person grocery shopping
person grocery shopping

Glycemic Index

You’ve probably heard this term in conversations with healthcare professionals and diabetes educators, but what’s it all about?

A Guide to the Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing food or drink by how much it raises blood sugar levels after consumption. Foods with a high GI increase blood sugar higher and faster compared to foods with a low GI.

Diabetes Canada uses a colour coding system to highlight foods you should GO for, foods you should approach with CAUTION, and foods you should STOP & THINK about, based on their GI category.

Traffic light on green

GREEN = GO

Low GI (55 or less)
Choose most often
Traffic light on orange

YELLOW = CAUTION

Medium GI (56 to 69)
Choose less often
Traffic light on red

RED = STOP & THINK

High GI (70+)
Choose least often

Let’s take a look at GI breakdowns for the following food groups:

Grains & Starches

Low Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
Breads
  • Heavy mixed grain breads
  • Spelt bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tortilla (whole grain)
Cereal
  • All-Bran™ cereal
  • All-Bran Buds™ with psyllium cereal
  • Oat bran
  • Oats (steel-cut)
Grains
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Mung bean noodles
  • Pasta (al dente, firm)
  • Pulse flours
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (converted, parboiled)
Other
  • Peas
  • Popcorn
  • Sweet potato
  • Winter squash
Medium Glycemic Index
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
Breads
  • Chapati (white, whole wheat)
  • Flaxseed/Linseed bread
  • Pita bread (white, whole wheat)
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Roti (white, whole wheat)
  • Rye bread (light, dark, whole grain)
  • Stone ground whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain wheat bread
Cereal
  • Cream of Wheat™ (regular)
  • Oats (instant)
  • Oats (large flakes)
  • Oats (quick)
Grains
  • Basmati rice
  • Brown rice
  • Cornmeal
  • Couscous (regular, whole wheat)
  • Rice noodles
  • White rice (short, long grain)
  • Wild rice
Other
  • Beets*
  • Corn
  • French fries
  • Parsnip
  • Potato (red, white, cooled)
  • Rye crisp crackers (e.g., Ryvita Rye Crispbread™)
High Glycemic Index
(70 or more)
Choose least often
Breads
  • Bread (white, whole wheat)
  • Naan (white, whole wheat)
Cereal
  • All-Bran Flakes™ cereal
  • Corn Flakes™ cereal
  • Cream of Wheat™ (instant)
  • Puffed wheat cereal
  • Rice Krispies™ cereal
  • Special K™ cereal
Grains
  • Jasmine rice
  • Millet
  • Sticky rice
  • White rice (instant)
Other
  • Carrots*
  • Potato (instant, mashed)
  • Potato (red, white, hot)
  • Pretzels
  • Rice cakes
  • Soda crackers
Low Glycemic Index
Medium Glycemic Index
High Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
(70 or more)
Choose least often
Breads
  • Heavy mixed grain breads
  • Spelt bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tortilla (whole grain)
Breads
  • Chapati (white, whole wheat)
  • Flaxseed/Linseed bread
  • Pita bread (white, whole wheat)
  • Pumpernickel bread
  • Roti (white, whole wheat)
  • Rye bread (light, dark, whole grain)
  • Stone ground whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain wheat bread
Breads
  • Bread (white, whole wheat)
  • Naan (white, whole wheat)
Cereal
  • All-Bran™ cereal
  • All-Bran Buds™ with psyllium cereal
  • Oat bran
  • Oats (steel-cut)
Cereal
  • Cream of Wheat™ (regular)
  • Oats (instant)
  • Oats (large flakes)
  • Oats (quick)
Cereal
  • All-Bran Flakes™ cereal
  • Corn Flakes™ cereal
  • Cream of Wheat™ (instant)
  • Puffed wheat cereal
  • Rice Krispies™ cereal
  • Special K™ cereal
Grains
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Mung bean noodles
  • Pasta (al dente, firm)
  • Pulse flours
  • Quinoa
  • Rice (converted, parboiled)
Grains
  • Basmati rice
  • Brown rice
  • Cornmeal
  • Couscous (regular, whole wheat)
  • Rice noodles
  • White rice (short, long grain)
  • Wild rice
Grains
  • Jasmine rice
  • Millet
  • Sticky rice
  • White rice (instant)
Other
  • Peas
  • Popcorn
  • Sweet potato
  • Winter squash
Other
  • Beets*
  • Corn
  • French fries
  • Parsnip
  • Potato (red, white, cooled)
  • Rye crisp crackers (e.g., Ryvita Rye Crispbread™)
Other
  • Carrots*
  • Potato (instant, mashed)
  • Potato (red, white, hot)
  • Pretzels
  • Rice cakes
  • Soda crackers

*Most starchy/sweet vegetables (e.g., peas, parsnip, winter squash) provide 15 g or more carbohydrate per 1 cup serving. Beets and carrots often provide less than 15 g carbohydrate per serving (marked above with *). Most non-starchy (or free) vegetables (e.g. tomato and lettuce) have not been assigned a GI because they have very little carbohydrate and very little effect on blood sugar.

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018.

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Fruits

Low Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
  • Apple
  • Apricot (fresh, dried)
  • Banana (green, unripe)
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate
  • Prunes
Medium Glycemic Index
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
  • Banana (ripe, yellow)
  • Cherries (bottled)
  • Cherries (fresh)
  • Cranberries (dried)
  • Figs (fresh, dried)
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Lychee
  • Pineapples
  • Raisins
High Glycemic Index
(70 or more)
Choose least often
  • Banana (brown, overripe)
  • Watermelon
Low Glycemic Index
Medium Glycemic Index
High Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
(70 or more)
Choose least often
  • Apple
  • Apricot (fresh, dried)
  • Banana (green, unripe)
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate
  • Prunes
  • Banana (ripe, yellow)
  • Cherries (bottled)
  • Cherries (fresh)
  • Cranberries (dried)
  • Figs (fresh, dried)
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Lychee
  • Pineapples
  • Raisins
  • Banana (brown, overripe)
  • Watermelon

Friendly Tip:

Many fruits (and vegetables) fall in the low or medium GI categories.

Some fruits have not been assigned a GI because they contain less than 15 g of available carbohydrate
per serving (e.g., lemon and lime).

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018.

Milk & Alternatives

Low Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
  • Almond milk
  • Cow milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Greek yogurt
  • Soy milk
  • Yogurt (skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
Medium Glycemic Index
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
N/A
High Glycemic Index
(70 or more)
Choose least often
  • Rice milk
Low Glycemic Index
Medium Glycemic Index
High Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
(70 or more)
Choose least often
  • Almond milk
  • Cow milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Greek yogurt
  • Soy milk
  • Yogurt (skim, 1%, 2%, whole)
N/A
  • Rice milk

Milk, alternatives and other beverages listed include flavoured (e.g., chocolate), sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018.

Proteins

Low Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
  • Baked beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Mung beans
  • Romano beans
  • Soybeans/Edamame
  • Split peas
Medium Glycemic Index
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
  • Lentil soup (ready-made)
  • Split pea soup (ready-made)
High Glycemic Index
(70 or more)
Choose least often
N/A
Low Glycemic Index
Medium Glycemic Index
High Glycemic Index
(55 or less)
Choose most often
(56 to 69)
Choose less often
(70 or more)
Choose least often
  • Baked beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Mung beans
  • Romano beans
  • Soybeans/Edamame
  • Split peas
  • Lentil soup (ready-made)
  • Split pea soup (ready-made)
N/A

Meat, poultry and fish do not have a GI because they do not contain carbohydrate. When ½ cup or more of pulses (beans, lentils and peas) are eaten, they can be included in the Grains & Starches food group or the Proteins group.

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018.

asparagus heads asparagus heads

Nutrition Matters

Did you know there’s a strong link between nutrition and blood sugar management?

Discover the Details
bowl of soup. bowl of soup.

Counting Carbs

Understanding carbohydrates – and how to track them – is an important part of diabetes management.

Start Carb Counting
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Healthy Choices Checklist

There are some basic rules
for healthy eating.

See The Checklist