What Does Low-Glycemic Diet Mean and Include?

Low-glycemic diet is usually recommended by doctors when dealing with medical conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol. This type of diet is also recommended when trying to lose some weight. No matter why you want to switch to such a diet, this diet will be beneficial for your health in many ways. Learn more about it.

What Does Low-Glycemic Diet Mean?

The glycemic index helps determine how a particular type of food affects the glucose levels in the blood.

Each type of food has its own glycemic index which is compared to pure sugar. Pure sugar has a glycemic index of 100. This means that pure sugar is rapidly broken down into glucose. This glucose is sent to the cells all over the human body for the production of energy, or it is saved in the muscles which can be later used if needed. The glucose after consumption of pure sugar can also get stored in the fat cells all over the human body.

Foods that contain glucose, fructose and sucrose which are all forms of carbohydrates are classified as high-glycemic index foods, moderate-glycemic index foods or low-glycemic index foods.

Glycemic index of certain types of food ranges from 0 to 100.

  • Foods that are high in glycemic index are those with a number higher than 70 to 100.
  • Foods with a medium glycemic index are those between 50 and 70.
  • Foods with a low glycemic index are all those types of food below 50.

Limitations of GI values

Glycemic index has its own limitations. Glycemic index values don’t reflex the quantity of a particular food that a person will consume. Watermelon, for example, belongs to high-glycemic foods with a glycemic index of 80. However, watermelon has only a few digestible carbohydrates and a person needs to consume a lot of watermelon in order to consume the standard test levels of 50 grams of digestible carbohydrates.

Researchers have also developed a glycemic load which indicates the changes of glucose levels in the blood when you eat a certain type of food. Watermelon has a glycemic load index of 5 which classifies watermelon as a very healthy food.

  • Foods which are high in glycemic load are those with a glycemic load more than 20.
  • Foods which are with a medium glycemic load are those with a glycemic load between 11 and 19.
  • Foods which are low in glycemic load are all those with a glycemic load less than 10.  

Foods/Food Groups to Eat

A low-glycemic diet consists of complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are all those carbohydrates with long chains of simple sugars such as oatmeal, wheat germ, legumes, vegetables, beans, etc. Simple carbohydrates are all those foods that contain one or two simple sugars such as candy, soda, jam, desserts, table sugar, processed grains, etc.

Top 9 foods and food groups are recommended:

  • Nuts and seeds – such as almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds. They are all very healthy and with a glycemic load ranging from 1 to 17 per serving.
  • Beans and legumes – They can be consumed to help with digestion. Both beans and legumes have a glycemic load ranging from 2 to 13 per serving.
  • Nonstarchy vegetables – Such as onion, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, leafy greens, green beans, artichokes, etc. Vegetables have a very low-glycemic index and they are considered as very healthy foods. The glycemic load of vegetables varies from 1 to 7 per serving
  • Whole grains – Such as brown rice, muesli, wild rice, whole wheat pasta, etc. The glycemic load of whole grains ranges from 10 to 17 per serving.
  • Yogurt and dairy products – Such as yogurt, traditionally made cheese or raw whole milk. The glycemic load of yogurt and dairy products ranges from 1 to 5 per serving.
  • Acidic foods – Such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, fermented yogurt with cereal, vinegar dressings on salads, etc. Acidic foods help lower the glycemic index of certain foods.
  • Healthy fats – Such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, avocado, seeds, etc. All the healthy foods have 0 glycemic index and glycemic load as they don’t contain carbohydrates.
  • Fresh fruits – Such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, apples, etc. Fruits are healthy foods and their glycemic load ranges between 4 and 14 per serving.
  • Quality protein foods – Such as pasture raised poultry, raw dairy products, beef or lamb fed with grass, salmon, etc. Animal proteins are foods with 0 glycemic index and glycemic load as they contain no carbohydrates at all or very little carbohydrates.

Good to Know

When it comes to a low-glycemic diet, several factors will influence the glycemic index as well as the glycemic load of certain foods. Pasta and rice, when cooked for a longer period of time, can have a higher glycemic index. Ripe fruits and vegetables have a higher glycemic index as well.

However, it is also good to know that not every food or food groups that have a low-glycemic index are healthy foods. For example, ice cream or chocolate bars are low on the glycemic index but they do contain fats that are mixed with the sugar.

Foods/Food Groups to Avoid

Foods that are high in glycemic index are not healthy foods and they should be avoided when aiming for a low-glycemic diet. Foods and food groups that should be avoided are:

  • Sodas and bottled juices which are sweetened
  • Dried fruits such as dates, resins, etc. However, it is good to know that dried fruits, when consumed in small amounts, are allowed and even considered as healthy.
  • Honey, table sugar – raw honey is safe and healthy when consumed in small amounts.
  • Refined grains and flour such as cookies, cakes, processed breakfast cereals, etc.
  • Starchy root vegetables such as potatoes
  • Fast foods
  • Fried foods
  • Too much caffeine and alcohol

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