Glycemic Index Of South Indian Foods- The Ultimate List

Last Updated on October 20, 2020 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Diabetes is increasing at rapid rates in south India. If we look at the lifestyle of people living in this region, it is no surprise to find out why this epidemic is soaring here.

The proportion of people with both diabetes and prediabetes is continuing to rise steadily for the last 30 years. It is also found that south Indians develop diabetes at a younger age, irrespective of gender. Not only diabetes is blooming here, other life-threatening diseases like, obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia are also on a high rise in southern parts of India.

Moreover, the majority of people are adapted to lead a sedentary lifestyle with less amount of exercise and movements, which further worsens the situation.

Ever bothered about the glycemic index of the foods you consume daily? If not, then start today with this article which informs you about the glycemic index of some most popular south Indian dishes.

Veggie causing Diabetes

When we talk of most popular dishes of South India, rice is the very first food grain that ultimately comes to our mind Rice is undoubtedly the most prominent food in south India. Most of the dishes eaten here are prepared from rice. Rice being high in a glycemic index is provenly harmful to diabetes.

From idli to puliyogare and numerous others, all just add fuel to the fire. By fire, we mean the growing fire of diabetes epidemic. What makes rice the most sought-after food in south India is the favorable climate of the area.

The conditions like high moisture, high water retention capacity of the soil, and adequate rainfall amount make rice cultivation highly feasible. After going through this article, you will be able to:

  • Adjust the calories level in our meals
  • Decide your diabetes diet plan better
  • Can eliminate foods with a high glycemic index
  • Manage your diabetes better by going with low glycemic index foods

What Is The Glycemic Index?

To understand the concept of the glycemic index, take a measuring scale that has numbers from 1 to 100. 1st number represents the lowest glycemic index and the 100th number represents the highest glycemic index.


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The lower the number on the measuring scale, the lower rate of the food to increase the blood sugar levels in the body. Likewise, the higher the number on the measuring scale, the higher rate of the food to increase the blood sugar levels in the body.

The number 100 represents the glycemic index of pure sugar. When a given food has a high glycemic index score, it releases sugars at faster rates causing spikes in blood glucose levels. This is something undesired for diabetics.

Conversely, if a given food is assigned low glycemic index value, it will release sugars from it at a slow rate, rendering your blood glucose levels to be stable. That,s why foods with low GI value are the best companions of diabetics. Even rice varieties having low glycemic index values can be eaten guilt-free during diabetes. Thankfully!

Levels of Glycemic Index:

There are three levels of glycemic index – Low: < or equal to 55 Medium: > 56 and < 69 High: > 70 Therefore, the glycemic index represents the rate at which food can raise blood sugar levels in the body.

Importance In Diabetes

A diabetic has to follow a huge pile of dos and don’ts for diet. If he or she knows which foods could likely raise their blood sugar levels, then it will help in preventing them from having diabetic problems like urinary tract infections, fainting episodes, or even delayed wound healing scenarios.

To make healthful and dietary decisions, a diabetic must know the glycemic index of the foods he or she is consuming in his or her day-to-day life. The key is to have a balanced diet.

A perfect mixture of low GI foods, with medium GI foods and high GI foods. Avoiding either of them is not beneficial. And, taking too much of any one of them is also not beneficial to a diabetic individual.

It particularly helps in detecting the glycemic index of carbohydrate-containing foods. Since, carbohydrates are not to be consumed in diabetes, especially in higher quantities.

Now let us understand the glycemic index of some of the south Indian foods that can have a beneficial or detrimental effect on the health of a diabetic individual:

1. Pongal


  • Glycemic Index: 55
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Suitable for diabetes due to its low glycemic index.
  • Beneficial Properties: It is one of the most used south Indian dishes. It has an antioxidant action that prevents the cells from dying due to oxidative stress. It is packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It can treat common infections like cold and cough easily. The ginger if added in it, can help boost digestive function.
  • Potential Drawbacks: If it is deep-fried, then it can turn out to be an unhealthy dish for your body. Too much fiber can cause diarrhea to some people.

2. Idli


  • Glycemic Index: 69 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Unsuitable for diabetes as it filled with carbohydrates.
  • Beneficial Properties: It is full of vitamins like folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and Vitamin K. It prevents cancer due to the presence of anti-carcinogenic substances. It helps in maintaining the healthy gut flora so the absorption of minerals and vitamins becomes easier.
  • Potential Drawbacks: And, if consumed as outside food, it contains soda. Soda being the sole cause of flatulence. Except when you are consuming healthy idli in the form of oats or semolina. Overeating idli may lead to raised blood sugar levels.

3. Upma


  • Glycemic Index: 68 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: It is to be consumed along with oats, then it can be given to diabetics.
  • Beneficial Properties: It is suitable for diabetic patients that suffer from erratic blood sugar levels that can dangerously become low. It is a rich source of carbohydrates, so it can provide the necessary amount of energy to carry out a day’s worth work. The glycemic index of raw semolina is 14, so when it combines with other spices and masalas, it can go up. Rich in fiber content, the people suffering from constipation will benefit from upma.
  • Potential Drawbacks: For some people, it may be allergic. Allergic symptoms may pop up like nausea, sneezing, cramps, or vomiting.

4. Dosa


  • Glycemic Index: 66
  • Suitability For Diabetes: If it is made out of whole wheat grains, then it is suitable. Else, if it is made of rice or if its combined with coconut chutney, then it is not. Coconut chutney has a high glycemic index.
  • Beneficial Properties: It is low on fat, so the people suffering from heart diseases or diabetes can rely on it for breakfast. It is full of proteins, so it provides a good source of energy. It is a great source of carbohydrates. To avoid depression, you must consume this dish.
  • Potential Drawbacks: Plain whole wheat grain dosai if consumed, cannot be harmful to the diabetics, but if it is consumed with coconut chutney, butter, jaggery, or paneer, the items that have a high glycemic index, then, it can toss the blood sugar levels of a diabetic patient.

5.  Pesarattu


  • Glycemic Index: 60
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Suitable for diabetes as it is low on sodium as well as cholesterol. 
  • Beneficial Properties: It is flooded with nutrients. Rich in potassium and iron. It improves heart health by treating irregular heartbeats. Due to a low glycemic index, it known to reduce the blood sugar levels in the body. It treats flatulence with absolute ease. It helps those people who want to lose weight and keep their blood sugar levels in check.
  • Potential Drawbacks: For some people who cannot tolerate pesarattu, they suffer from drowsiness, lowered blood pressure, headache, or even dizziness. For some individuals, it is said to have caused diarrhea.

6. Poori


  • Glycemic Index: 57 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Suitable for diabetes as the calorie content is very low.
  • Beneficial Properties: Light and easy to digest. It is rich in iron, so suited for those people who suffer from low hemoglobin. It consists of 2 percent Vitamin A, so it is best for those suffering from myopia and hypermetropia. Poori made from wheat will be more beneficial as compared to maida. Maida poori will increase weight. Wheat poori will give strength.
  • Potential Drawbacks: The oil that is used to make the pooris stays on the fire for far too long. Pooris get overheated. This overheating results in the formation of carcinogenic substances or cancer-causing substances that are not healthy to consume.

7. Mendu Wada

Mendu Wada

  • Glycemic Index: 82 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Unsuitable for diabetes as it is deep-fried. Deep-fried foods contain excess oil, and oil means raised cholesterol levels.
  • Beneficial Properties: For those people who are looking to gain weight, they can trust this dish. It is high in fiber too so it supports gut health. It is rich in phosphorus, so it is good for your bones.
  • Potential Drawbacks: Deep-fried foods are the enemy to your heart. It can get your arteries clogged, thereby leading to coronary heart disease. It can also cause Parkinson’s and obesity.

8. Appam


  • Glycemic Index: 58 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Unsuitable for diabetes as it causes weight gain as it made up of rice and coconut.
  • Beneficial Properties: It is rich in essential fats along with dietary fiber. The rice portion of Appam helps to provide a huge amount of energy. It is best suited for people who need to gain weight. They can have this dish for their early morning breakfast. For your gut health, the fermented rice flour is beneficial.
  • Potential Drawbacks: It has a high glycemic index which makes it unsuitable for diabetics as well as heart patients. It causes blood sugar levels to increase. The potassium present in the coconut increases blood pressure.

9. Tapioca


  • Glycemic Index: 85 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Unsuitable for diabetes. As it contains carbohydrates and calories.
  • Beneficial Properties: It contains iron, so it helps in the formation of red blood cells. It helps in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, thereby preventing cardiovascular diseases. It is free of common allergens like grains, nuts, and gluten. So, it best for people suffering from celiac disease. It is especially helpful for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Potential Drawbacks: It contains sulfite, so it is not suitable for people having sulfur intolerance. It contains resistant starch and resistant starch is resistant to digestion.

10. Puttu


  • Glycemic Index: 58 
  • Suitability For Diabetes: Not suitable for diabetes as it made from rice and grated coconut. 
  • Beneficial Properties: For those looking to gain weight, they can try making a recipe of Puttu. It is suited for people suffering from diarrhea, as it contains rice. Rice is a great source of carbohydrates. Thus, being a great source of energy. High in phosphorus, so beneficial for the bones. 
  • Potential Drawbacks: For diabetics, Puttu can cause raised blood sugar levels. It causes weight gain, so it is not suitable for diabetics and heart patients. Erratic levels of blood sugar may cause the patient to faint.

Concluding words 

South India is known for having a sumptuous meal at all times. Be it breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinner. For a diabetic person, who may or may not be a south Indian, having significant information regarding glycemic index will go a long way for him or her.

Keeping a check on blood sugar levels is the master key to control diabetes. By knowing the glycemic index for various foods, you get the power to control your body’s sugars pragmatically.

Knowledge is power, indeed! Especially, in today’s times of Covid-19, everybody wants to have a fitness regimen and keep their health optimized. This was a sincere effort by our side to present you with an ultimate list of south Indian foods with glycemic index information. However, this was not the exhaustive list.

Would you like to add anything to the list? Let us know in the comments. Your suggestions are wholeheartedly welcomed by us. Next time you step into the kitchen to try out another south Indian dish, be sure it doesn’t let your sugar levels go uncontrolled.

References –

Harshi Srivastav

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