Although many low-carbohydrate diets recommend that you severely limit your carb intake, not all carbs affect your body the same way. It takes longer for your body to break down some carbohydrates, specifically whole-grain foods. The glycemic index is a scale that measures how quickly your blood sugar rises after carb consumption. The quicker the blood sugar rises, the quicker your body digests the carbohydrate.
The glycemic index, or GI, measures carbohydrate-containing foods on a scale of 0 to 100. Your body converts carbohydrates into glucose, or sugar. Foods that are quickly broken down, or high GI foods, will flood your system with excess sugar. Your pancreas then produces insulin to control the excess glucose, resulting in severe fluctuations in blood sugar. Foods under 55 on the scale are low-GI foods. These foods take longer to digest. Because of that, your blood sugar rises slowly throughout the day and you feel full for longer. A low-GI diet helps to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes.
Whole and intact grains are slow-digesting carbs. Some of the whole-grain food options with the lowest glycemic index include quinoa, rye, barley, oats and sprouted grains. Although you may not have ever heard about quinoa, it is a healthy grain with a GI of 53. It can easily replace rice or couscous in most meals. If you are looking for healthy breads, choose those made from sprouted grains for lower GI.
Fruits and Vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables have a low GI. Some types of vegetables even are considered very low glycemic foods because they have a GI below 30. Vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, celery, eggplant, spinach, lettuce, green beans, artichoke, tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower and zucchini are very low on the glycemic index. Grapefruit and cherries are fruits that have a GI below 30. Bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, peaches, plums, kiwi and apricots all have a glycemic index below 55, making them slow-digesting fruits.
Nuts and Legumes
You can add some nuts and legumes to your diet if you want to focus on slow-digesting carbs. Kidney beans, peanuts and soybeans are very low on the GI. For example, a serving of kidney beans, according to the GI Database, has a GI of 29. Peanuts are even lower with a GI of only 13. Garbanzo beans, black-eyed beans, lentils, pinto beans and navy beans are low GI foods. Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are 33 on the GI scale.
- The University of Sidney: About Glycemic Index
- Lifetime Fat Loss: Low Glycemic Foods-Super Healthy Whole Grains
- The University of Sidney: GI Database Quinoa
- Superfood-Guru: Glycemic Index List
- The University of Sidney: GI Database Kidney Beans
- The University of Sidney: GI Database Peanuts
- The University of Sidney: GI Database Garbanzo Beans
- MayoClinic.com: Glycemic Index Diet-What's Behind the Claims?
- Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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