The Truth of Low GI Food and its Pros & Cons

Yuko Miyamoto
Founder of Teatis Tea

Measuring carbs effects can help glucose management. 

Usually it is said that people with pre-diabetes or diabetes would need to concentrate on "low GI" foods. And many health conscious people love to eat low GI foods to keep in shape, too. 

Why?

What is “GI”?  

“GI” is short for Glycemic Index. The glycemic index is a value assigned to carb-containing foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. On the other hand, foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. 

This is the outline so far.☝

What does the rate mean?

The rates at which different foods raise blood sugar levels are ranked in comparison with the absorption of 50 grams of pure glucose. Pure glucose is used as a reference food and has a GI value of 100. So, the maximum is 100.

GI ratings are divided into 3 parts, Low, Medium and High.

  • Low: 55 or fewer
    Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals.
  • Medium: 56–69
    Sweet corn, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread.
  • High: 70 or more
    White rice, white bread and potatoes.

Usually, foods with a low GI value are the preferred choice, especially for healthy-minded people. They’re slowly digested and absorbed, causing a slower and smaller rise in blood sugar levels. 

Foods with a high GI value should be limited. They’re quickly digested and absorbed, resulting in a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar levels. However, there are some exceptions, too. For example, long-distance runners would tend to favor foods high on the GI. In other words, low GI foods tend to foster weight loss, while foods high on the GI scale help with energy recovery after exercise, or to offset hypo- (or insufficient) glycemia. 

Carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. They’re an essential part of a healthy diet. When you eat any type of carb, your digestive system breaks it down into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream. However, in terms of the effects on blood sugar, not all carbs are the same.

And, there are many foods that do not contain any carbs. Foods without carbs won’t be found on GI lists since foods are only assigned a GI value if they contain carbs.

Surprisingly, these foods are not mentioned on GI lists even though they are known as “low GI”. 

  • Beef🍖
  • Chicken🍗
  • Fish🐟
  • Eggs🥚
  • Herbs🌿
  • Spices🧂

For example, fish does not have a GI value as it is a protein food. Fish is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. Oily fish (wild salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna) contain omega 3 fats which are important for your baby's brain and eye development, but they also protect you from developing heart disease.

According to a study, an egg's GI value is zero. Everybody knows that eggs have some dietary cholesterol, but the cholesterol we eat in eggs and other foods has little effect on the cholesterol in our blood. 

Most people think of it as “low GI” food because their low carbohydrate content means that you can automatically consider them to be a “low glycemic index” food.🤔

The Drawbacks 

So, is the low glycemic index food always a healthy choice?

It’s not so simple.

GI rating is easy to understand and logical and reasonable, but the reality is more complicated because various factors can influence the GI value of a food or meal.

In the real world, we have to consider the following items except for the GI ratings.

Sugar: What type of sugar contains? 

There’s a huge misconception about sugars. Thus, all sugars have a high GI. However, the GI of sugar ranges from as low as 23 for fructose to up to 105 for maltose. Therefore, the GI of a food partly depends on the type of sugar it contains. 


Starch: What is the structure of the starch? 

Starch is a carb comprising two molecules — amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is difficult to digest, whereas amylopectin is easily digested. Foods with a higher amylose content will have a lower GI. 


Carbs: How refined the carbs?

Processing methods such as grinding and rolling disrupt amylose and amylopectin molecules, raising the GI. Generally speaking, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI. 


Nutrient composition

Adding protein or fat to a meal can slow digestion and help reduce the glycemic response to a meal. 


Cooking method

Preparation and cooking techniques can affect the GI too. Generally, the longer a food is cooked, the faster its sugars will be digested and absorbed, raising the GI. 


Ripeness: How ripe?

Unripe fruit contains complex carbs that break down into sugars as the fruit ripens. The riper the fruit, the higher its GI. For example, an overripe banana has 1.5x GI value of an unripe banana.

Takeaway

The GI ratings are useful to know which food impacts on the blood sugar, as a first step.

However, the GI value cannot provide a complete nutritional picture alone. It’s important to also consider the fat, protein, sugar, and fiber contents of a food, regardless of its GI. This is the first point of its drawback.

Secondly, the GI value measures the effect of a single food on blood sugar levels, however, most foods are consumed as part of a meal. We usually eat multiple foods at once and moreover, the foods are cooked in different ways. We cannot measure directly the GI value of the whole lunch from the GI list.

*Make sure to check with your doctor before changing eating habits, or trying new supplements. 

A Tasty habit for you!

Teatis Tea contains 500mg extracted Arame seaweed in every cup. 

Natural diabetes management that are doctor approved, with clinically substantiated ingredients.