Beginner’s Guide To The Low Glycemic Index Diet

Diet & Fitness


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The low glycemic index diet is based on the concept of the glycemic index (GI). Studies have shown that it can be useful in losing weight and reducing the level of blood sugar.

The GI is a measure that classifies the foods according to their effect on the level of sugar in the blood. The way in which different foods elevate sugar is compared to the absorption of 50 grams of pure glucose, which is used as reference food, and has an IG value of 100.

According to its value, the IG level can be:

  • Low: 55 or less.
  • Medium: 56-69.
  • High: 70 or more.

Food with low GI is the preferred option, as they are digested and absorbed slowly, which causes a gradual rise in blood sugar. Therefore, know the guide to the low glycemic index diet to achieve your health goals.

Low Glycemic Index Diet Guide

1.What foods have a glycemic index?

Foods are only assigned an IG value if they contain carbohydrates, ie those such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, herbs and spices, will not be found in the IG lists.

Carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables and dairy products, and are an essential part of a healthy diet.

When you consume any type of carbohydrate, your digestive system breaks it down into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream. However, not all carbohydrates are the same, since different types have unique effects on blood sugar.

2.What factors influence the glycemic index of foods?

2.1 Type of sugar

It is a mistake to think that all sugars have a high GI. It actually varies from 19 for fructose to 105 for maltose. Therefore, the GI of a food will depend on the type of sugar it contains.

2.2 Structure of starch

Starch is a carbohydrate composed of two molecules, amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is difficult to digest, while amylopectin is easily digested. Foods with a higher amylose content will have a lower GI.

2.3 Refined carbohydrates

Processing methods such as grinding and rolling can raise the GI. In general terms, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI.

2.4 Composition of nutrients

The addition of fats or acids to foods will lower the GI of a meal.

2.5 Cooking method

Preparation and cooking techniques can also change the GI. In general, the longer a food is cooked the faster it will digest and absorb its sugars, raising the GI.

2.6 Maturity

The unripe fruit contains complex carbohydrates that break down into sugars as the fruit ripens. Therefore, the more ripe the fruit is, the higher its GI.

3.Is the amount of carbohydrates consumed important?

The speed at which a food raises the level of sugar in the blood depends on three factors: the type of carbohydrate it contains, the nutrients, and the amount you consume. However, the GI is a relative measure that does not take into account the amount of food eaten; and is often criticized for this reason.

To solve this, the glycemic load classification (GL) was developed; which consists of measuring how a carbohydrate affects the level of sugar in the blood, taking into account both the GI and the amount in grams per serving. Like the IG, the GL has three classifications:

  • Low: 10 or less.
  • Medium: 11-19.
  • High: 20 or more.

Although GI remains the most important factor to consider when following a low glycemic index diet, it has been recommended that people also control their GL. For this, it is suggested that people maintain their daily total GL below 100. And the easiest way to achieve this is to choose low GI foods as much as possible and consume them in moderation.

4.Can the low glycemic index diet help in diabetes?

Good blood sugar control can prevent and delay the onset of complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and damage to the nerves and kidneys. In addition to this, several studies say that low-GI diets are effective in reducing blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

A study in almost 3000 people with diabetes observed the effects of this type of diet, as well as the high level of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of the participants. The level of this molecule is an average measure of the amount of sugar in the blood over a period of three months. The study revealed that the HbA1c level was between 6-11% lower in those who had low IG diets.

5.What other benefits does the diet with a low glycemic index provide?

  • Better cholesterol level: diets with low GI have been shown to reduce total cholesterol by 9.6%, and LDL cholesterol by 8.6%. LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Supports weight loss: they have helped healthy adults lose 0.7-1.9 kilograms for 5-10 weeks.
  • It can reduce the risk of cancer: those who have high-GI diets are more likely to develop certain types of cancer, such as endometrial, colorectal and breast cancers.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease: a review of 37 studies found that people on high-GI diets had a 25% higher chance of developing heart disease.

6.What foods to eat on a low glycemic index diet?

A low glycemic index diet involves substituting high GI foods for low GI alternatives. There are many healthy and nutritious foods to choose from. Among them:

  • Bread: whole grain varieties, multigrain, rye, and cereals.
  • Fruits such as apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears and kiwi.
  • Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes and zucchini.
  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and baked beans, in addition to brown rice.
  • Grains such as barley, couscous, buckwheat and semolina.
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, custard, soy milk and almond milk.

In addition to these, the following foods also contain few or no carbohydrates:

  • Meat; including beef, chicken, pork, lamb and eggs.
  • Fish and seafood.
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pistachios and nuts.
  • Fats and oils.
  • Herbs and spices such as salt, pepper, garlic and basil.

7.What foods should be avoided in a diet with a low glycemic index?

  • Processed cereals.
  • Vegetables with starch.
  • Pasta and instant noodles
  • White bread.
  • White rice of medium grain.
  • Dairy substitutes such as rice milk and oatmeal.
  • Cakes and cookies.

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