Consumer Health: What is a glycemic index diet?

a chef in the kitchen with pots, pans and healthy vegetables

The glycemic index is a system of assigning a number to carbohydrate-containing foods according to how much each food increases blood sugar. Examples of foods with low, middle and high glycemic index values include the following:

  • Low: Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals
  • Medium: Sweet corn; bananas; raw pineapple; raisins; oat breakfast cereals; and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread
  • High: White rice, white bread and potatoes

The term “glycemic index diet” usually refers to a specific diet plan that uses the glycemic index as the primary guide for meal planning. Unlike some other plans, a glycemic index diet doesn’t necessarily specify portion sizes or the optimal number of calories, carbohydrates, or fats for weight loss or weight maintenance. Many popular commercial diets, diet books and diet websites are based on the glycemic index, including the Zone Diet, Sugar Busters and the Slow-Carb Diet.

The purpose of a glycemic index diet is to eat carbohydrate-containing foods that are less likely to cause large increases in blood sugar levels. The diet could be a means to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases related to obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease.

There are some drawbacks and limitations, though. Find out more about glycemic index eating plans and whether one might be right for you.

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