What the index numbers mean
Carb-containing foods can have a low, medium, or high glycemic index (see below). The index only rates the type—not amount—of carbs in a food. Portion size is still important for managing blood glucose. A food may have a low index, but eating too much of that food may raise your blood sugar levels.
Many factors can affect a food’s glycemic index. A few of these include:
Fats and fiber
Tend to lower the glycemic index.
Ripeness of fruits and vegetables
The more ripe, the higher the index.
The less processed, the lower the index. For example, juice is higher than whole fruit. Mashed potatoes are higher than baked ones.
The longer some foods are cooked, the higher the index. For example, firmer pasta has a lower index than soft-cooked pasta.
Using the glycemic index
There is no meal plan that works for everyone with type 2 diabetes. However, many people use the index as part of a healthier lifestyle. The goal is to balance your meals in order to control your blood sugar levels. Try combining foods that have a higher index with foods that have lower ones. See the chart below for examples of the glycemic index for some foods. Individual brands may vary.
Glycemic Index Values of Foods*
A low glycemic index is 55 or less.
A medium glycemic index is between 56 and 69.
A high glycemic index is 70 or higher.
100% stone-ground whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread
Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut)
Legumes and lentils
Most nonstarchy vegetables
Brown, wild, or basmati rice
White bread or bagel
Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
Short-grain white rice
Macaroni and cheese from mix
Things to keep in mind
Be aware that the glycemic index only applies to individual foods, not whole meals. The combination of foods in a meal may affect blood sugar differently. Plus, it only rates foods that contain carbs. Meats, fish, poultry, and fats do not contain carbs, so they do not have an index. Finally, the index does not rank foods based on how healthy they are for you. Foods with a low glycemic index may still be high in calories, sugar, or saturated fat. Use of the glycemic index needs to be balanced with basic nutrition principles of variety for healthful foods and moderation of foods with few nutrients. To learn more about the index, talk to your doctor or dietitian.