Thursday, December 9, 2010

Myth: I can use the glycemic index instead of carbohydrate counting to control my blood sugar.

Answer: Busted!

The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods and measures how fast a food is likely to raise your blood sugar. Foods are ranked according to their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. A glycemic index of 70 or more is considered high while a glycemic index of 55 or less is considered low. The higher a food raises blood sugar, the higher the glycemic index.

Studies have found that eating low glycemic foods will benefit people at risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Many people will find it too time consuming to look up the glycemic index numbers on every food.

Choosing low glycemic index or low glycemic load foods is not the best way to select a health-promoting diet since neither reflects the whole nutrition picture. For example, they do not give any indication of the amount of saturated or trans fat, the quality of the protein or the levels of vital nutrients.

Rather than looking at the glycemic index of foods, available research shows that a more effective intervention for normalizing blood sugars in people with diabetes is to count the total amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack.

Additional nutrition and health information can be found on the MissouriFamilies website.

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

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