Diabetes and the Glycemic Index: Should You Rely On the GI?

123 Glycemic

If you have diabetes of any type, you’re probably pretty familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI). The GI is a number assigned to a food type that represents the food’s effect on your blood sugar levels. The higher the number, the more a diabetic should avoid it. For example, kidney beans rank low on the GI while potatoes rank high. Therefore, a diabetic person would do well to avoid potatoes.

Glycemic Index Limitations

The GI has problems, however. While it is a good guideline, keep these facts in mind:

  • The GI does not take portion size into account. For example, a small potato won’t have the same effect on your glucose that a large potato will. A difference of half an inch on the size of a potato can change the GI by as much as 12 points.
  • The GI does not take into account the way food is prepared. Anything added to the preparation of a meal can adjust the effect on your glucose.
  • The GI only counts carbs. It doesn’t count fats and other factors that can contribute to higher blood sugar readings. A steak has no carbs and no GI number, but 50% of its protein can convert into glucose. • The GI does not measure blood sugar increases due to insulin. Two foods with the same GI could produce different amounts of insulin. The accuracy of the GI is a matter for debate. Using the potato example again, the GI of a russet potato can range from 56 to 111. Also, it is problematic that people are not “all alike”, and food that skyrockets one diabetic’s glucose level might have very little effect on another’s.

So what good is the GI? It’s a very good guideline, which is all it was meant to be. As a guideline, it is meant to nudge you towards healthier food choices, not tell you what to eat and what not to eat.

Getting More Info

The GI is a guideline, but if you want more detail on your diet, you might benefit from checking out the Insulin Index and the Glycemic Load.

The Insulin Index rates how insulin responds to foods, not an extrapolation of how it should act based on its components. It’s also based on a specific amount of food, 1,000 kilojoules (or, 239 kilocalories) as well as how satisfied most people generally feel after eating it. A low satiety means that people will probably go back for more since the appetite wasn’t satisfied. The ratings are not exact and can fluctuate based on the individual, but they are significantly closer than the GI ratings.

The Glycemic Load (GL) is related to the Glycemic Index, and is based on carbs. While it is not as reliable as the Insulin Index, it can tell you what to expect from certain foods. For example, a watermelon has a very high GI (72), but with little carbs it has a very low GL (4). The GL is calculated based on serving size so it avoids the sweeping generalizations of the GI.

Who to Believe?

It might seem like quite a chore to cross-reference your favorite foods with three different charts to see if it’s okay to eat. A fast way to figure out if you should have that snack is to watch the carbs as anybody should. A normal amount of carbs for a person without diabetes is about 45% to 65% of your daily caloric intake, according to the 2010 Dietary Guideline for Americans. With diabetes, your recommended amounts will be lower.

An even better option than would be to make an appointment today and let’s work together to help you meet and maintain your health and weight goals. We can help you with a personalized plan to get you to where you want to be.  So, take control of your health today.  Please call Dr. Deb at Lake Pointe Chiropractic at (770) 974-5215 to set up a free consultation today!