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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Jessica

Glycemic Index is a ranking of carbohydrates to the extent that they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods that are high on the Glycemic Index cause a significant increase in blood sugar, to which the body responds with an insulin spike, which may cause symptoms of hypoglycemia.

How to Reduce Glycemic Effects

Certain foods—or certain preparations of foods—have been studied for their effects on blood sugar. Vinegar, for example, may help to lower glucose levels when ingested with foods high on the Glycemic Index. Berries are thought to help reduce insulin spikes that occur when high glycemic foods are eaten. 

Foods such as beans, peas, and lentils, which are low on the Glycemic Index, cause a much lower blood sugar spike than higher glycemic foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes—even when the numbers of carbohydrates consumed are equal. The effect of beans on blood sugar has been dubbed the “second meal effect” in that they have been shown to moderate blood sugar, not just at the meal at which they are eaten, but even several hours later. This is possible because the bacteria in one’s gut act on the beans, creating byproducts that slow stomach emptying. This process is believed to help with the digestion of foods that are eaten later, thereby reducing the sugar spike that would otherwise occur. 

The Glycemic Index of boiled sweet potatoes is half that of sweet potatoes that are baked or roasted. Foods such as grains and fruits that are consumed in their intact form, rather than being ground or blended, have also been shown to cause less of a blood sugar spike. 

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