Session 10. Glycemic Index

The Physicians Committee

Session 10. Glycemic Index

Aim: To help participants use the Glycemic Index (GI) and understand its role.


  • A New Approach to Nutrition for DiabetesAttendance sheet
  • Chapter 10: Glycemic Index from Nutrition Education Curriculum DVD
  • AV equipment to show DVD
  • Extension cord
  • Large writing surface and writing tool
  • Paper/pens for group members

Welcome and Introductions

  • Pass around attendance sheet.
  • Ask participants (one by one) to discuss their successes and challenges of the past week.


DVD (11:14): “Using the Glycemic Index” from A New Approach to Nutrition for Diabetes: Section A, Segment 4

The DVD covers:

  • The GI is a way to rate a food’s effect on blood sugar.
  • It is good to keep the GI “rules” very simple, focusing on just a few common foods. For example, white and wheat bread can be replaced by rye and pumpernickel bread, and white potatoes can be replaced by yams and sweet potatoes. Sugary cold cereals can be replaced by oatmeal or bran cereal.
  • The GI is less important than the guidelines to avoid animal products and to minimize oils.

Note: Some people get confused about terms. How does the Glycemic Index relate to simple versus complex carbohydrate, or unrefined versus refined foods? The answer is that these are completely separate topics. Here’s what you’ll want to know:

  • Simple versus complex: Simple sugars are small molecules that taste sweet—like fruit sugar or table sugar. Complex carbohydrates long molecules that taste starchy (e.g., potatoes or bread).
  • Unrefined versus refined foods: Grains that retain their outer fiber coat (e.g., brown rice) are unrefined. Grains that have had their fiber removed (e.g., white rice) are called “refined.” Unrefined foods are higher in fiber.
  • The glycemic index just indicates a food’s effect on blood sugar. Although brown rice is healthier than white rice (it is unrefined and so it is higher in fiber), white and brown rice have more or less the same effect on blood sugar. White spaghetti is refined, but has a low GI, surprisingly enough.

Participants do not necessarily need to know all this. They just need to (1) avoid animal products and (2) keep oils to a minimum. If they also favor low-GI foods, they’ll get an extra benefit.

For more information, you may wish to review page 56 in Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.

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