What is the Glycemic Index?

Picture this: You wake up in the morning and pour yourself your first cup of coffee. You add milk and sugar and gulp it down as you get the kids ready for school. You grab a breakfast bar and run out the door, off to work.

Glycemic Index

At around 10:00, you start to feel like there is a fog settling over you, so you get up and grab a diet Coke and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. At noon, you and a coworker head to the deli next door for lunch. You order a grilled chicken panini with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers. You wash it down with another Diet Coke.

By 3:00, you are exhausted. You could curl up under your desk and go to sleep, but you push through, feeling irritable and fuzzy.

All of the foods that you consume in a day fall on a spectrum called the glycemic index. This scale is a measure of how quickly certain foods cause our blood sugar levels to rise. The scale ranks foods from 0-100, with foods at the lower end of the scale being absorbed at a slower rate, which causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels. These foods usually fall into the protein, fat, or fiber categories, and they tend to keep us fuller longer (Larsen et al., 2010).

According to the American Diabetes Association, examples of low-glycemic foods include oatmeal, oat bran, muesli, most fruits, non-starchy veggies, and carrots, and sweet potatoes, yams, butter beans, peas, legumes, and lentils. A diet rich in low-glycemic foods promotes weight loss and maintenance, as well as improving insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

Conversely, foods at the higher end cause a quick rise in blood sugar, and most of these foods are processed carbohydrates or foods high in sugars. Foods that fall on the high end of the glycemic index are white breads and bagels, instant oatmeals, short grain white rice, pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltines, melons, and pineapples.

The drawback of the glycemic index is that it only applies when a food is consumed by itself on an empty stomach, which is obviously not how we eat a meal. Additionally, the glycemic index has nothing to do with how much we are eating (Clar et al., 2017).

The way that the glycemic index of a food is figured out is by giving a person a serving of the food - say potatoes - that contains 50 grams of a carbohydrate MINUS the fiber, and then measuring the person’s blood glucose levels for the next two hours. Again, this is just not how we eat!

And because if you know me at all, you know how I love my overnight oats, here’s a few delicious overnight oats recipes that are low on the GI index for you to start your day with. Enjoy!

Overnight Oats

For each overnight oatmeal recipe below, follow these directions:  Begin each mason jar/small bowl with ¼ cup rolled oats, ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk or lowfat milk, 1 tsp organic maple syrup.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or small mason jar. Store in fridge overnight. Pop in microwave with the top off for 1 minute in the morning. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oatmeal

  • 1 TBL dark chocolate chips

  • 1 TBL natural peanut butter

French Toast Overnight Oatmeal

  • ½ tspn cinnamon

  • ½ tspn vanilla extract

  • Pinch of sea salt

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