Glycemic Index and GI Foods

Mashed Potatoes

The Glycemic Index and GI Foods

The Glycemic Index (GI) was developed as a tool to help people with diabetes keep their blood glucose under control. Many diet programs base their carbohydrate choices entirely on the GI.  The argue that high GI foods are fattening and low GI foods are not. Unfortunately, the whole theory is oversimplified.  It causes more confusion to an already confusing subject.

Glycemic Index Chart
Glycemic Index Chart


According to advocates of the GI system, you should avoid foods high on the scale. These foods include rice cakes, carrots, potatoes, or grape juice. They are absorbed so rapidly they are more likely to convert to fat. Instead, we are urged to consume carbohydrates that are low on the Glycemic Index. These foods include black eye peas, barley, oatmeal, peanuts, apples and beans. These foods absorb slowly.

The Glycemic (GI) Index GoofMashed Potatoes

There is an important mistake in using the Glycemic Index for carbohydrate choices. The Glycemic Index was developed based on eating carbohydrates by themselves in a fasted state. However, when carbohydrates are eaten in mixed meals that contain protein and some fat, the Glycemic Index loses its meaning entirely. The protein and fat slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates.

For example, mashed potatoes have a Glycemic Index near that of pure glucose. If you combine the potatoes with a chicken breast and broccoli, the GI of the entire meal is much lower than the potatoes alone. Rice cakes also have a high GI. But if you put a dab of peanut butter on them, the fat slows the absorption of the carbohydrates, lowering the GI.

Another goof:

Bowl of Ice CreamThe Glycemic Index was developed based on eating a food in the fasted state. We don’t always eat in a fasted state.

If low Glycemic Index foods were the key to fat loss, then you could eat ice cream and M & M’s and you would lose weight. There are more important factors than the GI, such as whether or not your carbohydrates are natural or processed.

To determine if a carbohydrate is natural and unrefined, ask yourself if the food in question came out of the ground or off the tree or plant and remains in its natural state. If the answer is yes, then you’ve got a natural, unrefined food.

Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing