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Understanding Glycaemic Index (GI) to Control Your Blood Sugar

Written and Edited by: Nature’s Superfoods Team

Following a Low Glycaemic Index diet plan is said to come with several benefits. Some of these benefits include anything from weight loss to Diabetes prevention. So, what are the correlations between the GI and our blood sugar levels that bring about such advantages? For one, it is pivotal to understand the mechanics behind the Glycaemic Index. The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a measuring unit that indicates how quickly the carbohydrates in a food source will increase glucose levels in the blood. The higher the GI value, the more it is expected to increase blood glucose levels.


High GI foods (GI ≥70) are broken down more quickly, resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods (GI <55) produce a slower, lower rise in blood sugar levels, thus helping in Diabetes maintenance. It extends digestion time and may assist in prolonged satiety. However, low-GI food does not mean you can consume said food in huge portions, your carbohydrate and calorie count are still important1.

Ways to Help Control Blood Sugar

The Health Promotion Board and Ministry of Health in Singapore place much emphasis on leading a healthy lifestyle. This is especially so because of the prevalence of Diabetes in the Little Red Dot. Costing our country an estimated S$1 billion annually, there is an increasing need to raise awareness around this chronic condition. One method is putting in the effort to maintain a balanced blood sugar level.

So, why is it important that we have a balanced blood sugar level? It is widely known that high blood sugar translates to an increased risk of Diabetes, but there’s more. When there are high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream for long periods, the hormone insulin eventually becomes insensitive. Beyond regulating blood sugar, insulin is also involved in many processes in the body, including the breakdown of fats and proteins for energy. But the effects of high blood sugar do not just end there. Persistent high blood sugar levels can lead to a condition known as Hyperglycaemia. Because the insulin hormone isn’t functioning optimally, calories consumed will not be metabolised efficiently to release energy. As a result, energy levels will decrease, powerhouse cells like the mitochondria will be starved of glucose, and vital functions of the body will not be carried out. Oxidative stress through the build-up of free radicals, cardiovascular conditions, neurological disorders and other metabolic problems can thus develop in the future. Given these risks, balancing blood sugar is important for your health and well-being. Here’s how you can do just that: 

1. Switch High GI foods to Low GI Foods

This can be done by replacing white rice with whole grains like brown rice, organic quinoa seeds, or wild rice. High fibre foods including vegetables and most fruits also take longer to digest and therefore produce a slower rise in blood sugar levels2. Other factors that affect a food’s GI include:

– Ripeness & Storage time: the riper a fruit or vegetable is, the higher the GI.

– Processing: Juices have a higher GI than whole fruit.

– Cooking Method: How long food is cooked (al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta).

2. Keep portions in moderation

A large amount of low-GI food may still increase your blood sugar as much as a small amount of high-GI food. Spreading out your carbohydrate-rich foods evenly throughout your daily meals can help maintain and keep blood glucose levels within the desired range. Check the nutrition label on the packaged food for recommended serving size and carb content2

You can also consider adopting Health Promotion Board’s recommendation of a Quarter-Quarter-Half portion for healthier meal proportions3:

– Quarter of a plate with wholegrains.

– Quarter of a plate with sources of proteins.

– Half of a plate with fruit and vegetables.

3. Eat regularly timed meals

Don’t skip breakfast. Consider a low-GI breakfast such as oatmeal (not instant oats), low-GI whole grain organic cereals, eggs, etc2.

4. Remember to exercise regularly

Maintain body weight by exercising regularly. At least 3 days a week, up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderately paced exercise to help improve your body’s metabolism and general well-being2.

Source:

1. Better Health Channel (2013). Carbohydrates and the glycaemic index. Retrieved from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/carbohydrates-and-the-glycaemic-index

2. Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF) (n.d.). Glycemic Index & Managing Diabetes – making healthy choices easy.

3. Health Hub, Ministry of Health Singapore (n.d.) My Healthy Plate. Retrieved from: https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/55/my-healthy-plate

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