What is the Glycemic Scale and Why Should I Use It?

Cut carbs the healthy way with the Glycemic Scale!

What is the Glycemic Scale

We’ve all heard there are good carbs and bad carbs. Avoiding bad carbs can help you lose weight and lower your blood sugar levels. However, how do you make sure you’re getting good carbs?

While you can avoid sugary high-carb processed snacks, it can be hard to tell if you’re actually replacing them with healthy carbs throughout the day.

Good thing there’s a way to know if you’re getting carb from the right food sources. All you have to do is check the Glycemic Scale. To learn more about it, just read this post!

What is the Glycemic Scale?

The Glycemic Scale, commonly called the Glycemic Index (GI), is a measure which indicates how quick blood sugar levels rise when you eat food. It’s a number assigned to different foods based on how fast or slow it can increase blood sugar levels. This index ranks food between a scale of 0 to 100. Foods are classified under high, low or moderate GI levels:

  • High, 70 and up
  • Moderate, 56 to 69
  • Low, 55 or less

High GI food usually represents the bad carbs and the low GI foods are the good carbs. While you can eat moderate GI foods, it’s better to consume foods that score lower in the Glycemic Scale to help cut down your carb intake.

What is the Glycemic Scale

  • High Glycemic Food – These foods are digested and absorbed quickly, which makes blood sugar levels rise fast. Foods that score high in the Glycemic Scale are usually high in processed sugars and carbohydrates. Examples of high-glycemic foods include cornflakes (GI 81)pretzels (GI 83) and baked potatoes (GI 98).
  • Low Glycemic Food – Food with low GI levels are digested and absorbed by the body much slower, causing blood sugar levels to rise at a slow and steady rate. Some good examples of low GI foods include organic Greek yogurt (GI 11), grapefruit (GI 25) and pears (GI 38).

Why Do I Need to Know the Glycemic Scale?

Why Do I Need to Know the Glycemic ScaleConsuming low-glycemic food can help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight.

Knowing the Glycemic Index of the food you eat gives you an idea how fast your body turns carbs into glucose. The lower the Glycemic Index of food, the less likely you’ll get blood sugar spikes. This helps your body better manage food absorption.

Moreover, even if two foods have the same amount of carbs, they usually have a different number on the Glycemic Scale. For instance, depending on the serving, a regular boiled potato may have the same amount of carbs as a serving of boiled sweet potato. However, regular potato has a GI of 74, while sweet potato has a lower GI of 63.

When you eat carbs, it’s broken down into glucose and absorbed in your bloodstream, triggering the release of insulin that makes blood sugar levels rise. Some glucose is used as energy, but the excess glucose is just stored in your body as fat.

Why Do I Need to Know the Glycemic ScaleCutting your carb intake and choosing low-glycemic foods will lower your insulin levels, signaling your body to burn stored fat instead of glucose to help you lose weight.

Apart from its weight loss benefits, adopting a low-glycemic diet helps normalize cholesterol and trygliceride levels and improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Here’s a list of 15 low-glycemic vegetables and fruits:

  1. Broccoli – GI 10 and below Low-Glycemic Vegetables and Fruits - blackberries
  2. Lettuce – GI 10
  3. Onions – GI 10
  4. Red Peppers – GI 10
  5. Tomatoes – GI 15
  6. Cauliflower – GI 15
  7. Egg Plant – GI 15
  8. Cherries – GI 20Low-Glycemic Vegetables and Fruits - tomatoes
  9. Blackberries – GI 25
  10. Prunes – GI 29
  11. Dried Apricot – GI 32
  12. Apples – GI 39
  13. Strawberries – GI 41
  14. Peaches – GI 43
  15. Oranges – GI 45

Glycemic Load, a Specific Way to Measure Glycemic Impact

Checking food GI levels is a great start when you’re cutting back on carbs. Though the Glycemic Scale doesn’t take into account food portions, it still gives you an idea how it can affect blood sugar levels.

Calculating Glycemic LoadTo get a more specific estimate of your food’s glycemic impact, you can use the Glycemic Load (GL) formula. This helps you calculate how your food’s portion size can directly affect your blood sugar.

To do this, you basically multiply the food’s GI number by it’s actual carb content in grams. Then, we take that number and divide it by 100 to get the total Glycemic Load.

Glycemic Load (GL) = GI x food’s carb content in grams ÷ 100

Just like the Glycemic Index, the Glycemic Load also comes with indicators that will tell you if your food has low, moderate or high GL levels:

  • High, 20 and above
  • Moderate, between 11 to 19
  • Low, 10 and below

To give you an idea, here’s how to determine the GL number of a cup of beets.

1 cup of beets 
Glycemic Index – 64
Carb Content – 13 grams

Glycemic Load - a cup of beets

Glycemic Load (GL) = GI x carb content ÷ 100
= (64 x 13 grams) ÷ 100
= 832 ÷ 100
GL = 8.3

Based on the scale, a cup of beets with GL 8.3 is considered to have low Glycemic Load.

The Glycemic Index of Food Can Change

Depending on how it’s handled and the time of consumption, your food’s GI number can actually change. Here are the factors that can change food’s GI number:

  1. Food's Glycemic Index Can Change When You CookFood Preparation – When we cook, we mix in other ingredients with our food. Adding more fiber, acid and fat into our dishes can lower food’s Glycemic Index. How long we cook our food is also a factor. For example, cooking starchy foods longer (pasta) actually increases its glycemic index. Sweet potatoes also tend to have a higher GI score when baked.
  2. Eating Different Foods at the Same Time – You can lower the Glycemic Index of the food by eating it together with low-glycemic foods. For instance, eating oat porridge together with low-glycemic fruits like blackberries or apples can lower the oat porridge’s GI score.
  3. Ripeness – This applies to fruits. When you eat any fruit like overripe bananas, mangoes or grapes, you are already consuming food with high Glycemic Index. If you buy fruits, make sure to eat them when they’re ripe enough, not when they’re turning soft or sweet-smelling.

Glycemic Index - woman choosing between burger or saladFinally, take note that people can react to carbs differently. Factors like your age, fitness level and conditions like diabetes can influence how food affects your blood sugar levels.

The bottom line: the Glycemic Scale is a useful tool to help you cut carbs and choose healthier carb sources. Whether you want to lose weight or have a leaner body, it will help you make better food choices to achieve your fitness goals.

Do you use the Glycemic Index to help you cut carbs? If not, will you try it?
Tell us in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.