Getting a grip on the glycemic index

The Big Diabetes Lie

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The glycemic index (GI) of a carbohydrate is the effect that a particular carbohydrate has on the blood glucose. Here's how it works: Glucose itself is assigned a GI of 100. A food with the same number of grams of carbohydrate as glucose (usually 50 grams) is eaten, and the blood glucose is measured two hours later. If the food raises the blood glucose as rapidly and as high as glucose does, it too has a GI of 100. If it raises the blood glucose half as much, its GI is 50. If it raises it one and a half times more, its GI is 150.

The GI isn't used as much as it could be in nutritional planning for T1DM for several reasons, including the following:

^ GI values are for isolated foods. The values change when the carbohydrate is part of a mixed meal.

^ GI is dependent on the way food is cooked; for instance, the GI of a baked potato is different from that of a boiled potato.

1 Just because the GI is low doesn't mean that the food is good for your child with diabetes if it contains a lot of fat. Chocolate is one example.

i Some diabetes educators feel that the concept is too confusing for people with diabetes to understand. I think that if you're smart enough to read this book, you're smart enough to understand the GI. You need to use every available tool to keep your child's blood glucose level under control, and the GI can be a valuable tool for people with T1DM. It has been shown that people whose overall food history incorporates more foods with low GI have lower incidences of diabetic complications.

In the following sections, I give you the GI values of a few common foods and show you how to swap out high-GI foods for healthier, low-GI versions.

The best source for more information on the glycemic index is www.glycemic index.com, a site maintained by the University of Sydney in Australia. The site offers two valuable books: The New Glucose Revolution, 3rd Edition, which offers a complete explanation of the concept plus a list of the GI values of most foods; and The New Glucose Revolution, Shopper's Guide to GI Values, 2007, which contains only the list of GI values.

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