Paying attention to the glycemic index, or GI, of foods can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check, which is particularly beneficial if you have diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar stable may also benefit your weight loss efforts and possibly lower your risk of developing chronic illnesses. Beans are generally on the low end of the GI, making them a perfect fit if you’re aiming to eat more foods that won’t up your blood sugar. Just be careful what you eat them with.
The glycemic index, or GI, is a scale -- from 1 to 100 -- that rates foods based on how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Foods with an index of 70 and greater are considered high on the index. A rating of 100 is pure glucose, which raises your blood sugar faster than most anything. Medium-GI foods have a score of 56 to 69 and moderately elevate blood glucose levels, while low glycemic-index foods have a rating of 55 and under, according to MayoClinic.com. Low-GI foods are supposed to slowly raise your blood sugar and keep it in a stable range for a while.
Glycemic Index of Beans
Beans vary a bit on the GI scale, depending on the type. Baked beans are higher than most other varieties and have a rating of 40 on the index. Navy beans are at 31, black beans have a glycemic index of 30 and kidney beans fall at 29 on the scale. Soy beans are by far the lowest on the GI scale -- they have a score of 15, reports the Harvard Medical School.
The glycemic index doesn’t account for food combinations. While beans are considered low GI, if you pair them with something that is high on the scale, the other food could cause your blood sugar to surge anyway. So if you have a side of white rice with your beans, for example, the high GI rating of white rice, which is 89, could cause your blood sugar to surge, even though the beans have a low rating.
Enjoy beans with other foods that have a low glycemic index rating, so you’re more likely to keep your blood sugar stable. Quinoa is a seed that is prepared similarly to rice, is loaded with protein and only has a GI rating of 53. If you must have rice with beans, opt for brown rice, which has a score of around 50. Converted or parboiled rice is boiled in the husk until the outer shell falls off. As a result, this type of rice is low on the glycemic index with a rating of 38.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.