So what does Glycemic Index (GI) mean and why is it important to you?
The Glycemic Index is a ranking system designed to express how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. the levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. Using a scale of 0 to 100, the higher the value, the more rapid the rise in blood sugar e.g. pure glucose is given a GI of 100.
The reason it is important to understand is because foods with a high GI are more rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. High GI foods have also been linked to an increased risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes, acne, Alzheimer’s, and weight gain.
Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods that are low on the GI have proven benefits for health and have been associated with feeling full, which can prevent you from overeating.
So what if you supplement with sweeteners?
In what is becoming a ‘carb-conscious’ world, alternative sweeteners to sugar are gaining in popularity. Your diet should preferably contain natural sweeteners that are lower on the GI index. If your natural sweeteners are higher on the GI index, they should be taken in moderation.
It’s also important to note that some fruit juices contain as much or even more sugar than soft drinks, and they display higher GI scores than whole fruits. Fruit juice is a concentrated sugar source that can promote insulin resistance and obesity, especially when consumed in quantity. Most whole fruits have a low GI, and the consumption of certain whole fruits eg blueberries and apples, may actually help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. The presence of other substances, especially fibre in certain fruits or vegetables, slows down the metabolism of carbohydrate (sugars), and lowers their GI level.
Different sweeteners have different GI levels. Glucose has a glycemic index (GI) of 100 and fructose is 25. Sucrose (ordinary sugar), which is made up of a combination of these two, has a GI of 65.
So an easy way to remember is that the Glycemic index for sweeteners is made up of three things:
- The amount of carbohydrate present
- The type of carbohydrate present
- The presence of other substances (eg soluble fibre) that slows the metabolism of carbohydrates
The chart below indicates where your favorite sweetener places on the GI scale:
|Golden Syrup||Modified Sugar||60|
|Inverted Sugar||Modified Sugar||60|
|Refiners Syrup||Modified Sugar||60|
|Blackstrap Molasses||Sugar Extract||55|
|Maple Syrup||Natural Sugar||54|
|Sorghum Syrup||Natural Sugar||50|
|Cane Juice||Sugar Extract||43|
|Barley Malt Syrup||Modified Sugar||42|
|Coconut Palm Sugar||Natural Sugar||35|
|Brown Rice Syrup||Modified Sugar||25|
|Agave Syrup||Modified Sugar||15|
|Yacon Syrup||Natural Sweetener||1|
|Luo Han Guo||Natural Sweetener||0|
|Acesulfame K||Artificial Sweetener||0|