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What are the Uses of the Glycemic Index for Diabetes?

By Luanne Kelchner
Updated May 17, 2024
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The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods according to how quickly they increase a person's blood sugar. The lower the GI ranking, the slower the carbohydrates will break down, leading to fewer sudden spikes in blood sugar. Using the glycemic index for diabetes is a helpful way for diabetic patients to select the foods that will help manage blood sugar.

Carbohydrates can be divided into two major categories, complex and simple. Simple carbohydrates include foods such as sugar and honey, while complex carbohydrates include whole grains and starchy vegetables. The most common diet advice in regards to carbohydrates has been to limit the amount of simple carbs in the diet and increase the number of complex carbohydrates.

Diabetics, however, don't find the answer to be that simple. Complex carbohydrates also can elevate blood sugar levels. The glycemic index ranks foods according to how they will affect blood sugar, which gives patients another tool to manage their diabetes.

Using the glycemic index for diabetes can help patients regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day. When the blood sugar remains on an even keel throughout the day, patients may require less medication and can control the illness through diet management. Safely using the glycemic index for diabetes management includes continuing to monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Using the glycemic index for diabetes can also help to control hunger and fatigue throughout the day. When blood sugar levels are managed effectively, hunger is controlled, which can result in weight loss. Patients with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome can delay the condition or prevent it by losing from 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight. Eating low GI foods can help to lose weight.

High glycemic foods can spike blood sugar and leave the patient feeling fatigued and lethargic during the day. When using the glycemic index for diabetes, the spikes are avoided, which can prevent the fatigue. Exercise is a key factor in managing diabetes. A diet that helps to provide energy may help patients live a more active lifestyle.

The glycemic index for diabetes is just one tool in the arsenal to control the illness. Diabetic patients should consult with their doctor and a registered dietitian to develop an eating plan that will manage the condition and prevent the complications of diabetes. How the food is prepared and the other foods eaten at the same time must be considered in addition to the glycemic index ranking of a particular food. Your body’s reaction to foods is also a consideration when managing diabetes.

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