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What you need to know about Glycemic Index (GI)

When it comes to food, there are so many numbers that we have to take note of.

These include calorie count, fat content, sugar levels but there is one number that the casual dieter might not have heard of.

It is the glycemic index or GI. According to the Glycemic Index website (yes, there is a website dedicated to it updated and maintained by the University of Sydney’s GI group), GI is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according the extent to which they raise blood (glucose) levels after eating.

Rice is one of the foods with high GI number. Credit: Pixabay.

What is Glycemic Index (GI)

It is the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve of 50g of carbohydrate portion of a test food expressed as a percentage of the response to the same amount of carbohydrate from a standard or reference food taken by the same subject.

There are three groups of GI:  low (where food GI is below 55) moderate (56 to 69) and high (70 and above).

According to Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia (RNI) report, research on glycemic response of foods is still low. The argument is that the practical use of GI to assess one single food item is questionable.

This is because there are many other factors including carbohydrate content or even cooking method influencing the glycemic response of foods.

However, there are reports that reducing food intake with high GI can improve overall blood glucose control.

Should you take Glycemic Index into account?

Does it mean that having low GI foods are good for you? Not necessarily.

Some low GI foods may not be good because they have high fat content.

Conversely, some high GI foods maybe be good because it has high nutrient content. Thus, it is unnecessary to completely avoid all high GI foods.

In other countries, nevertheless, GI is advised to be used as part of the nutritional management for people with diabetes.

American Diabetes Association, Canadian Diabetes Association and Diabetes United Kingdom recommends people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to take note of the glycemic index of food.

Moreover, one study found that a moderately high protein, low GI diet works best for longer-term weight management.

Generally, what experts agree now is that the use of GI is only a base for choosing carbohydrate-containing food.

As for Malaysians, our high GI foods are fried meehoon (99), fragrance rice (97), kuay teow (90), wholemeal bread (85), pineapple (82) and sardine sandwich (73).

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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