If you are one of the 34.2 million Americans with diabetes, you're likely familiar with the glycemic index as a tool to manage blood sugar. But, understanding the glycemic index can also aid people looking to lose weight or lower their cholesterol.
For foods that contain carbohydrates, whether it’s a handful of potato chips or a single raspberry, glycemic index draws the line between good carbs and “bad” carbs. But what does that mean, exactly?
We break down the glycemic index scale and help you discover how you can use it to make informed nutritional choices. Plus, we tell you which 10 foods with low glycemic index should be part of your everyday diet.
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What is the Glycemic Index?
The food you eat causes reactions in your body. Carbohydrates, in particular, can cause your blood glucose — more commonly known as blood sugar — levels to rise quickly, which makes your body work harder to normalize those levels by producing insulin.
The glycemic index rates food items by how quickly or slowly they raise your blood sugar levels:
GI of 55 or lower: Low glycemic index foods are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream without causing spikes in blood sugar. Some food in this category include certain fruits and veggies, like spinach and berries. The raspberry glycemic index is a good example, being below 40.
GI of 56 to 69: These mid-range foods raise blood sugar some but not at alarming rates. Examples of food in this category would be ice cream, pineapples and plain pancakes.
GI of 70 or higher: High glycemic index foods enter the bloodstream rapidly and cause blood glucose levels to spike. You can find watermelon, dates and bread in this tier, for example.
Although the glycemic index doesn’t take into account overall calories or other nutritional content of food, it is an important component of making healthy food choices. As a reference, knowing the difference between the glycemic index of strawberries that are raw (40) versus that of a strawberry flavored sports drink (78) can help with your decisions.
Why Choose Foods with Low Glycemic Index?
The term “sugar high” comes from the way the body reacts to high glycemic foods, which is the same as it would to pure glucose or table sugar. The resulting “sugar crash” is troublesome, as it leaves you feeling hungry and weak no matter how many calories you just consumed. Many sugar alternatives, like stevia or sucralose, offer that sweet taste without the high GI price tag.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, control a diabetic condition or simply stay as healthy as possible, choosing foods with low glycemic index is a good strategy. Swapping high-GI foods like white bread and sodas for lower GI selections like wholegrain bread and protein-infused water is a simple way to keep your blood sugar levels steady without feeling deprived.
Here Are 10 Foods with Low Glycemic Index:
- Cauliflower = 15
- Superfood loaded with minerals and protein to help you feel full longer
- Tomato = <15
- Rich in vitamins A and C
- Spinach = almost 0
- Packed with folate, iron, amino acids and a host of vitamins
- Cabbage = <10
- Good for facilitating digestion
- Red Peppers = 10
- Excellent source of calcium and vitamins A, C and E
- Cherries = 22
- Loaded with free-radical-fighting antioxidants
- Pears = 38
- Rich in beta-carotene, B vitamins and minerals
- Red Lentils = 22
- Good source of meatless protein
- Rolled Oats = 51
- A filling alternative to higher GI breakfast cereals
- trimino - Protein Infused Water = 0
- Hydrating zero-carb drink with seven grams of easily digestible protein