The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of how carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar levels, on a scale of 0 to 100. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly, resulting in a gradual increase of blood sugar, while high GI foods increase blood sugar more dramatically. A GI of 55 or less is considered low, 56 to 69 is medium, and a GI of 70 or more is high. A low GI diet can be beneficial for controlling diabetes, losing weight, and reducing insulin resistance.
Cereals, Breads, and Grains
Choose cereals that are based on barley, bran, or oats, such as All-Bran (50), rolled oats (51), Natural Muesli (40), and Special K (54). Low GI breads include whole wheat (49), sourdough (54), and pumpernickel (49). Other low GI products are spaghetti (32), wheat tortillas (30), pearl barley (22), and white long-grain rice (50).
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet, and many have a low GI. Some good choices are green peas (30), raw carrots (16), broccoli (10), cauliflower (15), lettuce (10), green beans (15), yams (35), and cabbage (10). Low GI fruits include peaches (28), apples (34), plums (24), cherries (22), oranges (40), strawberries (40), and grapefruit (25).
Low-fat and nonfat dairy products can be a great source of calcium and protein, while also being low on the glycemic index. Good dairy choices are skimmed milk (32), chocolate milk (42), sweetened yoghurt (33), artificially sweetened yoghurt (23), and soy milk (44).
Legumes are generally low in fat and packed with nutrients, fibre, and protein. Some low GI legumes are red lentils (21), green lentils (30), pinto beans (45), split peas (32), kidney beans (52), chickpeas (42), and navy beans (31).
Some foods that are usually not considered healthy actually have a low GI. For example, a Snickers bar is high in calories and fat, but ranks only 41 on the glycemic index. Other low-GI snacks are milk chocolate (42), Nutella (33), peanuts (13), walnuts (15), corn chips (42), and hummus (6). According to the American Diabetes Association, use of the glycemic index should be balanced with good nutrition principles to ensure moderate consumption of foods with little nutritional value.
Low GI Meals
When planning meals with a low overall GI, primarily focus on foods that have a low or medium GI. You can balance out high GI foods by combining them with low GI foods, for a lower total GI. In general, the more cooked or processed a food is, the higher its GI will be. Keep portion sizes reasonable, especially for weight loss or blood glucose management.