A key to good health is keeping insulin levels low and the best way to do that is to eat low glycemic foods.

Low Glycemic Foods

To lose weight (body fat) you must be able to burn calories from fat stores. Insulin promotes storage of calories in fat and as long as insulin levels are high it is not possible to tap into fat stores to burn calories making fat loss virtually impossible.

The best way to burn the calories stored in fat is by eating low glycemic carbohydrates or carbs that elevate insulin minimally. Foods with a glycemic index under 55 are considered low glycemic.

Slow Carbs Not Low Carbs

Low glycemic carbs are absorbed more slowly than high glycemic carbs. This blunts the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s OK to eat carbs but you want to only consume low glycemic carbs.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

The glycemic index ranks the quality of various carbohydrates based on how a carbohydrate affects blood glucose levels.  Foods that breakdown quickly causing a rapid rise in blood glucose are high-glycemic. Carbs that cause a slow and limited rise are low-glycemic.

Pure glucose is given a ranking of 100 on the glycemic index.  Any carb that has a glycemic index higher than 100 causes a more rapid and elevated rise in blood sugar than glucose.  Carbs that cause less of rise in blood sugar than glucose will have an index less than 100.

The glycemic index is based on consumption of 50 grams of a carbohydrate an then measuring its effects on blood sugar. High glycemic foods have index above 70, moderate glycemic foods have an index 56 to 69, and low glycemic foods have an index of less than 55.

The glycemic index is not perfect.  Some foods like watermelon have a high-glycemic index of 72, but the typical serving of watermelon has far fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrate.  That’s where the glycemic load is more useful.  The glycemic load takes into account the actual number of grams of a given carbohydrate in the typical serving. To calculate the glycemic load you take the GI (glycemic index) of a carbohydrate and divide by 100 and then multiplying it by the number of grams in the serving. Watermelon has a very low glycemic load of 4.  A glycemic load under 20 is considered healthy.

Examples of Low Glycemic Foods

The following table shows the glycemic index and glycemic load of several different carbohydrates.

FOOD

  • Banana
  • Sourdough bread
  • Green peas
  • Oatmeal
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Orange
  • White spaghetti
  • Rye bread
  • Strawberries
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Tomato
  • Honey (100% floral)
  • Skim milk
  • Lentils
  • Grapefruit
  • Peanuts
  • Hummus

GLYCEMIC INDEX

  • 54
  • 53
  • 51
  • 49
  • 49
  • 44
  • 42
  • 41
  • 40
  • 40
  • 38
  • 38
  • 38
  • 35
  • 34
  • 25
  • 25
  • 15
  • 6

GLYCEMIC LOAD

  • 13
  • 6
  • 4
  • 9
  • 2
  • 11
  • 5
  • 20
  • 6
  • 1
  • 6
  • 4
  • 1
  • 6
  • 4
  • 5
  • 3
  • 1
  • 1

The following foods have glycemic loads that are negligible and are the best foods to eat for those with diabetes or insulin resistance:

  • Alfafa sprouts
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Lemon
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Squash

Individual with elevated blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C’s and/or weight issues should consume foods that have a glycemic index of 45 or less and glycemic load less than 10.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Joe

Dr. Joe

Medical Advisor - Healthy Life Focus, LLC.

Dr. Joe is Joseph G. Jacko M.D.

He is board certified in internal and sports medicine and his main practice interest is helping patients achieve optimal health through hormone replacement therapy (men and women) and exercise and nutrition.

He is a certified fitness trainer through ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association).

Dr. Joe has given numerous talks on sports medicine, exercise, nutrition, and hormones. He has two chapters published in Hughston Orthopaedic Clinic: Sports Medicine Book and is in the process of writing his first book based on the content he has written for his personal website Anti-Aging World.

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