*This is the final part of the 3-part series on the glycemic indices of different Indian foods and an overview of some of the best and worst foods for your sugar levels.*
In Part 1, we looked at different rice varieties and it GI values.
In Part 2 we focused on tiffins and the GI of common Indian breakfast dishes.
In this post, let us end this series with a summary of best and worst foods to eat for a south indian vegetarian diabetic.
But before we do that, let us examine millets (are they going to save us?).
What about millets?
People keep asking me about millets. Personally, I support bringing variety to one’s diet. But, how do they fair in the GI values- let us examine?
GI Values of Millets
Here are some GI values for common millets published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
- Varagu 68
- Varagu + Whole green gram 57
- Bajra 55
- Jowar 77
- Ragi 104
Ref: Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr (1993) 2, 111-114
Bajra is the best of millets when it comes to GI.
Ragi (Nachni), which is a fantastic source of calcium, is awful in GI. My theory is that most consumption of ragi takes place in a powdered, drink form – which then gets absorbed quickly into out body requiring a spike in insulin to metabolize it.
What about the GI of puffed grains? Most puffed/popped grains are high in GI.
- Puffed Wheat: 67
- Puffed rice: 77
- Popped amaranth: 97
Ref: Glycemic Index.com
Yes, yes, the same amaranth that I love and tout so much in ‘High in Protein Popped Amaranth’ blog post, it is high in GI. Also, while the popped version is high in GI, the regular cooked amaranth numbers (in the form of chapathi) is 66.
Side note – Just because, something is high in GI, (like ragi), does not mean you banish it for the rest of the family – like kids, adults who are not at risk for diabetes etc.
Let us look at nuts. Here are some (really) good GI numbers for nuts:
- Coconut 42
- Cashews 22
- Peanuts 14
- Peanut Butter 22
- Nutella 33
Nuts – a source of protein and fats seems to be a great option for diabetics.
Interesting to Note – Nutella, which is basically a sugar factory in a bottle does not spike your insulin as much due to the presence of nuts and chocolate fats.
There is very little data on GI of low-carb veggies like greens, cabbage, cauliflower etc. Why? If an ingredient has very little carbs, or no carbs, they cannot be tested for GI. Or sometimes, the ingredient has just not been tested.
But here is a good example to understand how having more veggies will help you maintain your sugar levels.
Go to the Gylcemic Index website and type in cauliflower. Here’s what you will find:
- Cauliflower Topped Sheperd’s Pie : 21
- Lentil and cauliflower curry with rice: 60
Observe, the above data suggests- Just the addition of rice+lentils, brings the GI up from low levels to high levels.
Some other interesting data include:
- Carrot raw GI: 16
- Carrot peeled and boiled: 49
Just from raw- cooked, the GI jumps. Again, can’t emphasize enough, our need to increase the consumption of raw salads and veggies.
Let us look at the GI for fruits:
- Cherry 22
- Grapefruit 25
- Grapes 46
- Mango 51
- Oranges 42
- Papaya 59
- Banana 52
While I could not get the numbers for berries – In the book, How not to Die (highly recommend), the author recommends eating berries and states that it help lowers insulin surges in the body.
I realize that I am a nerd, and can go on and on about the numbers. But, many may not care for the details. Here is a summary:
- White, starchy refined grains
- Glutinous (sticky) rice, tapioca, etc
- Baked goods (anything that uses powdered grains)
- Rice bran, oat bran etc
- All daals (lentils) and beans
- Veggies (lots of greens), nuts, seeds, cheeses, fruits etc
OK, that’s it from me regarding Glycemic Indices…Post your thoughts and comments below!! Were you surprised with some of the data? Or did it line up with what you always suspected? Share your thoughts below…..
WHICH FLOUR IS BEST FOR A DIABETIC? (GLYCEMIC INDEX COMPARED)
WHY BEANS, LENTILS & SEEDS ARE > GRAINS (FIBER, PROTEIN, CA, FE LEVELS COMPARED)
I am not a nutritionist/nurse/doctor. I just study numbers and report them. Consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
Great article. However over indulgence in food can be an issue. Gorging on rice helpings with Sambar, rasam, kaara kozhambu & curd is going to increase the quantum leading to nasty glucose spikes.
More over people can switch to moderate GI par boiled rice, cooked in the boil and drain method to get rid of the calorific starch.
Pre diabetics/diabetics can eat less rice, more salads, poriyal, koottu etc and get off with just one helping of rice. A daily option of Sundal helps in satiety and nil spikes of sugar.
These are some of the steps we follow to be safe
All excellent suggestions!! Thank you!!
Excellent article but I would like to know is there any difference between GI index of whole Millet/grains and their flours ?
While I do not have the numbers for the many types of whole millet vs their flours; I can tell by principle that the flours will have greater GI than their whole version.
Because the finer ground a flour is, the more easily it gets absorbed into our system, increasing sugar levels rapidly.
I have found out the GI of some flours in this post:
One of the best blogs I’ve read! Thanka for the knowledge.
Thank you for the lovely comment!!
Hi, read your 3 parts series. It was a great read. My mother is diabetic and recently I started experimenting with her diet just to lower her sugar numbers. These days I am experimenting with glycemic index of all kinds of flour and trying to substitute in our daily northern Indian diet -Chapati. Seeing great results. As you said I would also try to experiment with barley also. Again thanks for the article and people really need researchers like you.
Thank you for your wonderful comment Bharat!! Much appreciated!!
Your 3 part series on GI is wonderful. I never knew that ground flours would have higher GI than whole grains. Thanks for putting this set of blog posts together, there is a lot of knowledge that can be used. In the last 3 months I have started to include food items made with millets (bajra/jwar/ragi) for a wider variety of food items, but never imagined that they would nearly overlap with GI values of rice. I did try wild rice (bought from Aldi in the UK) a mix of black rice a various shades of brown rice, it took as long as brown rice normally does to cook and had a different flavour to white rice. Good to know that these are also better because of higher Amylose content.
Happy to hear this was helpful!! 🙂
I was thinking that Ragi is good for Diabetes people. Now i came to know Ragi having high GI
Yes, I think it also has to do with the fact that Ragi is often finely ground into a powder and then used which leads to more sugar spikes.
Hi Swetha, Your post was really insightful. Is there another form of consuming Ragi? I consume it as it is a good source of calcium. However all forms that I can think of are in the form of flour.
Hi Meenakshi, do check out my ragi post for some ideas:
Thank you! I am do a need like you going always into details! Hehe
I love my South Indian food. So, I have been slowly swapping, changing and introducing few ingredients to make them healthier without affecting the authentic taste and I am so glad to have come across your blog.
I was under the impression that millets in general are low GI. Good to know that not all millets are. Do you happen to know the GI value for foxtail millet/Thinai?
Hi Bhuvana, I haven’t come across any GI numbers for Thinai yet. If I get fresh findings, I will certainly post them on the site.
I highly recommend Barley, Black rice and Gothuma Ravai (Broken wheat) as substitute for white rice. I also think your method of slowly testing & substituting is great as you are looking at this from a long-term perspective and not a quick fix. Wish you the very best!!
Hi Shweta, have you found any data about the glycemic index of cereals when eaten with added fats (like ghee)?
Pl do share details, if available.
Thanks for the wonderful concise write up on this subject.
Here’s what I could find…According to the study, ‘Glycemic index of single and mixed meal foods among common Japanese foods with white rice as a reference food’, found here: https://www.nature.com/articles/1601606; they found that: ” dairy products significantly reduced the GI of white rice when consumed together, prior to or after a carbohydrate meal. [.] Among previous studies, the GI of corn flake alone was classified as a high GI food but when milk was added to corn flake, the GI decreased (Miller et al, 1998). Similarly, in our study, milk and yogurt, both, caused the GI of rice to decrease, whether the dairy products were taken with, before or after rice ingestion. In addition, when cheese was added to curry, the GI also decreased. Fat and protein in the dairy products were probably responsible for the GI lowering effect by lengthening the gastric emptying and absorption process (Collier & O’Dea, 1983). Although dairy products seem to be low in GI and has a GI lowering effect in general, it has been criticized that these foods caused excessive secretion of insulin…”
So, I guess the answer is that it is mostly yes, but excess consumption is not advised since it may increase the secretion of insulin over time.
Hi Shwetha, I am so glad I bumped into your site as I was researching into Low GI foods for Indian diet. Thank you for all the great info. I have yet to read on GI on your site but wanted to Thank you.
Also wanted to ask are all the green Subji we make using cluster beans, flat valor beans, bhindi, baingan, all desi veggies are they all low in GI?
When making dosa if we add daals and fenugreek does it lower the GI of the dosa? Of course eating in moderation is key but trying to figure out what I can eat.
Plants store most of the energy they produce in the form of starch in their roots (tubers like potato, sweet potato etc) or grains. Typically the other parts of the plant like stalk, leaves, gourds, flowers etc. are non starchy in nature and lower in carb.
Here’s a link with vegetables categorized as low, medium and high GI.
Yes, fenugreek has a very high fiber content (~25%) and a great addition to dosas. Daals are lower in GI compared to grains. Hope this is helpful.
Love your blog ! Glycemic index is very useful for a PCOS person like me…. it has helped immensely with my hormonal regulation too…PCOS is called diabetes of the ovaries…and once my doctor mentioned… cut out processed food ( which includes our chapati flour, millet flour etc etc), instead have them coarsley ground which will have more fiber and GI will also be less… gi has very simple rules… we just have to keep experimenting
Thank you Priya…Happy to hear that!!
I use daikon and find it hardly affects my blood sugar
Swetha, I’m writing a book on how I have not been using any diabetic pills for the past 6 years and as I researching the GI index I happened to read all your articles, they are so lively, practical and very informative. I would like to refer your articles in my book. I love the way you have experimented and showed your results with authenticity. Great write and very helpful.
Retd Professor and advocate
Your effort is precious, வாழ்க வளமுடன்
Thank you Abdul!!
Thank you for the research and the effort. I was experimenting my type2 response with dexcom cgm(g6) and found that ragi had same or worse effect compared with rice. The search lead me to your blog which i found to be super useful. I want you to know these posts are helping people all over like me even several years after you wrote them. Kudos.
One thing i want to point out is how insanely good even simple walking is about 40 minutes after eating. I notice that if i walked about an hour (30-40 minute after food), i greatly bring down the spike. This is a stroll at 3mph i am talking about. Something to think about atleast during the time one chooses to gorge 🙂
Hi Jay, thank you for your sweet comment. And for the great tip regarding walking. My mom also had similar observations about walking’s impact on sugar from her CGM readings. It is a very useful tip and thank you for sharing.