion on cooked versus raw foods.

Flaws of glycemic index theory

The more I look at the glycemic index chart, the more I feel it is a whole lot of useless nonsense. Yet so much scientific resources have gone into determining the index values for thousands of foods.

At best, the index measures something very specific - how quickly carbohydrate foods are digested and converted into sugar that enters the blood stream. But is it then correct to say that low glycemic index foods are healthier than foods high on the glycemic index chart?

One major flaw of the glycemic index theory is that it does not consider the quality of food. As long as the index value is low, it is deemed to be a good thing, regardless of whether the food is natural or artificial and high processed.

On the one hand, the glycemic index chart does show that processing tends to raise the index value and render a food less "healthy". For example, white breads made from refined flour generally have higher index values than wholewheat or multi-grain breads made from whole grain flour.

Yet there are several instances where this is not the case. For rice, the glycemic index for various types of white rice vary from 45 to 69, whereas that for brown rice vary from 50 to 87. Don't the fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients present in brown rice matter? Is white rice healthier than brown rice just because it has a lower glycemic index?

Single foods vs entire meals

Another flaw of the theory is that people generally do not eat single foods - except maybe when we eat a piece of fruit as a snack. More often, we eat meals comprising comprising different foods, like rice with vegetables and meat or fish, cooked in oil.

This issue has partly been adrressed, for the glycemic index chart does include certain meals like hamburgers, or pasta dishes. But this also means that there will be endless combinations of meals. Even the same meal, such as macaroni and cheese, is prepared differently by different people and restaurants, and the index values can vary greatly, making any official values quite meaningless.

The presence of oil, as well as acid, will also reduce the glycemic index. So if you eat brown rice as part of a meal that contains oil, your blood sugar will not rise as quickly as if you eat plain brown rice.

There are just so many fators that can affect the glycemic index - and affect it greatly - to the extent that it is actually quite silly to be make healthy food choices based on glycemic index values.

There is are alternatives to the glycemic index chart, one of which is the "wrong" classification of simple and complex carbohydrates. This is the advice to eat mainly fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Never mind if these foods are wrongly called "complex carbohydrates" or if some of them have high glycemic index values. There is good advice there.

Click here to also read about a refinement to the glycemic index chart, the glycemic load.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Kindly leave a comment in the box below.


(5 articles)
Cooking oils
(23 articles)
Diet plans (13 articles)
Fiber (3 articles)
Fish (3 articles)
Grains (17 articles)
Pasta (10 articles)
Pasta recipes
(>40 recipes)
Salt (11 articles)
(11 articles)
Soy products
(14 articles)
Vegetables (1 article)
Water (6 articles)
More sections to come
Natural Cancer Cures
Flu treatments
Stop Trans fats

Complex carbobydrates won't make you fat
What are complex carbohydrates
Glycemic index
Glycemic load
High protein low carbohydrate diets
Whole grains