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Balancing Act: Blood Sugar Regulation and the Glycemic Index in Diabetes

Written by: Content Team



Time to read 8 min

Many intricacies lie behind blood sugar level control. One of the primary contributors to this regulation is the glycemic index, which is a measure of how fast a certain food raises blood sugar.

This guide will explain the relationship between the glycemic index and blood sugar regulation in diabetes. We’ll also highlight some foods with healthy glycemic index ranges that you can consume without risk of spiking your blood sugar levels.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) measures how fast a certain food can make your blood glucose levels rise.

This scale applies only to foods that contain carbohydrates, and it shows whether these foods can raise blood sugar slowly, moderately, or quickly.

The GI scale is between 0 and 100. Foods with a score of 55 or below are classified as having a low GI rating. Most fruits and vegetables fall into this category.

The medium GI rating is between 56 and 69. Extra sweet fruits, like pineapple and bananas, lie in this category.

A high GI rating is anywhere above 70 on the scale. Examples include white bread and sugary drinks.

Foods like fats, meats, and oils don’t have a glycemic index. However, people with diabetes can still experience a blood sugar rise when eating these foods.

How Does the Glycemic Index Affect Blood Sugar Regulation?

Glycemic Index Chart
Glycemic Index Chart

Foods with high GI can make blood sugar balancing more difficult; so the person living with diabetes should consume foods that have low GI.

However, not all low-GI foods are classified as healthy choices. For example, many chocolates have a low glycemic index because of their high-fat content, which slows down carbohydrate absorption.

Yet, the added sugars, even in high-cocoa percentage chocolate, can still raise blood glucose levels. Chocolate is also high in calories, making it harder to lose weight.

According to the American Diabetes Association, losing weight is especially important in battling diabetes , as it reduces the risk of developing diabetes complications.

Other foods with low GI that aren’t healthy choices include:

  • Dried fruit: Despite being a good source of fiber and nutrients, dried fruit is concentrated in sugar and calories. A small handful of raisins has about the same amount of sugar as a candy bar.

  • Fat-free yogurt with added sugar: Much of the weight-loss benefit you acquire from fat-free yogurt is lost if the yogurt has added sugar. Opt for plain yogurt instead. If the taste is too bland, you may add fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

  • Cereal bars: Cereal bars are portable, highly-convenient snacks. While there are multiple healthy options, many are high in sugar, processed grains, and unhealthy fats.

  • Fruit juice. Fruit juices are a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, because there’s zero fiber in the juice, it quickly raises blood sugar levels, leading to unnecessary spikes. Opt for blended smoothies or eating the whole fruit (preferably with the skin on) instead.

  • Starchy vegetables: Despite being low-GI foods, potatoes and other starchy vegetables can cause a spike in blood sugar levels if eaten on their own. Pair them with protein and healthy fats to slow down digestion and regulate the rise of blood sugar.

What Else Can Affect the GI of Your Food?

Cooking methods, processing and ripeness, and fats and protein content can all affect the GI of your food. Here’s how:

Cooking Methods

Frying your food in fat increases its GI, as it breaks down the complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, making it easier for the body to absorb them.

Boiling can also have varying effects. On one hand, overcooking can break down carbohydrates and increase GI. On the other hand, it can leach out water-soluble starches, like in boiled potatoes with the water drained.

Baking can also create browning reactions that create complex carbohydrates out of simple sugars, like in Maillard or caramelization reactions, which lowers the overall GI.

Processing and Ripeness

Different healthy grains
Different healthy grains

Processed food and refined grains often have higher GI as they’re much easier to digest and absorb. Try to rely on whole grains like brown rice and quinoa for lower GI.

Fruit ripeness is another factor, especially in sugary fruits like bananas. The sugar content increases considerably when a banana is left to ripen for too long.

Fats and Protein Content

High-fat content slows down digestion and can lower the GI. However, you should consume more monounsaturated fats to avoid the increased disease risk of saturated fats.

Protein has a similar effect to fat in slowing down carbohydrate absorption. Pairing high-carb foods with protein is recommended to reduce blood sugar spikes.

Is Low Glycemic Index Enough for Blood Sugar Regulation?

Foods and their glycemix index
Foods and their glycemix index

The short answer is no. Focusing solely on GI when selecting food to manage diabetes isn’t enough. If you skip other aspects like fat and calorie content, you’ll risk raising your BMI, which makes diabetes management a lot harder.

That’s why you should prioritize foods with a low GI and acceptable fat and calorie content. Here are the foods you should focus on, sorted into categories:

Lean Meat and Poultry

Among the best recommendations to control blood sugar levels is chicken breasts. With a GI of 0 and 80% of the calorie content coming from protein , baked or grilled chicken breasts are a fantastic option to regulate blood sugar levels.

Grilled or baked salmon is another example with 0 GI. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is highly beneficial for heart health . Canned tuna packed in water is a budget-friendly replacement for salmon.

Dairy Products

Some dairy products like unsweetened Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are excellent protein sources with low GI. Greek yogurt has a GI of 15-20, and cottage cheese has a GI of 15.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats are highly nutritious and reasonably low in GI.

Brown rice can be a lifetime alternative to white rice, with a GI of 50. It’s also a good source of fiber and B vitamins.

Quinoa is an excellent protein source with a GI of 53, and oats, which have a GI of 55 and are rich in fiber, are great choices for breakfast.


Most vegetables are low GI options. Some diabetes-friendly non-starchy options include spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers with GIs of 12, 15, and 20, respectively.

Starchy vegetables are naturally higher in GI, but many are still low enough to keep your blood glucose within normal levels. These include baked sweet potatoes, peas, and boiled corn, having GIs of 48, 32, and 52 in order.


Fruits are considered natural candy. Some of them, like bananas and pineapples, may not be the friendliest options for people with diabetes. Still, many options are highly beneficial and rich in vitamins, like berries (GI 20-30), citrus fruits (GI 35-40), and apples (GI 36-40).

All of the foods mentioned above are part of the insulin resistance diet , a collection of foods that won’t spike up your blood sugar levels even if consumed in fairly large amounts.

The Blood Sugar Balancing Act

The balancing act refers to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels within a safe range. This range is anywhere between 4.0 and 5.4 mmol/L or 72 to 99 mg/dL of fasting blood glucose. The range is slightly higher after eating a meal and can reach up to 7.8 mmol/L or 140 mg/dL.

A few precautions should be taken to maintain that healthy range if you’re living with diabetes, among them is eating low-GI foods.

Here are some additional tips to keep the blood sugar levels in check:

Maintain an Active Lifestyle

A woman in her exercise routine on a mat
A woman in her exercise routine on a mat

An active lifestyle improves insulin sensitivity by making your cells more receptive to insulin. This allows for a more efficient absorption of glucose, which lowers the overall blood sugar levels.

Also, the improved blood circulation associated with constant workouts can boost the body’s metabolism, allowing you to retain your healthy weight even after eating foods with a relatively high glycemic index.

Manage Stress

Constant stress causes the release of stress hormones in your body, like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can make it harder for insulin to achieve its desired effect.

It’s difficult to eliminate stress entirely, but getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and practicing relaxation techniques and meditation can ease stress considerably.

Keep Your Blood Sugar Monitored

Performing a glucose monitor
Performing a glucose monitor

There’s a degree of blood glucose unpredictability in people with diabetes. That’s why it’s always recommended to check the blood glucose levels at least once per day using a glucometer.

If you’d rather avoid the finger pricks, many non-invasive glucose monitoring methods exist, like continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Take Your Medications

Many type 2 diabetes cases can be handled by a modified lifestyle, but many others are difficult to manage without medications. Insulin is the primary medication used in diabetes type 1 and some type 2 diabetes cases.

Failing to administer the required dose of insulin in its proper time can cause a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels, risking hyperglycemia. Constantly high blood sugar levels can lead to dangerous ramifications like retinopathy and neuropathy .

Needle phobia or the inconvenience of daily needle pricks are among the primary reasons why people with type 1 diabetes may not stick to their insulin regimen the way they should. For this issue, needle-free injections remain the best solution to date.

InsuJet Needle-free injections offer the following advantages:

  • They take the pain and inconvenience out of the equation, making daily insulin administration as easy as drinking water.

  • They have less impact on the environment since they don’t involve any needle disposal.

  • They are cost-effective, as a single V5 Injector can be used up to 5,000 times with proper maintenance.

  • They draw no blood at the site of injection, reducing the risk of infection.

  • They are compatible with all U-100 insulins, making it easy to switch to them anytime.

  • They are suitable even for people with high BMI.

  • They don’t need batteries to operate, as the injection is administered by pressuring the device against the injection site.

Final Words

The lower the glycemic index of a food, the less it will affect blood sugar levels. However, the glycemic index alone isn’t the only factor to consider. You should also avoid foods that are calorie-rich and high in saturated fats.

Mix those healthy food practices with an active lifestyle, constantly monitor your blood glucose levels, and take your medications to achieve the best possible control over your condition.

If insulin is among the medications you need to take, look at our shop to see how we can make your insulin delivery easier and more convenient.

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