Since we’ve been talking about cravings this month, and one of the reasons we can have certain cravings is because of the foods we eat, we need to talk about the glycemic index (GI). It can play a BIG role in your cravings!
We don’t generally pay a lot of attention to it. For example, the GI isn’t listed on food labels. A lot of times, the foods we crave (hello, carbs!) fall high on the GI scale, and eating them can make us crave even more!
In a nutshell, the GI ranks foods on a scale of 1 to 100, based on how fast they cause your blood sugar levels to go up. Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) make it go up faster, and those with a low GI raise it more slowly. This matters because when your blood sugar goes up and down quickly, you can get cravings – and feel tired, shaky and blah, not to mention HANGRY (hungry + angry)! And even more importantly, it can have a MAJOR impact on your health and your waistline, especially if it happens a lot.
Let’s dive in …
On the glycemic scale, each food is ranked by how it affects your blood sugar when it’s eaten alone, on an empty stomach.
Here are some samples of foods with their GI numbers:
- Baked russet potato – 111 (yes, over 100!)
- White rice – 89
- Sweet potatoes – 70
- Banana – 62
- Potato chips – 51
- Green peas – 51
- Apple – 39
- Carrots – 35
- Peanut M&MS – 33
- Barley – 28
There’s a longer list here: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/1/glycemicindex.pdf
According to the Mayo Clinic, foods that have a GI score of:
- 70 or more have a higher glycemic index
- 56-69 have a medium glycemic index
- 55 or less have a lower glycemic index
So does that mean you should only eat foods with a low GI? It depends! It’s always a good idea to know the nutrition facts for foods we eat, but instead of focusing only on each food you eat on its own, it can be more helpful to look at the overall “glycemic load” of your meal or snack. Normally we eat a combination of food (not just one at a time!)
Example: eating a baked potato on its own will spike your blood sugar much faster than eating fiber-rich broccoli and protein-heavy steak along with it.
Also, it’s important to look at the other benefits a food contains. As you can see on the list, nutrient-rich sweet potatoes have a GI of 70, while sugary snacks like peanut M&Ms have a GI of 33. PLUS … if weight loss or body composition is a goal, portion control definitely still matters!
That being said, you’ll probably get fewer cravings if you eat lower-glycemic foods because they’re less likely to send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. I hope this helps shed some light on the glycemic index and what it actually means for you, your cravings, and your results!