Glycemic Index: It Isn\’t Everything

The Glycemic Index Isn’t Everything

            Sometimes people ask me “this is low on the glycemic index. Is it Igor-approved?” To their surprise, the answer isn’t always “yes.”

But let me back up for a second. What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly any given food raises your blood sugar. With the exception of meals around exercise, most meals should be low on the glycemic index to maintain a good body fat level and good health.


But does just being low on the glycemic index qualify something as a health food?

Put on your critical thinking hat, and let’s explore.

Take a look at this website, which has a listing of various different foods and their corresponding glycemic indices:

Notice that premium ice cream is quite low on the glycemic index at only 38. Now look at apples, grapes, bananas, oranges and peaches. They are all higher on the glycemic index than 38. Does that mean that ice cream is better for you than fresh fruits? Clearly the answer is no.

So in addition to being low on the glycemic index, to be Igor-approved, it also needs to be minimally processed, and have all ingredients that you can pronounce without being a biochemist. This is only the starting point, because some foods that are fine for one person may not be fine for another person.

For example, a person who has poor carbohydrate tolerance won’t do well with large quantities of grapes and bananas in his/her diet. On the other hand, a person who tolerates sugar just fine can add in foods like these.

So whether a food is good for you should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


By the way, just as a point of curiosity. Do you know why ice cream is low on the glycemic index? Because glucose (sugar) raises blood sugar the fastest. Fructose (a different type of sugar) raises it slower. Proteins raise blood sugar much slower and fats don’t raise it at all. Because ice cream has more fat than sugar, it slows down how quickly blood sugar rises. Because fruits have almost no fat, and very little protein, they tend to raise blood sugar faster (although because the primary type of sugar they contain is fructose, they don’t raise blood sugar as fast as bread or pasta). Notice that products that are almost pure fat (like most cheeses and butter) aren’t even on the glycemic index.

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Until next week,



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