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Diabetes and Glycemic Index

Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than average due to insulin resistance. Different foods have a different effect on the glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. One way to track blood sugar levels is to use the Glycemic index (GI) paired with carbohydrate counting. The GI measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises glucose in the blood. According to the American Diabetics Association, the best foods are those low on the GI, and diabetic patients should stay away from the foods on the higher end.

Pairing foods significantly affect how the blood absorbs sugar. Pairing low GI foods with high GI foods can lower the foods’ GI on the higher end.

Below are examples of foods based on their GI:

Low GI Foods (55 or less)

100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread

Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli

Pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar

Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes, and lentils

Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots, greens

Milk and yogurt


Bulgar, barley

Medium GI (56-69)

Whole wheat, rye, and pita bread

Quick oats

Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous


Potato Chips

High GI (70 or more)

White bread or bagel

Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal

Short grain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni, and cheese from mix

Russet potato, pumpkin

Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers

melons and pineapple



Sports drinks


Although knowing the GI of the food you eat can help people better manage their diabetes and even lose weight, it has its downfalls. The GI index is based on 50g of carbohydrates, which varies in portion size depending on the food type. 50g for many foods is well out of the typical serving size. It also depends on the ripeness of the foods. A green banana will have a lower GI than a ripe one. Also, a low GI does not mean a food is healthy. Foods that have a low GI can sometimes have no nutritional value at all. Following the GI of nutrition and food pairing is an excellent way to determine how it will affect your blood sugar; however, it is not foolproof.

Recipe from the American Heart Association:

Asian Tofu Stir-fry


4 tsp olive oil

12 oz firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Fresh or frozen mixed vegetables

1 cup vegetable broth

2 cups cooked rice


In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 2 Tsp. Olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu and sauté until golden brown on all sides. Add 1 Tbsp. Soy sauce and sauté for 1 more minute. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining 2 Tsp. Olive oil to skillet and heat. Add vegetables and remaining 1 Tbsp. Soy sauce to the skillet and sauté for 4 minutes.

Add chicken broth to the pan and bring to a simmer—Cook for 5 minutes.

Serve over brown rice.


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