The Low Glycemic Index Diet has gained popularity over the years because of its benefits for individuals with diabetes and heart diseases. Low Glycemic Index foods are also useful for those who are trying to maintain healthy body weight. Here are all the details that you need about what a low glycemic diet is and how you can follow it easily.
What are Low Glycemic Index Foods?
A glycemic index food chart is used to rank foods on a scale of 1-100 according to the rate at which they elevate blood sugar. Foods that contain refined sugars have the highest GI rating. This means that they cause a quick spike in your blood sugar.
On the other hand, whole foods like fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and grains have a low GI rating. This means that they release sugars slowly into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index are particularly beneficial because they are metabolised slowly to release energy. This controls the level of blood glucose, and as a result, the level of insulin as well.
These index values are given to foods after a very rigorous process of testing. The most common way of obtaining the GI values is by providing 50g of the test food to ten or more subjects and then measuring the glucose response two hours after consumption. This is compared with the data from 50g of pure glucose consumption by the same individuals to get the GI value.
When the GI value of a food item is 55 or less, it is listed amongst low glycemic index foods. They are considered the healthiest option for those who want to manage their blood sugar levels.
Benefits of Low Glycemic Index Foods
Foods that rank lower on the glycemic index food chart have several health benefits such as:
1. Diabetes Management
This is the best-known benefit of low GI foods. Diabetes is one of the most common and complex diseases affecting millions across the world. Individuals suffering from this condition are unable to process sugars correctly. As a result, blood sugar levels may increase drastically. In order to prevent complications, consuming a low GI diet is recommended. These foods control the release of sugar into the bloodstream and therefore help people with diabetes manage their overall blood sugar levels along with medications. The complications of diabetes that can be prevented with low glycemic index foods are liver and kidney damage as well as heart disease and stroke.
2. Better Cholesterol Levels
Studies show that low glycemic index foods reduce cholesterol levels by almost 10%. They are instrumental in reducing LDL or bad cholesterol levels. This is associated with the reduction of heart disease and stroke incidence.
3. Weight Management
There is evidence that suggests that low GI foods increase fat loss. Since the blood sugar levels are controlled and spikes are reduced, the storage of fat is also subsequently reduced when you follow a low GI diet.
Best Low Glycemic Index Foods to Include in Your Diet
The best foods to include in your diet, as per the glycemic index foods chart are:
- Whole Grains
Whole grains like rolled oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, and rice are the best low glycemic foods for your diet. They also contain fibre which helps keep your digestive tract healthy and metabolise fats effectively. The GI scores of these foods range from 28 to 55.
Legumes have GI scores between 15 and 50. The best legumes to include in your diet are chickpeas, pinto beans, soybeans, and green beans as they feature lower on the glycemic index foods chart. These food sources are also rich in minerals like magnesium and potassium. They are a reliable vegetarian source of protein as well. Legumes are known to reduce serum cholesterol levels, thereby promoting heart health.
- Non-Starchy Vegetables
Vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, eggplant, onions, and radish have very low GI scores. They are also rich in fibre which keeps the digestive tract healthy. Vegetables are the best sources of vitamins and minerals that boost various metabolic functions. Non-starchy vegetables like red peppers and onions have a glycemic score as low as 10.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
These foods are often categorised as superfoods because they are nutrient-dense. They contain several vitamins and minerals. Dark green leafy vegetables may have a glycemic index score lesser than 5, making them ideal for managing diabetes.
- Citrus Fruits
Fruits like oranges and lime are rich in vitamin C. Grapefruit has the lowest GI score among fruits at just 25. Oranges have a score of 40. The added health benefits of these fruits like strengthening your immune response make them ideal to include in your regular diet.
Berries are a great combination of health and taste. They can be used to add flavour to any salad or dessert. Berries like strawberries and blueberries are also packed with antioxidants that keep you protected from free radical damage. They also contain a host of vitamins and minerals besides being low glycemic index foods. Berries have, in fact, been named a superfood for diabetes management by the American Diabetes Association.
If you want to follow a diet that reduces your blood sugar, avoid refined sugars, starch, and processed foods. Foods like bread, starchy vegetables, breakfast cereals, candy, rice, and fruits like watermelon must be avoided as they feature higher in the GI Chart.
Low Glycemic index foods have several health benefits, no doubt. However, the GI score is not the only basis for evaluating the health benefits of a particular food item. Sources that are rich in protein and healthy fats are not low GI foods but are vital for your diet. Therefore, to create a healthy and balanced diet plan, always consult a qualified nutritionist.