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Helpful Glycemic Index Charts For Everyday Foods

September 20, 2021
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by


All food contains energy – that’s why we eat them, after all. This energy makes its way into our blood in the form of glucose, a simple sugar that our organs use to power their metabolism and support our own. When we look at different foods, one way to compare how our body will handle their energy is by calculating their glycemic index (GI).

Understanding What a Glycemic Index Chart Is

Foods with lower GI values are likely going to be helpful in the maintenance of a balanced lifestyle. The reason for this is simple – rapid changes in blood glucose levels are harmful, so minimizing them is an essential component of a holistic health optimization plan. If you replace foods high in starch and have relatively high GI values with foods digested more slowly or have less starch to digest, the result will be a more even level of blood glucose over the day.

Typically, foods will change over time – hence why they have sell-by and eat-by dates. For fruits and vegetables, they are usually born with a lot of starch, but this starch will break down into sugars over time. In fact, as some of this sugar ferments, it forms alcohol. There are some hypotheses that we like alcohol because it’s associated with a more readily available source of sugar in nature. For our purposes, though, it’s just important to remember that an apple eaten at an orchard will be very different in terms of sugar than an apple left to ripen on a kitchen counter fully. If you’re looking at oven fries, most probably, the GI will be as advertised. But fruits and vegetables will do some digestion for us the longer they are left to ripen, and you can find a chat of different options and their GIs here.

Although a food’s GI conveys valuable information for planning your diet, we need to know more to understand the physiologic effects of nutrition on our blood glucose levels. At first, the GI is calculated as an average value over many individual people. For any individual, though, their unique responses to a given food are what matters for their health, not how the food generally affects other people on average. The GI is, of course, sound and valuable as a guide, but it would be even better to know how a food will affect a specific person.

There is also a wide range of nutritional information that can make food good or bad for us, or more specifically, for a person. Generally, foods that provoke smaller responses in blood glucose levels are also better for weight control, but not always. For example, vegetable oils can have a very low glycemic index but will also be very high in calories. Trade-offs like this are abundant in nutrition, and no one figure, however useful on its own, will be the definitive factor for every person.

How is the Glycemic Index Measured?

The principal method for this calculation is by measuring the blood glucose levels in someone’s body for two hours after they eat a specific food. The total rise in blood glucose levels over those two hours is then compared to the effect of pure glucose on that same person’s blood glucose levels over two hours. The resulting ratio is the GI for that food, 100 for pure glucose, as the two levels would be the same. For something like a vegetable low in starch, it could be much lower. The sample size is at least ten people and the amount of food tested is typically fifty grams. Remember, the lower the GI of a specific food, the slower or lower the rise in blood glucose levels, so foods with a high GI will have a harsher effect on blood glucose levels.

A food is considered to have a low glycemic index if it has a GI of below 55, which would signify that it will release around half as much glucose into the blood over the first two hours. Likewise, a food is considered to have a high glycemic index if the GI is over 70, while values between 55 and 70 are considered moderate. For example, if you follow a keto diet, then using the GI can be a valuable point of departure for choosing foods that will work well for you. As we said above, the GI of a specific food is altered by many factors, including how it’s prepared, processed, and eaten in combination with other foods. Since the GI is calculated from a 50-gram sample, how much food will be eaten at a single meal is also relevant.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

To try and address this last problem – that most people will not eat precisely 50 grams of a specific food at once – we can use the glycemic load (GL) to paint a more realistic picture of a food’s effect on blood glucose levels. To get this value, we start with the GI, which is accurate while remaining agnostic to the amount of food eaten. We then multiply the GI by the number of carbohydrates in the serving size and divide the result by 100, accounting for how starchy a particular food type is compared to others.

If a food has a low GI but a high proportion of carbohydrates, the GL will “correct” the value upwards to account for the high overall load of sugar in the food. Most foods will have similar GI and GL, at least relative to other foods, as starchy foods tend to be digested quickly as well. Some people prefer the GL for this reason, as it has the extra step to try and make sure nothing is missed. After all, you can always choose to be informed by both values. GLs of over 20 are considered high, those 10 or under are considered low, and those from 11 to 19 are considered moderate.

Using Glycemic Index Charts

Since it’s exceedingly rare to find a person who eats 50 grams of pure glucose, we’ll take the common step of setting white bread as the baseline value. So, for this chart, when you see a GI of 25, for example, it means there will be a quarter as much blood glucose level rise over the first two hours of digestion compared to white bread. Along with the other limitations of the GI mentioned above, this is one reason we consider it a good starting point but by no means the end of the journey towards discovering which foods work best for you.

Some people use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to provide a more precise readout of their blood glucose levels. This device measures the interstitial fluid in your arm to estimate the glucose level in the blood over a set period, usually ten days or two weeks. You can even see how a specific food works for you relative to the sample population from which the GI is derived by comparing your glucose results of the first two hours after eating the food to the reported GI. You can also alter how you prepare food, how quickly you eat it, the portion size, and similar techniques to calibrate your blood glucose levels within a healthy range.

Glycemic Index Charts for Everyday Foods

Examples of High GI Foods

  • White Bagels - these have a GI of over 100 because we use white bread as the reference point, so anything that has a stronger blood glucose response than white bread will have a value over 100. 
  • Watermelon - it may be surprising to see fruit on this list, but watermelon is full of bioavailable sugars that are metabolized quickly. 

Examples of Moderate GI Foods

  • Brown Rice - whole food starches tend to be right in the middle of the GI distribution for all foods. 
  • Ice Cream - although full of sugar and fat, ice cream takes a relatively long time to metabolize compared to starchy foods and fruits.

Examples of Low GI Foods

  • Plain Yogurt - one of our favorite foods to recommend due to its low GI and other positive health attributes. 
  • Grapefruit - the sweet and sour fruit has a surprisingly manageable effect on blood glucose levels up to two hours after eating.

Interested in Actively Engaging with Your Blood Glucose Levels?

GI is a valuable tool, but different people have different responses to the same foods. Other people also eat different quantities of food, while the GI is calculated with a defined serving of a single food. CGMs let you see exactly how your body responds to foods with different GI values. CGMs have been used in diabetic populations for many years and from the first marketing have been considered very safe and effective by the FDA. NutriSense is proud to offer the same CGM technology for the first time for the public to use alongside their team of world-class Registered Dietitians. NutriSense CGMs come with an innovative app that lets you track your blood glucose levels, and every meal is different, after all. For example, a specific food’s effect on a person’s blood glucose levels will be changed by how it is prepared and what other foods are combined with it at the time of eating.



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Helpful Glycemic Index Charts For Everyday Foods
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Benefits of Walking After Eating: From Regulating Blood Sugar To Lowering Blood Pressure 
Benefits of Walking After Eating: From Regulating Blood Sugar To Lowering Blood Pressure 

Find out how taking a walk after your next meal can benefit various aspects of your health, including your blood glucose levels.

Podcast
55
min
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I Think, I Can—Using Technology as a Window Into Your Physiology
I Think, I Can—Using Technology as a Window Into Your Physiology

Molly explains how using a continuous glucose monitor is what personalized health care means. If you want to fine-tune your health, tune in to this special episode of I Think, I Can.

Podcast
10
min
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My Day | My Life: Nutritionist Carlee Hayes' Canine Cuddles
My Day | My Life: Nutritionist Carlee Hayes' Canine Cuddles

My Day | My Life explores the lives of people who have, in one way or another, mastered the art of aging. In this episode, meet Carlee Hayes, dietitian and Nutrition Manager at NutriSense.

Story
9
min
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Common Workout Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Common Workout Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Worried about getting injured during your next workout? Learn about the most common workout injuries, how they can affect blood glucose levels, and some tips to help you prevent them.

Story
6
min
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Eat with NutriSense This St. Patrick's Day
Eat with NutriSense This St. Patrick's Day

Would eating the same meal, at the same time, have the same blood glucose response for three different people? See what our team found out after sampling a delicious corned beef and cabbage dish in preparation for St. Patrick's Day!

Story
7
min
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Build Healthy Habits During Lent
Build Healthy Habits During Lent

Do you know what you're giving up for Lent this year? For those who observe it, this can be a good time to give up bad habits, and add healthy ones into your routine! Read on to find out more about how to build healthy habits this season.

Story
11
min
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Do You Know How Healthy Your Breakfast Cereal Is?
Do You Know How Healthy Your Breakfast Cereal Is?

Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods out there—but how healthy is it, really? Review the nutritional content of some popular breakfast cereals, and learn how to choose a healthy option for your individual needs.

Story
9
min
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Obesity: What You Should Know and Some New Research on the Condition
Obesity: What You Should Know and Some New Research on the Condition

Did you know that more than two in five adults have obesity? Find out more about the pressing public health issue, review some new research that is shedding light on the condition, and learn how to diagnose and treat it.

Story
7
min
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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim
Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim

Purim, a joyous occasion celebrated around March or April every year, is just around the corner! Read on to learn more about the holiday and the delicious foods that accompany it.

Story
9
min
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Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?
Vinegar and Blood Sugar: Does It Lower It?

Read on to find out what impact, if any, vinegar really has on our body’s ability to balance blood sugar.

Story
8
min
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Meal Frequency and Insulin Sensitivity: How Many Times Should You be Eating in a Day?
Meal Frequency and Insulin Sensitivity: How Many Times Should You be Eating in a Day?

If you have insulin sensitivity, is eating two large meals a day or three to five smaller meals better? Find out more about the relationship between meal frequency and insulin sensitivity, and how many times you should be eating in a day.

Story
9
min
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Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis
Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common yet often ignored condition. Learn more about the symptoms to watch out for, how you can seek treatment, and read first-hand accounts from two women who have dealt with endometriosis.

Story
8
min
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

Story
7
min
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Can Eating Pizza Raise Your Blood Glucose Levels?
Can Eating Pizza Raise Your Blood Glucose Levels?

Pizza can be challenging to enjoy eating without worrying about how it affects your health. But while it may be indulgent, it is possible to prepare or order it in a way that won’t wreak havoc on your health or blood sugar levels. Read on to find out more!

Story
8
min
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Do Artificial Sweeteners Raise Insulin Levels?
Do Artificial Sweeteners Raise Insulin Levels?

Review our post on the impacts artificial sweeteners have on blood glucose, insulin, and other areas of your personal health.

Story
8
min
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What Research Says About Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels
What Research Says About Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels

Recent research has shown that sleep and blood glucose are intricately connected. Read on to learn more about what this means for your blood sugar levels and overall health.

Story
8
min
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Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health
Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health

Did you know that menopause can affect your metabolic health, and vice versa? Read on to understand the relationship between metabolic health and menopause, and how to manage metabolic health during your menopausal journey. 

Podcast
57
min
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How a Continuous Blood Sugar Monitor Can Help You Find Your Perfect Diet
How a Continuous Blood Sugar Monitor Can Help You Find Your Perfect Diet

In this episode learn the truth about how we react to certain foods in regards to our blood sugar response and how you can tailor your diet according to your CGM results.

Podcast
66
min
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All About Blood Sugar With Molly Downey, RDN
All About Blood Sugar With Molly Downey, RDN

This week, dive into how to eat your carbs and manage your blood sugar, too with Molly Downey, RDN, LDN.

Story
8
min
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A NutriSense Dietitian's Favorite Kitchen Staples
A NutriSense Dietitian's Favorite Kitchen Staples

Food can be fun, pleasurable, and nutritious all at the same time. Read on to learn more about the two nutrient-dense kitchen staples one of our dietitians swears by to help optimize her health!

Story
10
min
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10 Tastiest Nutrient-Dense Foods From Around the World
10 Tastiest Nutrient-Dense Foods From Around the World

Instead of the type or amount of food you eat, you should focus on the amount of nutrients you're adding to every meal. Here are some of our favorite nutrient-dense foods from around the world to help you get started.

Story
7
min
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Do Pineapples Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Pineapples Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Learn everything you need to know about pineapples, your health, and your blood glucose levels, and see how our dietitians like to eat the sweet, tropical fruit. 

Story
14
min
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Setting Up The Right Diet Plan For Prediabetes [+Sample Diet Plan Included]
Setting Up The Right Diet Plan For Prediabetes [+Sample Diet Plan Included]

Learn more about the relationship between prediabetes and your diet, and see how to build a diet plan that works for you with some great tips, tricks and recipes from our nutrition team!

Story
9
min
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What You Should Know About Acupuncture
What You Should Know About Acupuncture

Learn more about the research on, as well as the benefits and risks of acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine that involves inserting needles into your body for pain and stress relief.

Story
6
min
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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]
Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Learn everything you need to know about the relationship between triglycerides levels and blood glucose.


Story
5
min
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A Guide to Ayurveda
A Guide to Ayurveda

From acupuncture to chiropractic treatments and homeopathy to holistic healing, complementary and alternative medicine is increasing in popularity. Read on to learn more about Ayurveda, a healing system that originated in India thousands of years ago.  

Story
7
min
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Sugar and Cholesterol: Does Sugar Raise Your Cholesterol Levels?
Sugar and Cholesterol: Does Sugar Raise Your Cholesterol Levels?

Learn about the impact sugar has on your cholesterol levels and ways to manage your sugar intake.