Low Glycemic Diet: Health Benefits and Foods
Heart health, weight loss, stabilized moods, and reduced food cravings – these are the main reasons to follow the low glycemic diet. If you are diabetic or had a history of heart attack, there is a high chance that you are already following this kind of diet day by day. Another reason to try this diet is the reduced intake of sugar, processed grains, and other so-called “high glycemic” foods. In all cases, it can be useful to find out more about the main rules of a low glycemic diet, the possible benefits, and precautions.
A low glycemic diet: definition
A low glycemic diet basically means eating the foods with a low glycemic index. According to the team of experts from Mayo Clinic, a glycemic index (or gi) helps indicate how a certain food product affects the levels of blood sugar (glucose) in your body. A glycemic load number of particular foods is compared to the pure glucose’ gi that equals 100. This maximum glycemic index means that once eaten the foods can very quickly break down into glucose and then sent to the body cells for producing energy, saved in the muscles in the form of glycogen “for later” or just accumulated inside the fat cells. All food products that contain fructose, glucose, or sucrose (these are the different types of sugars or carbohydrates/carbs) have the certain glycemic index.
The glycemic index foods with sugars or carbs fall under 3 major categories:
- High glycemic index = from 70 to 100;
- Medium glycemic index = from 50 to 70;
- Low glycemic index = below 50.
The benefits of eating foods with a low glycemic index
According to the recent articles posted by the experts from WebMD, people who tend to eat more foods with the low glycemic index can expect such positive health changes:
- Prevent the persistently high insulin levels;
- Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disorders, obesity, and hypertension;
- Fats can burn faster;
- Less risk of the carb inflammation.
Top low gi foods that you may include into your diet
If you have firmly decided to follow a low gi diet, you may use the following recommendations given by Dr. Josh Axe. Keep in mind that all these foods are considered “complex” carbs but there are fewer than “simple” carbs. The difference between these 2 types of carbs is:
- Simple carbs – these are the products containing 1-2 simple sugars. Simple carbs are the foods with added/table sugars, processed grains, desserts, candies, jams, sodas, etc. Many people believe that simple carbs are unhealthy, but, in fact, you can keep a balanced diet with these foods if they are fruits like apples, peaches, etc.;
- Complex carbs – these are the products containing the long chains of simple sugars. These foods are legumes, most veggies, oatmeal, beans, wheat germ, and bran.
The least processed foods with the low glycemic index that you may include into your daily diet are:
- Low glycemic vegetables not containing starches – leafy greens, lettuce, spinach, onion, artichokes, peppers, broccoli, soybeans, and green beans.
- Seeds and nuts – cashews, flaxseeds, Chia seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and similar nuts.
- Fermented dairy and plain yogurt – these are the common components in low gi recipes. Try drinking unsweetened yogurt, raw whole milk and conventional cheeses (the more organic the better).
- 100% whole grains – steel-cut oats, wild and brown rice, granola, muesli, sprouted grain bread, and whole-wheat pasta.
- Low glycemic fruits include stone fruits, berries, apples, cherries, and citruses. You can replace fresh fruits with fruit juices. You need to take fruits or juices daily.
- The low glycemic index also includes healthy fats/oils with a zero gi because they have no carbs at all. The “good” fats include virgin coconut oil, any other oil with medium-chain triglycerides like palm oil or extra virgin olive oil. They can be a perfect match for the foods with low carbs like nuts or seeds.
- Quality animal proteins with little or zero carbs – you can choose between wild-caught fish (including salmon), grass-fed beef, lamb, free-range and cage-free eggs, raw cheeses, and pasture-raised poultry.
- Acidic foods – such foods can significantly decrease the gi of particular sugary foods. For example, you can try the vinegar-based salads, apple cider vinegar diluted in a smoothie or water, lemon juice, etc.
A low gi diet is sometimes called the “slow carb” diet. In fact, there are many low glycemic carbs that may prevent the strong release of blood sugar and insulin fluctuations after taking a meal. These foods are the products without sugar or starch or carbs.
The high glycemic foods that you should avoid
Additionally, to eating low glycemic foods, you should avoid high glycemic products and snacks. Otherwise, your low gi diet can’t be effective. During your low glycemic meal plan consider avoiding such foods:
- Refined grains;
- Any foods made of white wheat flour;
- Packaged grain products like most bread and buns (instead opt for a low gi bread);
- Processed breakfast cereals;
- Sweetened beverages, like bottled juices and sodas;
- Table sugar – raw honey can be a good alternative;
- Dried fruits, including raisins, craisins, and dates (but in small amounts);
- Starchy root vegetables – like white potatoes or winter squash;
- Drinking too much alcohol and caffeine;
- Highly processed and salty foods with “empty calories”;
- Sauces and condiments with added sugar;
- Any fried snacks and fast foods.
The key principles of a low glycemic diet
The experts from Healthline and Mayo Clinic give the recommendations for eating low gi snacks and foods in the beginning of your diet to get used to this meal plan:
- Opt for the low- or zero-carb meals – such foods are in the top of the low glycemic index list;
- Getting more fiber in “whole” foods by consuming fresh veggies, fruits, soaked beans, and legumes. Other high fiber foods include green leafy vegetables, avocado, artichokes, and sweet potatoes;
- Consume 100% unprocessed grains;
- Receive starch from the root vegetables like beets, winter squash, and turnips;
- If you can’t live without carbs, then, at least, try eating them with healthy proteins and fats like eggs and olive/coconut oil;
- Try keeping your low glycemic diet simple, not complicated in the beginning. In such way, you will learn to follow a low gi diet effortlessly. For example, you may start from the least processed carbs and added sugars;
- Stick to the balance and eat the healthy sources of carbs in reasonable amounts;
- Try eating more “real” and organic foods.
If you have any difficulties with following a low glycemic diet, consider consulting a doctor. It can be dangerous to take certain foods if you have diabetes or a prediabetes condition.