I’m sure almost daily you’re bombarded with new diets, weight loss tips, health coaches and life improvements ads. But the low glycemic diet is the only one that I ever recommend to people and the last diet you’ll need to learn.
As a Dietitian with years of practice and countless patients, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to give up every good tasting food. You can experience improved energy, weight loss, and balanced blood sugars all by following this diet.
Give the low glycemic diet a try to find out what the missing puzzle piece to your health truly was.
What is the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a measure of how much a food or ingredient will raise your blood sugar compared to a reference value, which is white sugar. If your blood sugars go up and down, this affects our energy levels and fat storage hormones. So both very important to daily living.
The scale is from 0-100, and white sugar is at the 100 level. So all other foods will be compared to that.
It’s grouped into three different categories based on glycemic index rating:
Low Glycemic Index: Less than 55
Medium Glycemic Index: 56-69
High Glycemic Index: Greater than 70
It is not however a perfect science, like everything else there are some things to consider when looking at the glycemic index. But it is still valuable information when choosing the foods we eat daily to feel our best.
What is the Low – Glycemic Index Diet?
Low glycemic diets in simple terms means low added sugar. It’s reducing the foods that are high in added sugars that increase your blood sugars, which can result in energy crashes and weight gain.
Foods that are promoted are high animal proteins, fibre rich and low starch vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats. It also emphasizes that most of your carbohydrates come from healthy sources while reducing the less nutritious carbohydrates like pop/soda, donuts, baked goods, and all those things you think of as decadent foods.
The result is better cholesterol levels, improved digestion, better energy levels, and most people experience weight loss eating this way.
Sounds easy doesn’t it?
In a way it is a fairly simplistic way of eating once you learn it and it can be a way to eat for the rest of your life because you aren’t restricting foods. It doesn’t mean that foods that are high glycemic can’t be a part of a healthy diet, but it means pairing them properly, and having them in moderation for your overall health.
Personally, I enjoy my share of desserts, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to eat them in excess. Life’s about balance, and that includes with food too. And I’ll stop anyone saying that is a ‘diet mentality’ right now, it’s not, it’s simply making wise choices in eating to feel your best.
Why You Should Follow the Diet
This diet is for you if you want to:
Improve your energy levels
Ditch the afternoon energy crash
Improve your blood sugar levels
Improve your insulin sensitivity
Those are just a few of the perks of eating a low glycemic index diet. It also provides a great variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need. Here are just a few examples of the variety it provides based on the foods emphasized.
- Animal proteins are rich in heme-iron, which unlike its counterpart, non-animal proteins, contains all the necessary building blocks for protein that we need. It is also more bioavailable (a fancy term that means our body can accept and breakdown the nutrients in it better).
- Rich in Fruits and Vegetables as the biggest carbohydrate source. This provides you a healthy gut due to diversity of food, increases fibre to improve digestion, and provides a variety of minerals and nutrients for overall body health.
- Healthy Fat Sources to keep you filled up. Healthy fats are a great way to enrich the flavour of a meal, and they also keep you filled up to keep you from reaching for the pantry snacks constantly.
These food components are all low on the glycemic index scale meaning that they won’t be raising your blood sugar a significant amount. This will keep energy levels regulated so you won’t be feeling that afternoon crash that so many experience.
What About High Glycemic Index Foods?
Foods that are high on the glycemic index scale include ‘white starches’ such as rice, potatoes, pastas, processed foods like baked goods, and sugary drinks. These foods tend to be enjoyable for taste and social occasions, and can still be included in a healthy glycemic index diet.
If you want to continue including high glycemic foods in your diet, as I do daily, you need to pair them properly to avoid the dreaded crash that comes with eating them.
Make sure that you add in some healthy protein, fibre and fat, when consuming a high glycemic index food.
You should also gauge your food choices by how you feel after you eat. If you tend to feel over full, bloated, and tired after you’ve eaten a meal. Chances are that you didn’t pair your food choices wisely. It may be normal for you to feel that way after, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be that way.
If you have a diet filled with foods that are high glycemic index, chances are that you tend to have a bad feeling after meals fairly consistently. Try to add in more low glycemic foods and reduce the amount of high glycemic foods that you are having.
This doesn’t mean that you never eat pasta again. What it means is finding ways to improve a plate of pasta to avoid the energy crash that commonly comes after a plate of spaghetti.
The lowdown of the low – glycemic diet is this:
Every meal focus on getting a good lean protein source. Aim for about 30 grams of protein on each plate. This can be chicken, beef, fish, and eggs which have almost no effect on your blood sugars.
Next you’ll want to add at least half of your plate vegetables and fruits. It can be a mixture of the two, or you can serve fruits at breakfast and vegetables at lunch and supper. Aim for about 2 cups at each meal, as the size of your plate may vary. Though I do recommend going with a smaller plate instead of the large dinner ones. These can make you fill up your plate and clear it even if you aren’t fully hungry.
Next include a healthy fat source. Depending on your meal this may be cheese, salad dressing, avocados, nuts, olives, or oil.
Lastly, you can add a carbohydrate like potatoes, pasta, rice, but try to stick with the whole grain options to benefit from the healthy fibre included. For the start of glycemic index eating, I like to measure out my portions to not over serve myself. If I’m still wanting more rice after I’m done, I’ll take seconds, but this tip helps me to continue monitoring how hungry I am.
Just like that, you’ve built a low – glycemic diet meal. Like I said before, you don’t need to give up all your high glycemic foods. But by pairing them properly with a high protein high fibre meal, you reduce the glycemic effect on your body.
Old evidence suggests that the low – glycemic diet is only really beneficial for those with Type 2 Diabetes. But there is great new evidence that this diet is beneficial for you whether you’re a healthy individual, have some chronic conditions, or are pre-diabetic.
Some health benefits we see when people follow this diet are:
Limitations of the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index doesn’t take into account the portion size of food or what the food is paired with. This means that when looking at the glycemic index of foods, we need to understand that it is not to be 100% relied on for it’s effect on blood sugars.
There is a significant amount of evidence that pairing protein and healthy fats with carbohydrates lowers the effect of the blood sugar response. Making the glycemic index value actually lower than what we read in the index.
The other limitation is the portion size of foods that we eat.
Watermelon as one example is considered a high glycemic index food at 72. This might discourage people at first glance from eating it. But the portion that they have based this on is almost a whole watermelon.
I would say it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to sit down and eat an entire watermelon. Though on a hot summer day, maybe you would.
So while I do love glycemic index eating, it’s not as simple as checking the glycemic index of a food and eating based off off that. It also means taking into account your portion size and the types of food that are paired together.
Glycemic Index vs Glycemic Load
This is where the glycemic load comes in as a very useful tool when eating for the glycemic index.
The glycemic load is a measurement tool that takes into account portion sizes. The scale is different from the index and there is a formula involved to figure out the glycemic load of a food item.
The glycemic load formula is:
GL = (Glycemic Index X Amount of Carbohydrate) divided by 100
This will give you a value from 0 – 20 or higher.
Low Glycemic Load = 10 or less
Medium Glycemic Load = 11 – 19
High Glycemic Load = Above 20
Essentially you want to eat the majority of your foods from low, a moderate amount from the medium level, and any high glycemic load foods, pair them with high protein, fibre, and healthy fat foods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Glycemic Diet Only for People with Diabetes?
I once had a Dietitian training me that said, “if everyone ate like a Diabetic we would have a much healthier population.”
Over 8 years later, that has always stuck with me. If more people ate a low glycemic index diet, or simply took into account the glycemic index when eating, we would have a much healthier population.
This diet is for everyone that wants to have increased energy, weight loss, and better blood sugars for the future.
Is It the Same as a Low Sugar Diet?
There isn’t a real definition for a low sugar diet. From the general accepted definition of a low sugar diet, is a diet that is low in added sugars. It emphasizes lean proteins, fruit, vegetables, and limiting the amount of added sugar in the diet.
I would say that yes, the low glycemic index diet is the same as a low sugar diet. The terms can be used interchangeably as they are both emphasizing the same thing.
Is It the Same as Keto?
The low glycemic index diet has very few if any similarities to the keto diet trend that is populating the internet.
I as a healthcare professional am not an advocate of the keto diet. For that reason I would never recommend it. A keto diet limits the amount of carbohydrates daily to about 5%, though this may vary slightly from person to person.
The keto diet doesn’t encourage fruit intake. It instead places a heavy emphasis on a high fat and moderate protein diet in the name of ‘health’. Though I strongly question their definition of health.
There are few if any long term studies about the long term consequences of sticking with a keto diet. And the adherence rate ‘long term’ is not great either. The keto diet is nothing more than a fad diet, similar to the gluten free diet we saw come and go in the late 2010 era.
The moral of the story today is that eating a low – glycemic diet can benefit you in many ways, so why not give it a try?
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