What is the Glycemic Index?

Have you heard about the glycemic index? If you’re interested in your health, there’s a pretty good chance that you have. There’s a lot about it to understand, though.

  • What is it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • How does it effect the body?
  • What are some of the best sugars on the glycemic index?

Let’s dig in to find out.

The Rating System

The glycemic index is a ratings system of 1-100 which tells you a food’s effect on the blood sugar. Foods that are very easy for your body to turn into glucose make your blood sugar spike quickly. So, things like bread and pasta have higher glycemic indexes, and foods like vegetables and whole grains which have more slowly digested carbs, have lower.

Pure glucose is valued at 100 and hummus has a glycemic index of 6, representing the relative rise in blood sugar two hours after consumption.

  • Foods with a glycemic index (GI) lower than 55 are considered Low GI.
  • Medium GI foods have a score of 56-69.
  • Foods with a GI of 70 or more are considered to have a high GI.

Low and High GI

There are several factors that go into determining the glycemic index of a food. These include:

  • the type of sugar the type of sugar (fructose, glucose, maltose, etc.),
  • the structure of the starch (difficulty of digestion),
  • how refined the carbohydrate is (as processing methods disrupt the molecules, the more a food is processed, the higher the GI will be in most cases),
  • nutrient composition (both fat and acid slow down digestion and absorption rates, resulting in a lower GI),
  • cooking method (the longer a food is cooked, the higher the GI is likely to be),
  • and ripeness (the riper the fruit, the higher the GI in most cases).

The Glycemic Index and Your Body

So, what does this actually mean for your body? Foods with a high GI cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels. To deal with this sudden rise, the pancreas will create insulin which, in turn, causes the glucose levels in the blood to crash, making you feel hungry again. This cycle can easily lead to overeating and obesity.

sugar crash glycemic index

Eating high-GI foods on a regular basis can reduce your body’s sensitivity to insulin and also makes your pancreas work overtime, which can lead to conditions like Type II Diabetes. Obesity and diabetes, in turn, may increase the risk of cancer. High- GI foods also raise triglyceride levels in the blood and increase oxidative damage to the heart.

A diet richer in low-GI foods can also make you happier. These foods help stimulate a gradual increase in your serotonin levels, keeping your mood more balanced.

Sugars and the Glycemic Index

Now that you know why foods with a low glycemic index are a healthy choice, let’s talk about which sugars land where.

High on the list are maltodextrin (GI of 110), maltose (105), dextrose (100) and glucose (100).

Those with mid-range GI include sucrose (65) and caramel (60). There are so many delicious sugars with low-GI, though. Sugars like maple syrup (54), honey (50), cane juice (43), and agave syrup (15).

At Maxine’s, we sweeten with coconut sugar (35) and dates (46-55 depending on the type of date), meaning that our cookies are delicious without unhealthy sugars. That’s something you can feel good about.

Keeping an eye on the glycemic index can help you keep better track of your health while not sacrificing anything in terms of enjoyment.

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