What is Glycemic Index?
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure that grades a food based on how much it raises the blood glucose when consumed. It ranks food and drinks that contain carbohydrates by how much it raises blood sugar levels after it is consumed.
Foods are categorised from low, medium or high GI and are graded on a scale of 0-100 units:
Foods with high GI raises blood glucose much quicker than foods with low GI. Therefore, consuming foods with low GI is highly recommended to manage type 2 diabetes mellitus and weight loss, and to reduce blood cholesterol. A recent global study published in a scientific journal1 (New England Journal of Medicine) confirmed that a diet with a high glycemic index is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Examples of high GI foods include potatoes, rice, and white bread. Low GI foods include cherries, plain yogurt, and bran cereal.
Link to COVID-19
There is a strong link between diabetes and COVID-19 where a considerable ratio of the population infected with COVID-19 were diabetics. People with high blood sugar levels are more prone to testing positive for COVID-19. It is recommended by health care professionals to choose a balanced diet that includes low GI foods which helps to not only manage blood sugar but also to fight against COVID-19.
Link to immunity
A healthy immune system helps to prevent, manage and recover from many diseases including viral infections such as COVID-19. Unhealthy diets and poor nutrition is associated with low immune health which makes individuals vulnerable to diseases. Low GI foods often include fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and proteins. These food naturally contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system. Therefore, choosing a balanced, nutritious diet with low GI foods may help to promote and maintain good health.
Choose low GI foods in your diet
Diabetes Canada provides a Glycemic Index Food Guide with an exhaustive food list to help you choose your foods and meal plans.
In this list, foods are organized according to their GI using a traffic light approach (green, yellow and red) along with the food groups (Grains and Starches, Fruits, Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives).
Eleven million Canadians have diabetes or prediabetes. Diabetes Canada says that now is the time to End Diabetes - its health impacts, as well as the blame, shame and misinformation associated with it. Staying healthy is easier when you choose low GI foods in your diet!
1Jenkins et al., 2021 New England Journal of Medicine, 384(14): 1312 – 1322.