Low Glycemic Diet: What are the best foods?

How does your diet affect your blood glucose levels?

Carbohydrates have always been a hot topic in the world of nutrition. While people on certain diets (Atkins & the ketogenic diet, for example) severely limit carbs, many health care professionals encourage a balanced diet with a moderate amount of carbs. However, all of this boils down to one simple fact: not all carbs are created equal! Carbs can be a fantastic addition to a healthy, balanced diet – you’ve just got to be a bit choosey.

What is a low glycemic diet?

Simply put, a low glycemic diet is an eating strategy where foods are chosen based on their impact on blood sugar levels. People turn to the low glycemic diet for a variety of reasons ranging from weight loss, to obesity and diabetes management. Many of the foods that we eat contain carbs, but being selective can help manage blood sugar levels without medication. Unlike other diet plans, the low glycemic diet is not focused directly on portion sizes, calorie counting, or limiting carbohydrates. Instead, it focuses on careful selection of the foods we eat. This selection is centered around the glycemic index, a way of measuring the effects of different carbohydrates on blood sugar levels.

What is the glycemic index?

When people talk about the low glycemic diet, one of the terms that often comes up is the glycemic index. In the 1980’s, a Canadian doctor named Dr. David Jenkins created the glycemic index (GI) as a way to measure the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Only foods which contain carbohydrates are measured on the glycemic index. When you digest carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into simple sugars which enter your bloodstream. The speed at which foods raise your blood sugar levels is ranked by the glycemic index. The reference rate of 100 is the rate at which our bodies can absorb 50 grams of pure glucose. Keep in mind that the glycemic load, a ranking system used to measure the amount of carbohydrates in a serving of food, is different than the glycemic index.

How are foods ranked on the glycemic index?

On the glycemic index, foods are ranked as either low, medium, or high. Low foods are measured as 55 or less, medium as 56-69, and high foods as 70 or more. Foods that fall within the low category are preferred on the low glycemic diet. Through slower digestion and absorption, these foods affect blood sugar levels in a slower and smaller way. Foods that fall within the other two categories, specifically the high category, should be limited as they can cause quick and dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels.

Which foods fall within each category on the glycemic index?

Generally speaking, foods that are low on the glycemic index include green vegetables, beans, oats, and many fruits. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed much slower than those with high values. Medium ranking foods include sweet corn, bananas, pineapple, raisins, and multigrain, oat bran, or rye breads. High ranking foods which should be avoided or limited on this diet include white rice, white bread, and potatoes.

Here’s a more specific breakdown of the GI ranking of popular foods:

Low GI Foods

Whole-Grain Pumpernickel (46/100)

Sourdough Rye (48/100)

Corn Tortilla (49/100)

Rye (50/100)

Sourdough Wheat (54/100)

All Bran Breakfast Cereal (44/100)

Steel Cut Oats (52/100)

Honey Greek Yogurt (36/100)

Whole Milk (34/100)

Split peas (25/100)

Kidney Beans (29/100)

Grapefruit (25/100)

Apple (39/100)

Barely (28/100)

Broccoli (10/100)

Tomatoes (15/100)

Medium GI Foods

Sweet Corn (60/100)

Red Potato (56/100)

Udon Noodles (62/100)

Honey (58/100)

Wild Rice (57/100)

Couscous (61/100)

Papaya (56/100)

Kiwi (58/100)

Vanilla Ice Cream (57/100)

Rolled Oats (57/100)

Bran Muffin (60/100)

Bagel (69/100)

High GI Foods

Whole Wheat Bread (72/100)

English Muffin (77/100)

Doughnut (76/100)

Rice Cakes (81/100)

Corn Flakes (80/100)

Rice Krispies (82/100)

Watermelon (76/100)

White rice (74/100)

Sweet Potato (70/100)

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