When you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels rise. The glycaemic index, or GI, classifies carbohydrate-containing foods according to their potential to raise your blood sugar level, says the National Health Service (NHS). This is valuable information if you have blood sugar issues or you want to regulate your energy levels throughout the course of the day. The index ranges from zero to 100; foods below 55 are considered low-glycaemic.
Vegetables are high in water content, vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are also low in fat, low in carbs and low on the glycaemic index. Asparagus, spinach, broccoli, collards, cauliflower, bean sprouts, radishes and cucumbers rank among the lowest, with GI readings below 20.
Fruits are high in natural sugar, carbs, fibre, vitamins and water content. They are also low in fat, low in protein and with the exception of avocados, low in fat. Apples, bananas, cherries, oranges, pears, peaches, strawberries and grapefruit are all low on the GI chart. Cherries rank among the lowest at 22 and bananas come in at 54.
Whole grains are high in fibre and complex carbs, and low in fat. They also offer moderate amounts of protein. Pearl barley, rice, wheat kernels and rye are examples. Whole grain bread, pasta and bran cereal are all low on the glycaemic index as well.
Legumes are foods that have seeds and a protective outer shell. They are high in fibre, protein and complex carbs, and low in fat. Black-eyed peas, peanuts, chickpeas, pinto beans, white beans, kidney beans, lentils and soya beans are all low on the glycaemic index. Lentils rank at 52 and soya beans are the lowest at 16.
Dairy products are known for their high fat, protein and calcium content, but they also have a moderate amount of carbs. A number of dairy products are also low on the glycaemic index. Milk, margarine, yoghurt, cheese, sour cream and low-fat ice cream are all 50 or less on the GI chart.
As the name implies, root vegetables grow in the ground as roots. They are high in fibre and complex carbs; some are low on the glycaemic index. Sweet potatoes, carrots and yams are examples. Yams come in at 39 and sweet potatoes at 54.
Juices offer the same benefits as the fruits from which they're derived, except that they lack fibre content. Orange, carrot, pineapple, grapefruit and apple juices are all low on the glycaemic index, ranking 52 or below.
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