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How to Use the Glycemic Index

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The Bigger Picture: Glycemic Load and a Good Diet

The glycemic index shouldn't be the only thing you consider when making choices about what to eat. The fact a food has a low glycemic index doesn't mean it's super-healthy, or that you should eat a lot of it. Calories, vitamins, and minerals are still important.

For example, potato chips have a lower glycemic index than oatmeal and about the same as green peas. But oatmeal and green peas have more nutrients.

Portion sizes matter, too. The more of whatever kind of carbs you eat, the more they'll affect your blood sugar. That's what the glycemic load tells you. It's a number you may see along with the glycemic index in lists. Think of it as the glycemic index for a specific amount of that food.

Glycemic load helps you account for both the quantity and the quality of your carbs at the same time. Less than 10 is low; more than 20 is high.

For a diet with a lower glycemic load, eat:

  • More whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables without starch, and other foods with a low glycemic index
  • Fewer foods with a high glycemic index, like potatoes, white rice, and white bread
  • Less of sugary foods, including candy, cookies, cakes, and sweet drinks

You can still eat foods with a high glycemic index. Just enjoy them in smaller portions, and offset them with nutritious, low-glycemic index foods when you do.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 26, 2014
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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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