The Insulin Index is better for managing your blood sugar that the Glycemic Index. It is more recent than the Glycemic Index, which dates from the publication of “Glycemic index of foods” in 1981. The first publication of the Insulin Index came in 1997 with “The insulin index of foods.”
The insulin index is broader than the Glycemic Index, which shows only the effect of carbohydrates on our blood sugar. The Insulin Index takes into account not just carbohydrate but also of all the dietary factors and their interactions that influence insulin demand.
Most of the current research on the Glycemic Index and essentially all of it on the Insulin Index comes from Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller and her laboratories in Australia. Among her other titles, she is a professor of molecular biosciences and director of the Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service. I’ve known her for more than 20 years, and we wrote my first book, What Makes My Blood Glucose Go Up…and Down? together.
Dr. Brand-Miller and Me
International Diabetes Federation Convention, Busan, Korea
The original article that I published back in 2003 on the Insulin Index included only 38 foods that Dr. Brand-Miller and her colleagues studied then. Yet few of my older articles generated more interest than this limited study.
The most interesting finding of that early study, published in a 1997 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was that foods rich in protein and baked foods rich in fat and refined carbohydrates elicited “insulin responses that were disproportionately higher than their glycemic responses.”
Now 18 years later, the Insulin Index includes 120 foods in 1000 kJ servings. This study confirms that the Insulin Index of these foods eaten alone and in mixed meals better predicts the insulin demand than either the Glycemic Index or the Glycemic Load (which is measures the effect of the glycemic index of a food multiplied by its available carbohydrate content in grams in a standard serving).
You Can See the Entire List Here
This greatly expanded list of foods tested for their Insulin Index is freely available online. The Glycemic Index, the Glycemic Load, and the Insulin Index for these 120 foods are in Table 1. I found it to be too difficult to read online, but printed it out and studied it on paper.
The five foods highest in their Insulin Index are these:
- Jellybeans, 117
- The Aunt Jemima Original Pancake & Waffle Mix, 110
- Honeydew melon, 93
- Boiled russet potatoes, 88
- Baked beans, 88
No big surprises, except for the baked beans, which has an Insulin Index exactly twice as high as its Glycemic Index. But all of these foods are high in carbohydrates.
Foods that Are Much Higher in Their Insulin Index
Several foods in addition to baked beans have an Insulin Index that is at least twice as high as their Glycemic Index. I exclude here a few foods that have quite low indexes):
- Low-fat strawberry yogurt, Insulin Index 84, Glycemic Index 31
- Skim milk, 60, 29
- Kraft low-fat processed cheese, 42, 10
- Low-fat cottage cheese, 52, 10
- Reduced fat cottage cheese, 40, 10
- 93% fat-free cheddar cheese, 20, 0
Each of these foods are high in protein. Previously we have known that protein has a moderate influence on the glycemic index, while fat has no influence.
Dairy is the Difference
The conclusion that I draw from the expanded Insulin Index reinforces part of the findings from the original 1997 study: we need to take into account the protein in dairy products.
Cheese, milk, and yogurt stimulate a rise in our blood sugar that is considerably more than predicted by the glycemic index alone.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.