The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the power of foods (or specifically the carbohydrate in a food) to raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after being eaten. The GI values of foods must be measured using valid scientific methods. It cannot be guessed by looking at the composition of the food. Currently, only a few nutrition research groups around the world provide a legitimate testing service.
The GI value of a food is determined by feeding 10 or more healthy people a portion of the food containing 50 grams of digestible (available) carbohydrate and then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours. For each person, the area under their two-hour blood glucose response (glucose AUC) for this food is then measured. On another occasion, the same 10 people consume an equal-carbohydrate portion of glucose sugar (the reference food) and their two-hour blood glucose response is also measured. A GI value for the test food is then calculated for each person by dividing their glucose AUC for the test food by their glucose AUC for the reference food. The final GI value for the test food is the average GI value for the 10 people.
Foods with a high GI score contain rapidly digested carbohydrate, which produces a large rapid rise and fall in the level of blood glucose. In contrast, foods with a low GI score contain slowly digested carbohydrate, which produces a gradual, relatively low rise in the level of blood glucose.