Low Glycemic Foods

Low Glycemic Foods

The Glycemic Index

In simple terms, the glycemic index (GI) is a way of comparing carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. The highest glycemic foods will release glucose (sugar) almost instantly into the bloodstream while the lower glycemic choices will take longer to digest, and the glucose will be released more slowly into the bloodstream.

Why does the glycemic value of carbs matter?

With the rise of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the way your body handles carbohydrates has become an important issue. It seems like a good idea for most people to include lower glycemic carbs more often than the higher glycemic ones. The reason for this is that the speed and amount of glucose entering the blood has an effect on insulin levels, and insulin levels have a lot to do with the way you feel and how much fat your body stores.

It appears that one way to keep your insulin at a healthy level is to maintain a gradual, steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, rather than the surge caused by high glycemic foods. This seems more easily accomplished by eating low glycemic foods that digest more slowly. This is of particular importance to pre-diabetics, diabetics and those trying to lose weight.

Range of values

The glycemic index has a range from 0 to 100, with 100 being pure glucose and 0 indicating a negligible effect on blood sugar. In general, foods that have a glycemic index of 55 or below are considered lower glycemic foods, foods with a value between 56 and 69 are medium glycemic foods and those with a glycemic index value of 70 or above are high glycemic.

Note - Experts cannot seem to agree on some of the exact GI values, due to different testing methods, food composition and physiology of individuals, so I have not included glycemic index number values for the foods listed.

Click here for a printable copy of the Glycemic Index Chart, including low glycemic foods.

Low Glycemic Foods List

Fruits and vegetables are fresh and uncooked, unless otherwise indicated.

Bananas, unripe
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Chia Seed
Garbanzo Beans
Green Beans
Green Leafy Vegetables
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Navy Beans
Meat, unprocessed
Oatmeal, old-fashioned
Peanut Butter, old-fashioned
Pumpernickel Bread, whole grain only
Sourdough Bread
Summer Squash

Certain foods have no significant effect on blood sugar

Another way of saying this is that there are a number of foods in the list that would score zero on the GI scale which means that they would have little or no effect on your blood sugar. These include the following:

Almonds, Artichokes, Avocados, Beef, Bok Choy, Brazil Nuts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cheese, Crab, Cucumber, Eggs, Fish, Hazelnuts, Lamb, Leafy vegetables, Lettuce, Lobster, Macadamia Nuts, Pork, Shrimp, Tuna and Walnuts.

Fun Fact for Low Glycemic Foods: How a food is prepared, particularly how long it is cooked can have an effect on its GI value. Starchy vegetables have a lower glycemic value when eaten raw or lightly cooked than when fully cooked. This is because cooking foods changes the complex starches into more simple sugars that digest more quickly. In the same way, pasta cooked al dente (still firm) has a lower glycemic value than fully cooked pasta.

Ways to help make low-glycemic foods

-There are some ways you can lower the glycemic index of certain foods you eat:

-Eat vegetables raw or lightly cooked.

-Eat fruits that are just ripe but not overripe.

-Serve pasta while it is still firm, "al dente."

-Eat baked potato with skin, if possible.

-Eat whole fruit and vegetables, rather than juice versions.

Health benefit

Research has shown that emphasizing lower glycemic carbs in your diet is associated with less risk of disease. This is partly because many lower-glycemic foods, such as vegetables and fruits, seem to provide protection against disease, because of their high nutrient content, including vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.

Interesting Fact: During the height of the popularity of low-fat diets, food companies marketed fat-free versions of everything from cookies to ice cream, to salad dressings. Unfortunately, these foods generally contained more carbs, particularly sugar, and without the fat to slow down digestion, they could potentially wreak havoc with blood sugar, and thus, contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss.

The moral of the story is that severely restricting one category of nutrients, even fats, may not give you the result you are seeking, since a healthy balance of all of the nutrient groups is the key.

Click here to go from Low Glycemic Foods page to Carbohydrates page.