The Glycemic Index is a commonly used tool for determining the effect of carbohydrate-containing foods on blood glucose levels. Dieters and people with diabetes use the Glycemic Index because blood sugar levels can impact fat storage and the progression of diabetes. Although beets have a moderately high Glycemic Index value, there are other considerations you need to take into account before excluding these nutritious vegetables from your daily diet.
The Glycemic Index is a rating system for carbohydrates that ranks foods based on how quickly and how high a given amount of food raise blood sugar levels. The scale goes from 0 to 100, with higher numbers having a greater influence on blood glucose levels. Foods that are high in simple sugars typically have high glycemic index ratings because these foods rapidly break down in the digestive tract and cause blood glucose levels to spike. Complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber tend to have a lower Glycemic Index rating and are better for blood sugar regulation.
Beets are a root vegetable high in nutrients and phytochemicals. They contain high levels of folate, manganese and potassium and are a good source of fiber. Unfortunately, beets rate moderately high on the Glycemic Index, with a rating of 64. This indicates that the blood glucose response of 50 g of beet carbohydrates is about 64 percent of the response of pure glucose, which has a rating of 100 on the scale.
The glycemic load is another measure that takes into account the actual amount of carbohydrates in a particular food instead of looking at the Glycemic Index alone. To calculate the glycemic load of a food, multiply the food's Glycemic Index score by the number of carbohydrates in grams provided by a serving of that food and then divide the result by 100. While beets have a high Glycemic Index, they actually have a low glycemic load because there are not many carbohydrates in a single serving of beets. The glycemic load of beets is 5.
Because the Glycemic Index is moderately high for beets but the glycemic load is low, beets may be an acceptable food to eat on a diet designed to keep blood glucose levels steady. This is because despite the rapid and sharp rise in blood sugar predicted by the Glycemic Index, it would take almost eight cups of beets to have such an impact on your glucose levels, far more than you would likely eat in one sitting. A single serving of 1/2 cup of beets has a negligible effect on blood sugar, as indicated by the glycemic load.
- Mendosa.com: Glycemic Values of Common American Foods
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- USDA National Nutrient Reference Database
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002"; Kaye Foster-Powell, et al.; July 2002