Low glycemic foods, like the Ketogenic “Keto” diet, will lower blood sugar and prevent chronic diseases related to obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It may also help you feel more energized – when executed correctly!
In the past, carbohydrates were categorized as either “simple” or “complex.” Simple carbs are composed of sugars with simple chemical structures. They are often made of starch or sugar that is easily and quickly digested for energy. On the other hand, complex carbs hold three or more sugar molecules together (hence called complex). Most complex carb foods contain vitamins, minerals, and healthy fiber which means they take longer to digest.
However, classifying carbohydrates into simple and complex doesn’t consider the effect of carbohydrates on the level of blood sugar. To further explain how different kinds of carbohydrate foods influence blood sugar experts developed the glycemic index.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of foods containing carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the extent to which they affect glucose or blood sugar levels after eating.
Low glycemic foods have a rating of 55 and below while high-glycemic have a rating of 70 to 100. Medium glycemic index foods have a rating of 56 to 69.
A low glycemic index indicates slow gradual rates of absorption of starches and sugars in the food. Low glycemic foods usually have high fiber content. Hence, they are digested slowly, releasing sugar gradually into the bloodstream. This typically results in a smaller and short spike in the hormone insulin.
Low glycemic index foods include:
- Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, pepper, broccoli and artichokes
- Nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and almonds
- Bean and legumes such as chickpeas, black beans
- Fresh fruits such as berries, apple, and citrus fruits
- Quality protein such as salmon, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, pasture-raised poultry, and quality dairy products
- Healthy fats such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado
Benefits of Low Glycemic Index Diet
In general, consuming low glycemic index foods equates to a diet that can reduce significant fluctuations in your blood sugar. This means much better control over the release of insulin – an important fat storage hormone secreted by the pancreas.
Insulin is the primary regulator of fat and carbohydrate metabolism; permitting cells in the liver, muscles, and adipose tissues to absorbed glucose from the blood after a meal that contains carbohydrates or protein.
Insulin inhibits the use of fat as an energy source by stopping the release of glucagon – another peptide hormone that helps in the release of glucose. Insulin is released when eating any meal that contains carbohydrates or protein, however, in larger amounts based on the type of food you eat.
Eating low glycemic food offer many health advantages.
Reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes. While the etiology (step-by-step cause) is still not fully understood, metabolic syndrome itself can be triggered by a chronic state of insulin resistance that leads to elevated triglyceride or lipids. If not addressed, metabolic syndrome generally leads to Type 2 diabetes. It is distinguished by wide waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure.
Help cut food cravings. Consuming low glycemic foods limits the spikes in your blood glucose levels that trigger the release of insulin. In addition, the fiber in these foods helps you feel fuller to keep you more satisfied for longer periods.
Weight loss. In a study comparing the low GI diet vs. high GI diet, researchers found that obese or overweight subjects on low GI diets lost more weight and exhibited greater improvement in their lipid profiles. In addition, total fat mass, body mass index, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol all decreased significantly in the low GI group. They concluded that lowering the glycemic load seems to be an effective approach to promoting weight loss.
Sustained energy. Low GI foods are broken down slowly, gradually releasing glucose in your system, hence providing stable energy level. A healthy low GI breakfast has been associated with better school performance and learning; since it provides a constant supply of glucose to the brain for improved concentration and lasting energy.
The bottom line is that a low-glycemic diet with plenty of fiber-rich vegetables seems to offer huge benefits for those wishing to lose weight and address illnesses like metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and diabetes.
 Brand-Miller JC, et.al. (December 2008). Glycemic index, postprandial glycemia, and the shape of the curve in healthy subjects: analysis of a database of more than 1,000 foods. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19056599