Understanding the Health Benefits of Low Glycemic Foods

Reviewed by: | Author: Manoja Kalakanti

Recent studies estimate that 10.5% of the adult population between 20-79 years has diabetes. Nearly half of the estimated number of patients are unaware of their underlying condition. This chronic health condition has become a regular ailment, sadly, contributed by the changing lifestyle and the food you eat. However, some food items can counter the problem by limiting their impact on your body’s blood sugar levels.

Health Benefits of Low Glycemic Foods

Now, the critical question is – which food affects blood sugar levels and how? The Glycemic Index is a measuring technique that ranks foods on a scale of 0 to 9 according to their effects on your sugar levels. So, making an intelligent switch to low glycemic foods (falling on a scale of 0 to 5) can help you to stay diabetes free. Diabetes is a silent killer and, if left unchecked, can easily damage your internal organs, starting from your kidneys. Opting for a healthy diet that has minimal to negligible effect on your blood sugar levels is the only way to have long-lasting health.

However, in hindsight, foods with low glycemic index can impact your body negatively. Some studies have pointed out that not all low GI (glycemic index) foods are healthy choices. For example, chocolate has a low GI content because it is high in fat.

Therefore, consult a health expert before you change your meal palette.

Low Glycemic Foods – Focusing on the Healthier Benefits

  • A low glycemic index diet helps regulate large fluctuations in your blood sugar that limit the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
  • Insulin is a crucial carbohydrate and fat metabolism regulator hormone that makes your body cells in skeletal muscle, liver, and fatty tissues absorb sugar/glucose from the bloodstream after consumption of protein or carbohydrate-rich meals. Too much insulin secretion is terrible for your body because it prevents the use of fat as an energy source by blocking glucagon release, which directly controls the secretion of glucose in your body. Insulin stores harmful fat in the body by making your cells absorb glucose.
  • Low glycemic foods, therefore, resist too much insulin secretion from the pancreas and help curb the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and an expanding waistline.
  • By switching to a healthy, low glycemic index diet, you can also experience less cravings for excess eating. This is how you can refrain from increasing your body fat beyond control.
  • That being said, a low GI food has many other benefits to offer for your body, such as:
  1. Regulating Cholesterol Levels
  2. Managing Diabetes
  3. Controlling Body Weight
  4. Reducing the Risk of Certain Cancers
  5. Preventing the Risk of Heart Diseases

Examples of Low Glycemic Index Food

Low glycemic index foods for diabetes patients are essential because such items help regulate the sugar levels in their blood. But that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t follow the same diet. They are healthy and nutritious, adding essential nutrients and other beneficial elements to boost your overall well-being.

Here are a few examples of low GI foods of choice for you to add to your everyday meals:

1. Low GI Food

  1. Green Vegetables
  2. Most Fruits
  3. Raw Carrots
  4. Kidney Beans
  5. Chickpeas and Lentils

2. Medium GI Food

  1. Sweet Corn
  2. Bananas
  3. Raw Pineapple
  4. Raisins
  5. Cherries
  6. Oat Breakfast Cereals and Multigrain
  7. Whole-Grain Wheat or Rye Bread

3. High GI Food

  1. White Rice
  2. White Bread
  3. Potatoes
  4. Dairy Products
  5. Animal Protein

A Few Healthy Alternatives to Low GI Food

Opting for a low-glycemic food platter might be tedious as your choices are limited. For diabetic patients, the choice of food becomes slimmer as they must consider the sugar content of every item carefully.

Here’s a list of healthy alternatives to low GI food:

1. Whole Grains over Refined Grains

  1. Quinoa
  2. Barley
  3. Bulgur

2. Healthy Alternatives to Sugary Snacks

  1. Berries
  2. Apples
  3. Oranges

3. High Fiber and Nutrient Content

  1. Broccoli
  2. Spinach
  3. Carrots

4. Lean Protein Over Fatty Food

  1. Chicken Breast
  2. Tofu
  3. Fish

5. Healthy Snacks for a Nutritious Boost

  1. Almonds
  2. Walnuts
  3. Chia Seeds

6. Healthy Fats over Saturated Alternatives

  1. Avocado
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Nut Butters

7. Low glycemic foods for diabetes also provide healthy sweetener options, such as

  1. Honey
  2. Maple Syrup
  3. Coconut Sugar
  4. Dates
  5. Monk Fruit

Delicious Recipes with Low Glycemic Foods

Regardless of whether you are on a diet or not, the following healthy recipes with low GI food items will help keep insulin secretion under control. And you can enjoy your meals without compromising your health and immunity.

Breakfast

Oats upma

Oats upma

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2-inch ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup green peas (fresh)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bell peppers (any color), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation Method

  • Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running water using a fine-mesh strainer. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Let them splutter.
  • Add finely chopped onions, green chilies, and grated ginger. Sauté until onions turn translucent.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook until they turn soft and mushy.
  • Add chopped carrots, bell peppers, and green peas. Mix well and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender.
  • Add turmeric powder and salt. Mix everything together.
  • Add rinsed quinoa to the pan and mix well with the vegetables.
  • Pour 2 cups of water into the pan and stir. Bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and water is absorbed. Stir occasionally.
  • Once done, turn off the heat. Fluff up the quinoa with a fork.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

Nutritional Values (one bowl)

  • Calories: 245 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 34.8 g
  • Protein: 8.1 g
  • Fat: 8.1g

Lunch

Ragi Mudda with Mango Dal

Ragi Mudda with Mango Dal

Ragi Mudda

  1. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot, add salt.
  2. Slowly add 1 cup of ragi flour while stirring to avoid lumps.
  3. Cook until thick and dough-like, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Let it cool slightly, then shape into balls.

Mango Dal

  1. Cook 1 cup of Toor dal with 2 cups of water and diced mango until soft.
  2. Mash the dal, and set it aside.
  3. In a pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and hing.
  4. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and green chili, cook until golden.
  5. Add tomatoes, turmeric, and chili powder, and cook until tomatoes soften.
  6. Add mashed dal-mango mixture, and salt, and simmer for a few minutes.
  7. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Nutritive Value:(one bowl)

Mango dal

  • Calories: 281 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 44.4 g
  • Protein: 15.8 g
  • Fat: 4.8g

Nutritive Value:(one ball)

Ragi Mudda

  • Calories: 97 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 21.4 g
  • Protein: 2.2g
  • Fat: 0.4 g

Snack

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish

Preparation Method

  1. Mix diced cucumbers, chopped onion, tomato, and green chili in a bowl.
  2. Add lemon juice, chaat masala, roasted cumin powder, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
  4. Serve immediately.

Nutritive Value:(one bowl)

  • Calories: 31 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 7.4 g
  • Protein: 1.4 g
  • Fat: 0.3g

Dinner

Vegetable Brown Rice

Vegetable brown rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (cooled)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped green onions for garnish

Instructions 

  1. Heat sesame oil in a skillet. Sauté garlic, ginger, and onion until fragrant.
  2. Add carrots, and cook until slightly tender. Then add bell pepper and peas, and cook until crisp-tender.
  3. Add cooked brown rice to the sautéed vegetables.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, cook until heated through.
  5. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
  6. Serve hot, alone, or with your favorite protein.

Nutritive Value:(one bowl)

  • Calories: 278 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 43.4 g
  • Protein: 6.4 g
  • Fat: 9.5g

How does Low Glycemic Food Benefit Your Overall Health

By incorporating low-glycemic foods into your daily diet, you can benefit from sustained energy while managing your weight effortlessly. Additionally, your body’s immune system is boosted against certain chronic diseases.

  • Stable Blood Sugar Levels

They help maintain steady blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and managing existing diabetes.

  • Sustained Energy

These foods provide a slow release of energy, promoting lasting energy levels and preventing energy crashes.

  • Weight Management

They can aid in weight management by promoting satiety and reducing cravings, thus supporting healthy eating habits.

  • Heart Health

Low glycemic foods are often high in fiber and nutrients, which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Improved Digestion

Their high fiber content supports healthy digestion and can prevent constipation.

  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases

Consistent consumption of low glycemic foods may lower the risk of various chronic diseases, including certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Better Mood and Mental Health

Stable blood sugar levels contribute to better mood stability and cognitive function.

Who is Eligible for Low GI Food and Why?

Low GI foods promote stable blood sugar levels, support weight management, improve energy levels, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, everyone can benefit from low glycemic (GI) foods, but they may be particularly beneficial for specific groups.

  • Diabetic Patients

Low GI foods help regulate blood sugar levels more effectively, making them essential for individuals with diabetes to manage their condition.

  • People Trying to Lose Weight

Low GI foods promote satiety and help control appetite, making them useful for those aiming to lose weight by managing calorie intake more effectively.

  • Individuals at Risk of Developing Diabetes

People with a family history of diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition can benefit from including low GI foods in their diet to help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

  • Athletes and Active People

Low GI foods provide sustained energy levels, making them ideal for athletes and active individuals who require long-lasting fuel for physical performance.

  • People with Cardiovascular Issues

Low GI foods, particularly those high in fiber and nutrients, can help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  • Individuals with Digestive Issues

High-fiber low GI foods can support digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing digestive problems like constipation.

How to Choose a Healthy Low GI Diet Meal – Things to Consider

While choosing your low GI diet meals, ensure you have a balanced, nutritious, and satisfying meal that supports your overall health and well-being. Here are a few essential factors to consider before you plan the next healthy meal:

  • GI Value

Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI) to help regulate blood sugar levels. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

  • Fiber Content

Select foods high in fiber, as fiber slows down digestion and helps control blood sugar levels. Include plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your meal.

  • Balanced Macronutrients

Ensure your meal contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Incorporate lean protein sources like poultry, fish, tofu, or legumes, along with healthy fats from sources like avocado, nuts, and olive oil.

  • Portion Size

Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating, which can impact blood sugar levels. Aim for appropriate serving sizes of each food group and avoid oversized portions.

  • Cooking Methods

Choose healthy cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, baking, or sautéing with minimal added fats. Avoid deep-frying or heavily processed cooking techniques.

  • Sugar and Added Sugars

Minimize added sugars and sugary ingredients in your meal. Read food labels carefully and choose products with little to no added sugars.

  • Nutrient Density

Select nutrient-dense foods, providing a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Include a colorful array of fruits and vegetables to maximize nutrient intake.

  • Hydration

Remember to stay hydrated by drinking water or other unsweetened beverages with your meal. Limit sugary drinks and opt for water, herbal tea, or sparkling water instead.

  • Meal Timing: Consider the timing of your meals to help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day. Aim for regular mealtimes and avoid long periods without eating to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.

The Final Takeaway

Adopting low glycemic food in your daily diet might aid weight management and support overall health. It could assist in diabetes management and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and vascular conditions. While the glycemic index serves as a valuable tool for making healthier food choices, it is just one aspect. One should prioritize nutrient-rich foods and maintain a healthy eating pattern consistently. This might give you optimal results in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prepare a meal that is low on the glycemic index?

Consider balancing your daily meal with a collection of nutritious fruits and vegetables that are low in GI and add rice or potatoes to it.

What are the best foods in low -glycemic foods? 

Here is a list of best foods to consider as your next low glycemic diet meal: 
Fish 
Legumes 
Lentils 
Greek Yogurt 
Vegetables 

What are the health benefits on low Glycemic foods

Low glycemic foods help in the following ways: 
Losing weight 
Lowering blood pressure 
Lowering cholesterol levels 
Improving diabetes  
Reducing the risk of blood vessel diseases 

How does the glycemic index differ from the glycemic load?

The glycemic index rates food’s speed of digestion and blood glucose impact. Glycemic load considers carbs per serving. 

How is the glycemic index determined for foods?

A food’s GI value is determined by its impact on blood glucose levels after a 50g carb (minus fiber) serving over two hours.

Why is the glycemic index important for managing blood sugar levels? 

GI indicates how fast food affects blood sugar. It aids diabetes management by guiding food choices.

Can the glycemic index help with weight management? 

To achieve sustainable weight loss, include low GI, high-protein foods in your diet. They reduce insulin levels, aiding fat metabolism. 

Are all carbohydrates high on the glycemic index?

Carbohydrates like baked potatoes break down quickly during digestion and are considered high on the glycemic index.

How do GI foods affect blood sugar levels?

Low GI foods aid blood sugar control and may assist in diabetes management alongside carb counting. They can also support weight loss efforts.

What are low, medium, and high glycemic index foods?

Low GI Foods (less than 55) 
Soy products 
Beans 
Fruit 
Mid-GI Foods (55-70) 
Orange juice 
Honey 
Wholemeal bread 
High GI Foods (Over 70) 
Potatoes 
White bread 
Short-grain rice 

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