A low glycemic diet is recommended by doctors to people experiencing diabetes or high cholesterol. This is the best way to reduce intake of high glycemic foods such as sweetened drinks, desserts, rolls, or sugary cereals.
It’s important to choose unprocessed foods having low glycemic content like lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of veggies. These won’t only make you more energized, but also reduces your cravings for carbs and other processed grains. Thus, making you healthier.
What is Low Glycemic Diet?
Low glycemic index is beneficial in many ways. But, before going further, it makes sense understanding what is a glycemic index. It is a tool that determines how the food you eat affects the blood sugar levels. Glycemic index measures the carbohydrate content of the food compared to the pure glucose of other foods.
A pure glucose easily breaks and is either stored in the muscles as glycogen or sent to the muscles that can be used as energy or stored in fat cells. All foods that contain glucose, sucrose, or fructose are classified as low GI, moderate GI, and high GI (1). The glycemic index of each classification are as follows:
- Low GI – below 50
- Medium GI – 50 to 70
- High GI – 70 to 100
The molecules in the food you eat are broken down and impacts not only the blood glucose levels but also the insulin release. Carbs having low glycemic index cause gradual increase in blood sugar. However, carbs having high glycemic score cause high insulin release and quick glucose absorption.
The glycemic index score is different from glycemic load score. Many fruits and vegetables that have high glycemic index score have low glycemic load score.
Low Glycemic Diet Plan
The low glycemic diet is suitable for people with diabetes. It’s because the recommended foods in this diet are high in fiber and less processed, thus healthier.
- Start low during breakfast
Traditionally, breakfast is used to be comprised of foods that are carbohydrate-based. To control and maintain a healthy blood sugar level, you should start your day taking low GI foods such as whole grain breads, bran flakes cereal, whole fresh fruit, and old-fashioned oats.
You should also add protein foods like peanut butter, eggs and cheese. For a breakfast that has low GI scores, you can consider two slices of whole grain bread with peanut butter, yogurt and an orange.
- Pack your lunch with protein
Chicken, turkey, eggs, and tuna are rich in protein but zero GI score that’s why it’s important to include a portion of these foods during lunchtime. Other options include tofu, cheese, and lentils.
- Reduce starches during dinner
The recommended GI meal plan for dinner would be brown rice or quinoa and sweet potato. You can add grilled fish, roasted carrots and salad with cheese and pear for dessert.
Low Glycemic Diet Food list
Knowing the foods included in the low glycemic diet is the key to obtain the health benefits of this diet plan.
- Non-starchy vegetables
Most vegetables have low glycemic index score with glycemic load values ranging from 1-7. Examples of non-starchy vegetables are leafy greens, lettuce, broccoli, green beans, onion, spinach, peppers, artichokes, and green beans.
- Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contains about 1-17 glycemic load per serving. These include flaxseeds, Chia seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
- Legumes and beans
Each serving (1/2 cup) of legumes and beans contains about 2 to 13 glycemic load. Consuming half cup of legumes or beans can help with digestion.
- 100% whole grains
Whole grains like brown rice, steel-cut oats, granola, sprouted grain breads, whole wheat pasta, and muesli are included in the low glycemic food list. These foods have low glycemic load that range between 10-17.
- Fermented dairy and yogurt
Fermented dairy products like yogurt has low glycemic load scores that range between 1 to 5. Yogurt is low in carbs and low glycemic index. Always choose raw and organic dairy products as well as unsweetened and plain yogurt.
- Fresh fruits
It is best to consume fresh fruits than fruit juices. Eating 1-3 servings every day of fresh fruit is ideal for low glycemic diet. The GL score of fresh fruits is about 4 to 14 and these include cherries, berries, apples, stone fruits, and citrus fruits.
- Quality protein
Animal protein contains little to zero carbs, thus has low GL or GI scores. Recommended animal protein are salmon, grass-fed lamb or beef, cage-free eggs, Pasteur-raised poultry, raw dairy products, and free-range eggs.
- Healthy fats
All pure oils/fats have zero GL and GI scores because there’s no carb content. Good sources of healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil, and virgin coconut oil. Other good sources of healthy fats though they have slight amount of carbs are flax, hemp, chia, almonds, and avocado.
The main objective of consuming a low glycemic diet is to eat foods that easily break down. Thus, prevents negative impacts in blood sugar levels and give more sustained energy.
Here are some key principles to remember to reduce the glycemic load.
- Consume carbs that require no processing
Refined foods are easier and quicker to digest, thus converted into glucose. That’s why if you want to try low glycemic diet, the best thing to do is to look for foods that don’t require heavy processing.
- Get more fiber
Low glycemic diet recommends eating foods that are rich in fiber. It’s because fiber works as a protective barrier that helps to stabilize the blood sugar, protects rapid absorption of starch and sugar molecules.
Foods that have high fiber content are green leafy vegetables, artichokes, cruciferous vegetables, avocado, sweet potatoes, flax and chia seeds.
- Root veggies offer more starch
Eating root veggies gives you the chance to obtain more fiber, antioxidants and carbohydrates. With this, you can include winter squash, turnips, beets, and sweet potatoes in your diet plan.
Final Verdict about Low Glycemic Diet
As mentioned earlier, the low glycemic index diet is designed to help diabetic people to manage the blood sugar level. However, not all foods that are considered low GI are healthy.
If you want to obtain the benefits of low glycemic diet you should consume foods that are rich in fiber, good sources of proteins and healthy fats. Intake of white refined grains and flour should be avoided.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.
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