The whole (grain) truth about glycaemic index:
Take our quiz

White or brown rice? Mee pok or spaghetti? The link between food, glycaemic index (GI) and diabetes has provided much food for thought after it was reported that the Health Promotion Board is targeting white rice in Singapore’s war against diabetes. What is GI, which food has a lower GI and why does it matter? Take our quiz and digest the facts about GI in bite-sized chunks.
QUESTION 1
How much white rice do you eat?

Move the slider to the amount of rice you eat in one meal. One bowl of rice has a serving size of about 200g.

This is what makes up your 2 of rice - percentage of approximate daily recommended intake in brackets for average adult*

Energy:
560Kcal
Carbohydrates:
11.2g
Protein:
124.4g
Fats:
2g
Glycaemic Index:
79
Glycaemic Load:
74

So, white rice has a high GI of 79. But what does that mean?

The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how food containing carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels.

GI, which ranges from 0 to 100, represents how much and how quickly a person’s blood sugar level rises after eating a food containing carbohydrates.

The higher the number, the more the food raises blood sugar level. GI of 70 and above is considered high, while a GI of 55 and below is low.

Food with a low GI can also make you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

QUESTION 2
Which one has a higher GI?

Select which item you think has a higher GI.

WATERMELON
OR
COCA-COLA

Glycaemic Index = 72
Glycaemic load = 4

Glycaemic Index = 63
Glycaemic load = 22

Surprise, surprise - watermelon has a higher GI than Coca-Cola. Does it mean you should avoid the juicy fruit? The answer is no - and it has to do with glycaemic load (GL).

Glycaemic load measures both the GI and the amount of carbohydrates in a food. To get the glycaemic load, multiply GI by the amount of carbohydrate in one serving of the food.

So, while a watermelon has a high GI of 72, one (big slice of) serving of watermelon (120g) is mostly water and has a low glycaemic load of four.

In comparison, a 330ml can of Coca-Cola has a lower GI but because of its higher carbohydrate content, its GL is more than 5 times that of the watermelon at 22.

QUESTION 3
Are all low-glycaemic foods good for you?
YES
NO

A low GI does not mean that the particular food is nutritious. You should look at the overall nutritional value of the food, of which GI is just one factor. A balanced diet is still the key to good health, and many nutritious foods have a high GI.

Also, foods high in fat might have a lower GI, but eating too much fat can lead to weight gain, and increase the risk of heart disease. For example, potato chips have a lower GI than baked potatoes, but they are not necessarily better for you.

QUESTION 4
What's the GI for different types of rice?
Low GI = 55 or less   Medium GI = 56 - 69   High GI = 70+

Move the slider to the GI you think is correct for each type of rice.

White Rice
Long grain/Jasmine

CHECK ANSWER
White rice is commonly used here in Asian cuisine.

Brown Rice
Long grain

CHECK ANSWER
Some types of brown rice have a high GI, but they contain more fibre and phytochemicals than white rice.

Japonica White Rice
Short grain

CHECK ANSWER
The sweet-tasting, sticky rice is used to prepare sushi and other Japanese dishes.

Basmati
White Rice

CHECK ANSWER
It is commonly used in Indian cuisine and in nasi biryani. But some types of basmati rice, which are highly polished, have a high-GI score.

All rice types contain two different types of starch - amylose and amylopectin. Those that contain more amylose, such as long-grained rice, have a lower GI.

QUESTION 5
Noodle or pasta - which has a higher GI?
Low GI = 55 or less   Medium GI = 56 - 69   High GI = 70+

Move the slider to the GI you think is correct for each type of noodles or pasta.

Mee Pok
Flat Egg Noodles

CHECK ANSWER
It is used in popular local noodles dishes such as bak chor mee and fishball noodles.

Bee Hoon
Rice Vermicelli

CHECK ANSWER
Another popular local noodle, with a lower GI.

Spaghetti

CHECK ANSWER
Pasta cooked till soft will have a higher GI than that cooked al dente, or firm.

Instant Noodles

CHECK ANSWER
Low in GI, but also low in nutrients and high in salt.

In general, noodles and pasta have medium GI as they contain gluten - a protein - which helps to slow absorption of glucose by the body.

QUESTION 6
Which has a lower GI?

Test your knowledge - pick the food item with a lower GI.

ROLLED OATS
OR
INSTANT OATMEAL
Processed food tends to have a higher GI, but there are exceptions.
FISHBALL NOODLES
OR
PLAIN MEE POK
Fat and protein content in the food helps to lower its GI.
ORANGE
OR
ORANGE JUICE
Unsweetened orange juice has a GI of 50, while the fruit, unjuiced, has a slightly lower GI of 40. Soluble fibre helps to slow the absorption of glucose, and fruit juices have less fibre than whole fruit, raising their GI.
BAKED POTATO
OR
POTATO SALAD
A study has shown that when boiled potatoes are tossed with a vinaigrette dressing and kept in the fridge overnight, the GI was significantly lower than piping hot potatoes.
Note: Percentage of daily recommended intake is based on a moderately active adult aged 30 - 59 years old. For better accuracy, please visit the Health Promotion Board’s recommended dietary allowances page for a reading closer to your individual profile. Glycaemic index levels can vary depending on the study and should be taken as a general guide only. It is always recommended to have a balanced diet.
Graphic: Chew Hui Min, Ong Hwee Hwee, Chen Danning, Alicia Chan, Rebecca Pazos, Yime Benites and Rodolfo Pazos
Sources: Health Promotion Board, Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, Head of Glycemic Index Research Unit at Temasek Polytechnic, Harvard Medical School website, University of Sydney Glycemic Index Database