Glycemic Index of Wheat – Is it Good for Diabetes?

The Glycemic index score of foods becomes a crucial thing for people diagnosed with diabetes. Whatever they eat, there comes in thought in mind, what influence will it have on my blood sugar level? This might have been you at some point in time.

Even the chapatis you eat incite curiosity in your mind regarding the glycemic index of wheat. The series of questions start striking you.

What is the glycemic index of wheat? Is it good for diabetes or not? Should I find an alternative? And this can take the form of a never-ending questionnaire.

Now, halt for a moment. Take a breath and give your mind a rest. This article aims to wipe off every query linked to the glycemic index of wheat and whether it is good for diabetes or not.

What is the Glycemic index and why it is an important aspect of diabetes?

What is the Glycemic index and why it is an important aspect of diabetes

Almost everything you eat has a got a unique glycemic index value assigned to it.

In simple words, GI value depicts how fast or how slow a particular food will release the sugars in your body.

The range is from 0 to 100 where glucose is arbitrarily assigned the value of 100. The lower limit is 55 and the upper limit corresponds to 77.

That is, if the GI score of any food is less than 55, this will be taken into the low GI foods category. This means it is diabetes-friendly.

On the other hand, of GI score of any food crosses the value of 77, diabetics dare not touch it! This indicates high GI foods that will cause your blood sugars to rise.

The moderate range is between 59-69. Foods with GI scores belonging to this range release sugars at a moderate pace in your body.

Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, the goal remains common – to keep blood sugar levels under control.

For the same reason, foods with low GI scores are preferred for diabetic folks. These foods will release sugars gradually, deterring the blood sugar levels from escalating. 

How good is wheat for diabetes?

How good is wheat for diabetes

The glycemic index of wheat is 54, placing it in the low GI foods category. We consume wheat in the form of flour.

Moreover, you will be glad to know wheat grains are rich in fibers and proteins that have numerous health benefits.

Wheat has three layers – bran, endosperm, and germ. The bran layer is packed with a surplus amount of insoluble fibers. The benefits bestowed by these fibers are:

  • Fibers enhance the activity of git bacteria that further aids digestion
  • Makes you feel full, hence impelling you to eat less frequently and assisting in weight loss
  • Good for health as it controls cholesterol
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer
  • Lutein protein found in wheat is found good in promoting better eyesight
  • They minimize the chances of a rise in good sugar levels after a meal
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Other beneficial nutrients such as selenium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folates are also retained by whole wheat kernels in trace amounts.

The only disappointing drawback of consuming whole wheat flour is the presence of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and rice.

The majority of people are known to develop an allergy to this protein. The possible side effects of gluten are bloating, inflammation, nausea, and stomach aches.

Are you eating the right kind of flour – Whole wheat flour VS All-purpose refined flour

Are you eating the right kind of flour - Whole wheat flour VS All-purpose refined flour

There is no blunder in the fact that while wheat flour cones loaded with abundant of boons for health. But contrary to this, it’s refined sibling, unfortunately, lacks all the nutritious perks.

We are talking about the most popularly used flour in households for baking, frying, etc. Refined wheat flour or maida is nothing but empty calories. And empty calories are something that is considered undescribable for diabetics.

Many people are consuming refined flour (maida) instead of whole wheat flour. Both differ in the way they are manufactured as well as in the way they affect our health.

The wheat kernel has three layers from outside to inside – outermost husk bran, middle germ layer, and innermost endosperm.

For making all-purpose flour,  the whole wheat needs to be processed in industries. It loses its original essence during the process. This is where the twist enters. 

Whole wheat flour is made by grinding the wheat grains such that it retains nutritious husk and germ. On the other hand, all-purpose flour, maida, passes through the stages of refining and bleaching detaching away both husk and germ.

You might have heated people saying all-purpose flour is bad for health. They are right in their assertions. But for people with diabetes, it is no less than a ‘white poison’.

The outermost layer of the wheat called bran is rich in fibers and vitamin C. The bran envelops endosperm loaded with starch.

All-purpose flour is made by removing this topmost bran layer leaving only starch-enriched endosperm. This is just the equivalent of sugar and as harmful as sugar.

What deteriorates the situation, even more, is the use of a chemical substance called alloxan in making maida. Alloxan is found to induce diabetes in non-diabetic individuals.

So, you can think about what disastrous impact it will have on those who are already suffering from the disease.

Now, we know that the bran layer is a storehouse of healthy insoluble fibers, but once this layer is separate wheat kernels are rendered non-healthy.

The refined flour obtained is neither rich in fibers nor contains any other nutritional content due to suffering series of industrial procedures like milling, grinding, refining, bleaching, and so on.

The plethora of risks doesn’t end here. Furthermore, benzoyl peroxide used for bleaching all-purpose flour is another hazardous chemical not suited for human health. Bleaching of maida is banned in some countries other than India.

To worsen it all, all-purpose flour corresponds to foods with a high glycemic index. It has lost all its perks in the journey from whole grain to chemically refined grain.

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There are a lot of empty calories in refined flour that are sure to elevate your blood sugar levels. You don’t have the support of fibers that couple with carbohydrates and slow down the process of releasing sugars from food into the bloodstream.

Realizing such extent of dangers imposed on your health, through the long term consumption of refined flour, it is normal to worry.

But the thing to delight is that there are tonnes of healthy alternatives to refined flour even if you are allergic to gluten found in wheat flour or looking for another suitable flour for baking purpose.

Healthy Alternatives to All-purpose flour

Healthy Alternatives to All-purpose flour

If you are also someone who is allergic to gluten and finding it difficult to get health-friendly chapatis on the plate, then here are super seven alternatives for you.

Toggle from health-robbing to health-enriching flours, today. Read below.

1. Ragi flour

A very popular flour in Indian villages. The cities have gone modern bit thankfully villages hasn’t lost the natural benefactions yet. Natural non-refined things are always healthy and so is ragi flour.

Best-suited flour alternative for diabetics as well as for those who are allergic to gluten. It comes loaded with antioxidants and dietary fibers. Neither making your weight to go uncontrolled nor the blood sugar levels. Both are safeguarded.

Love cakes and cookies? Fortunately, you can use it for baking purposes too. The icing on your cake would be that ragi flour is a preferable choice for individuals whose body is intolerant towards lactose. 

2. Bajra flour

Doesn’t the name remind you of Rajasthan? There is no harm in turning on to traditional meals again if you somehow have eliminated them in the modern race of life.

Similar to Ragi, Bajra flour is also gluten-free and full of fibers. These two traits are enough to title it as diabetes-friendly flour. Being packed with amino acids and antioxidants, they are sure to shower good health upon you.

Your all three levels – blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, are rendered well-controlled.

3. Jowar flour

Interestingly, jowar, bajra, and ragi, all three of them belong to the same category known as millets. They just don’t share a name, they share similar health benefits too. 

Jowar is jam-packed with a plethora of nutrients including calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B, and antioxidants to keep you away from blood sugar spikes. 

4. Quinoa flour

Quinoa tastes a bit bitter but this bitterness bows down in front of other advantages. The gluten-free grains coupled with an ample amount of fibers make quinoa unparalleled food for diabetes.

This flour can be used to make several dishes. If you were looking for a replacement for regular wheat flour, then now you found one. 

4. Soy flour

Easily available in the market, comes enfolded with proteins and vitamins. Nutrients like manganese, folates, iron, and zinc are also present.

The best way to toss in this to your daily diet is by mixing 30% soy flour with regular wheat flour. This enhances both health and taste.

5. Buckwheat flour

You might be knowing this super healthy flour by the name, “kuttu ka atta“. It is brown in color and has a nutty flavor. People generally consume it during fasts as it a pseudocereal.

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The flour is free from gluten yet enfolded with a handful of nutrients. It provides an ideal choice for better heart health and diabetic health. From minerals like iron, manganese, zinc, and magnesium to folates, vitamins, and antioxidants, all reside in this.

Not only it improves insulin sensitivity, but it also aids in reducing the risk of cancer and inflammation. Either muffins or parathas, make anything with it.

6. Corn flour

How can one forget “makke ka atta”? The staple grain in villages of Punjab and Haryana.

Made from finely ground cornmeal, cornflour is an excellent gluten-free alternative. Its benefits for diabetes are due to the presence of fibers, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Furthermore, this flour enhances eyesight, improves heart health, and good for skin ailments. A variety of cuisines can be prepared using it.

Concluding words

Your key take away from the article should be-

Is wheat good for diabetes? Yes, until and unless it is whole grain wheat and not lost its reservoir of nutrients.

Is refined wheat good for diabetes? No, it is a poison for diabetes that has lost all the nutrients and sustained only unwanted harmful calories.

What to do if your body is not tolerable to gluten protein? Turn on to healthy alternatives we enlisted above.

Although the glycemic index of wheat is not much low than the lower limit, diabetics can eat it conveniently as it comes clubbed together with a wide range of nutrients.

The GI score bagged by wheat is 54, whereas the lower limit is 55. There is a difference in just a single unit!

But what still makes wheat grains good for diabetes is the existence of fibers in its outermost layers. These fibers prevent blood sugar spikes by slowing down the sugar releasing process.

Bonus tip: Whenever you are eating any food that tends to be high in carbohydrates, always combine it with either fiber-rich or protein-rich diet. These two will take care of blood sugar levels and prevent them from heightening.

We hope this clear and accurate article drove away all the queries residing in your mind regarding the glycemic index of wheat and it’s safeness standards during diabetes.


Dr Sharon Baisil MD

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