A glycemic index diet is an eating plan based on how foods affect your blood sugar level.
The glycemic index is a system of assigning a number to carbohydrate-containing foods according to how much each food increases blood sugar. The glycemic index itself is not a diet plan but one of various tools — such as calorie counting or carbohydrate counting — for guiding food choices.
The term “glycemic index diet” usually refers to a specific diet plan that uses the index as the primary or only guide for meal planning. Unlike some other plans, a glycemic index diet doesn't necessarily specify portion sizes or the optimal number of calories, carbohydrates, or fats for weight loss or weight maintenance.
Many popular commercial diets, diet books and diet websites are based on the glycemic index, including the Zone Diet, Sugar Busters and the Slow-Carb Diet.
What Is Glycemic Index?
Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the body. The consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods increases the postprandial blood sugar levels. Direct consumption of sugar can also have the same effect. Glycemic Index is a method of classification of foods based on their influence on the postprandial blood glucose levels. Starchy foods have higher glycemic indexes as compared to foods rich in fiber or protein. And the more the GI of a food, the more the chances that you will develop obesity and other related diseases. Here’s what you should look for on the labels of foods that you buy.
- < 55 – Low GI = Good
- 56-69 – Medium GI = OK
- 70 or >70 – High GI = Bad
Comparing these values, therefore, can help guide healthier food choices. For example, an English muffin made with white wheat flour has a GI value of 77. A whole-wheat English muffin has a GI value of 45.
The purpose of a glycemic index (GI) diet is to eat carbohydrate-containing foods that are less likely to cause large increases in blood sugar levels. The diet could be a means to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases related to obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Why you might follow the GI diet
You might choose to follow the GI diet because you:
Want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
Need help planning and eating healthier meals
Need help maintaining blood sugar levels as part of a diabetes treatment plan
Studies suggest that a GI diet can help achieve these goals. However, you might be able to achieve the same health benefits by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise.
Check with your doctor or health care provider before starting any weight-loss diet, especially if you have any health conditions, including diabetes.
Limitations of GI values
One limitation of GI values is that they don't reflect the likely quantity you would eat of a particular food.
For example, watermelon has a GI value of 80, which would put it in the category of food to avoid. But watermelon has relatively few digestible carbohydrates in a typical serving. In other words, you have to eat a lot of watermelon to significantly raise your blood glucose level.
To address this problem, researchers have developed the idea of glycemic load (GL), a numerical value that indicates the change in blood glucose levels when you eat a typical serving of the food. For example, a 4.2-ounce (120-gram, or 3/4-cup) serving of watermelon has a GL value of 5, which would identify it as a healthy food choice. For comparison, a 2.8-ounce (80-gram, or 2/3-cup) serving of raw carrots has a GL value of 2.
Sydney University's table of GI values also includes GL values. The values are generally grouped in the following manner:
Low GL: 1 to 10
Medium GL: 11 to 19
High GL: 20 or more
Glycemic Index Of Foods
Low GI Foods
- Cereals – Oat bran, rolled oats, natural muesli, and porridge.
- Bread – Whole wheat bread, multigrain bread, soy bread, sourdough rye bread, sourdough wheat bread, and dark rye bread.
- Carbs – Steamed brown rice, buckwheat, rice noodles, wheat pasta, and pearled barley.
- Snacks – Corn chips, walnuts, yogurt, pistachios, almonds, coconut, peanut, and hummus.
- Fruits – Grapefruit, peach, grape, plum, apple, orange, strawberry, kiwi, prune, cherry, mango, and dried and fresh apricots.
- Veggies – Broccoli, carrot, lettuce, tomato, cauliflower, spinach, onion, bell pepper, cabbage, sweet potato, green peas, new potato, green beans, spinach, kale, and cucumber.
- Legumes – Brown lentils, red lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, Navy beans, yellow split peas, butter beans, and baked beans.
- Beverages – Full-fat milk, soy milk, freshly pressed low GI fruit and vegetable juice, coconut water, buttermilk, and water.
- Desserts – Dark chocolate, homemade custard, milk chocolate, and Nutella.
Medium GI Foods
- Cereals – Special K, Mini-Wheats, shredded wheat, Nutri-Grain, Weet-Bix, and all-bran wheat flakes.
- Bread – Pita bread, wholemeal rye bread, croissant, hamburger bun, and bran muffin.
- Carbs – White rice, basmati rice, wild rice, Arborio rice, cornmeal, couscous, gnocchi, and taco shells.
- Snacks – Oatmeal cracker, plain popcorn, homemade pancakes, plain potato wafers, Ryvita cracker, digestive biscuits, and blueberry muffins.
- Fruits – Mango, banana, papaya, pineapple, fig, raisin, and plum.
- Veggies – Beetroot, potato, and canned potato.
- Beverages – Packaged fruit and vegetable juices, energy drinks, sweetened drinks, cocktails, mocktails, and alcohol.
- Desserts – Sultanas.
High GI Foods List
- Cereals – Puffed wheat, rice bubbles, mini wheats, Kellogg’s Bran Flakes, Kellogg’s Chocos, Kellogg’s Coco Pops, instant porridge, and Kellogg’s Crispix.
- Bread – Bagel, baguette, white bread, and wholemeal bread.
- Carbs – Sticky rice, jasmine rice, instant white rice, short grain white rice, tapioca, boiled brown rice, and glutinous rice.
- Snacks – Puffed crispbread, scones, pretzels, pikelets, water crackers, rice cakes, and sao crackers.
- Fruits – Watermelon and dates.
- Veggies – Pumpkin, parsnips, boiled and skinned potato, and skinned and baked potato.
- Beverages – Sports or energy drinks.
- Desserts – Jelly beans, candies, waffles, Fruit Roll-Ups, and doughnuts.
Other Factors That Determine The GI Of Foods
- Processing – The more processed a food, the higher the GI. For example, fruit juice has a higher GI than whole fruit, and white rice has a higher GI than brown rice.
- Storage And Ripening – The riper the food, the higher the GI. Do not store fruits or veggies for too long and avoid consuming fruits that are too ripe.
- Variety – Different varieties of the same food may have different GIs. For example, short grain white rice has a higher GI than brown rice, but long grain white rice has a lower GI compared to brown rice.
- Cooking Time – The longer you cook a food, the higher the GI.
- Nutritional Value – There are foods that have higher GI but are also nutritious, and there are foods with lower GI and lower nutritional value. For example, chocolate has a lower GI as compared to oatmeal, but oatmeal is more nutritious.
How Can Low-GI Foods Help?
Low-GI foods do not drastically raise the postprandial blood sugar levels. They are digested and absorbed slower than high GI foods, thereby maintaining a controlled release of sugar into the blood. These foods also increase colonic fermentation. This, in turn, increases the function of the good gut bacteria and improves amino acid metabolism and the production and absorption of short-chain fatty acids in the large intestine (5). Low-GI foods also prevent insulin resistance, improve lipid profile, and reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (6) (7). I have a table for you at the end of this article that contains a list of high, medium, and low-GI foods. For now, let me give you a meal plan so that you have a better understanding of what, when, and how much you should eat. Take a look.
Low GI Diet Plan
|MEALS||WHAT TO EAT|
|Early Morning (7:00 – 7:30 am)||2 cups of water that is at room temperature water (Click here to know if drinking cold water aids weight loss.)|
|Breakfast (7:45 – 8:15 am)||Options:l 1 medium bowl porridge + 2 egg whites + 1 cup freshly pressed grapefruit juicel 1 medium bowl oats bran + 4 almonds + 1 cup freshly pressed apple juice|
|Mid Morning (10:30 – 10:45 am)||Options:l 1 tuna sandwich made with multigrain bread + 1 small bowl of saladl 1 kiwi + 2 walnuts|
|Lunch (1:00 – 1:30 pm)||Options:l 1 cup full-fat milkl 1 bowl of sauteed carrots, broccoli, and mushroom with boiled lima beans|
|Evening Snack (4:00 pm)||1 cup green tea + 1 oatmeal cracker|
|Dinner (6:45 – 7:00 pm)||l 3 oz grilled chicken breast + 1 medium bowl of grilled sweet potato and veggies + 1 small bowl of muskmelon and berriesl Brown lentil stew with veggies + 1 whole wheat bread + 1 piece of dark chocolate|
This is an ideal low-GI diet chart. If you can follow this diet chart or a similar diet, you will definitely lose weight and also prevent your body from falling prey to obesity and lifestyle-related diseases. You can also take help from the following table that classifies high GI, medium GI, and low GI foods.
Low GI Diet Benefits
- According to a paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a low GI diet promotes weight loss as compared to a high GI and low-fat diet (8).
- A low GI diet can help control diabetic condition in patients. A study conducted on diabetics showed that those on a low GI diet experienced improved glycemic control as compared to those who were not (9).
- A low GI diet can reduce the serum triglycerides by 15-25% (10).
- Low GI diets can reduce insulin resistance (11).
- Vegans, vegetarians, and people with dietary restrictions can follow this diet.
There are a few disadvantages to this diet. Let’s find out what they are.
Low-GI Diet Disadvantages
- Not all low GI foods are high in nutrition, and not all high GI foods are low in nutrition. So, this may confuse the dieters.
- It can be difficult for those who have the habit of binging on carbs.
- Some low GI foods can be high in salt and saturated fat, which can prevent weight loss.
To conclude, a low GI diet is definitely the go-to diet if you are suffering from metabolic disorders. You can also follow this diet if you want to eat healthy without the fear of piling on those pounds. As this diet becomes a part your lifestyle, you will have a better understanding of the GI of your meals, and you will become adept in planning accordingly. So, go ahead and give this diet a try. I am sure you will see results in a few week’s time. Good luck!
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