Low-glycemic diets for diabetics and other people watching their blood sugar levels can be beneficial to for the body in many ways. The low-glycemic diet is based on the inner workings of the Glycemic Index (GI), which measures the effects of food on a person’s blood sugar level according to each food item’s individual composition of carbohydrates, fat, etc.
Following a low-glycemic (low-GI) diet can save diabetics from going into dangerous blood sugar swings and can help others manage their weight, blood pressure and other important health concerns.
Every food item has a place in the GI system and can be eaten to balance a person’s blood sugar level either up or down as needed. Some foods, like whole grain bread and applies, are ideal for lowering a person’s blood sugar while other foods, like watermelon and most popular cereal brands, should be avoided on a low-GI diet. Keep reading for more information about how to follow a low-GI diet to start seeing some of its positive benefits in no time.
What is a low-glycemic diet?
A low-glycemic diet is based on limiting how much glucose enters a person’s system. Glucose refers to the sugar that most foods are partially transformed into when entering our bloodstreams. Glucose is primarily found in carbohydrates and is an essential part of a health diet, in the correct proportions. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to a host of health problems. The GI measure was established in the 1980s by Dr. David Jenkins, who began ranking different foods based on how much glucose would be created in the body after consumption. ‘
In the GI, foods are rated based on how much they raise a person’s blood sugar level, as compared to a standard rate of absorption for 50 grams of pure glucose. The GI ranks food according to the following values:
- Low GI rating: 55 or less
- Medium GI rating: 56 – 69
- High GI rating: 70+
Unfortunately, this basic ranking system does not take into account portion sizes. Some foods with relatively high GI ratings can still be consumed without concern in small to normal size quantities, for example. As a response, some dieticians use a Glycemic Load (GL) index to rank foods by the GI per individual serving size, moving watermelon, for instance, from a GI food to avoid in general to a category of food that can be consumed in smaller portions even by those on a low-GI diet.
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What are the benefits of a low-glycemic diet for diabetics and non-diabetics?
Doctors and researchers have found many benefits to following a low-glycemic diet. Type II diabetics can benefit significantly from this sort of eating plan to maintain their blood sugar levels without medication. Some of the most common benefits of a low-GI diet include:
- Control of Blood Sugar Levels
Research has shown that managing the total amount of glucose consumed with a low-GI can be the best tool for managing blood sugar levels for those with either form of diabetes.
- Weight Loss
Long-term studies have shown that eating foods higher on the GI index tends to lead to higher weight averages that for those who followed a lower GI diet. Some studies have even down that a low-glycemic diet can promote weight loss.
- Lower Cholesterol Levels
Several research trials have found that a low-GI diet can help to consistently lower cholesterol levels in addition to the particularly dangerous group of cholesterol molecules known as low-density lipoproteins, especially when paired with a high intake of fiber.
- Appetite control
Although the exact mechanism is unclear, a low-GI diet seems to stabilize appetite by minimizing large fluctuations in blood sugar that can cause havoc on weight maintenance.
What foods can be eaten to maintain a low-glycemic diet?
While the exact GI rating of many foods varies across different studies, it is generally agreed which types of foods are higher on the GI scale and which are lower. The following seven types of food are often suggested for people following a low-glycemic diet:
- Vegetables and Greens – Most vegetables are low in carbohydrates (glucose) and high in nutrients, especially leafy greens. Can be eaten raw or cooked (without too much oil, etc.) to enjoy the benefits.
- Fruits – Most fruits are higher on the GI ranking than vegetables, but still at a healthy level that is recommended. Try to avoid adding sugar to fruit for the best impact.
- Whole Grains – Many breads and carbohydrate foods are great for a low-glycemic diet, including whole-wheat, multigrain, sourdough, oat and other types of bread, oatmeal, muesli and pasta.
- High Fiber – Legumes like peas, beans and lentils are important parts of a low-GI diet.
- Dairy – Most dairy products are low in carbohydrates and can be easily integrated into a low-glycemic diet, including foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
- Meat and Seafood – Foods like chicken, beef and eggs are low in carbohydrates, as are fish and seafood like salmon, tuna, shrimp and lobster.
- Healthy Fats – Healthy fats like those in avocados, olive oil, peanuts, butter, etc. can all be consumed on a low-GI diet.
What foods should be avoided on a low-glycemic diet?
Not all foods in the above categories are low on the GI, with rankings sometimes changing even just based on the cooking method used to prepare the food. The following commonly eaten foods should be avoided by those following a low-GI diet:
- Starchy Vegetables – Instant mashed potatoes, pumpkin, some types of fresh potatoes
- Fruits – Watermelon and dried fruits
- Breads – White bread or breads made with white flour, bagels, baguettes
- Sweetened breakfast cereals – Instant oatmeal, corn flakes, fruit loops
- Pasta and Grains – Corn pasta, instant noodles, oat milk
- Rice and Rice Products – Jasmine rice, Arborio white rice, rice crackers, rice cakes, rice milk
- Dairy replacements – Rice milk and oat milk
- Cookies and Cakes – Doughnuts, cake, cookies, waffles, pancakes
Because different ranking systems have found different values for the same foods, individuals who would like to follow a low-GI diet should choose one recognized index to base all of their food ratings on to maintain relativity between foods. The abovementioned categories include only examples of the foods that should be consumed or avoided when doing a low-GI diet, but many more foods can be consumed as part of a recommended low-GI diet.
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