If you have prediabetes or diabetes, following a low glycemic diet may help you drop some weight, lose your belly fat, and improve your blood sugar.
Have you heard about the low glycemic diet or the benefits of eating more low glycemic index (also known as low GI) foods? I like this way of eating because it's not a fad or quick-fix diet. It's based on research about how different carbohydrate-rich foods impact your blood sugar. Lower GI carbs don't raise your blood sugar as quickly, so they provide a longer-lasting form of fuel for your body. Incorporating more low GI foods into every meal and snack throughout the day helps to stabilize your glucose levels, and minimizes the blood sugar spikes that can occur after a meal.
Eating lower GI foods is a good idea for everyone, but it's especially important if you're one of the 79 million Americans who has been diagnosed with prediabetes.
If you're fasting blood sugar runs between 100 and 125 mg/dL, you have prediabetes. Prediabetes happens because your body becomes insulin resistant – you're producing insulin, but it’s not working. Genetics can play a role, but it usually happens if you're overweight, too sedentary, and have a diet that is too high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
When you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, your blood sugar goes up. When that happens, your insulin has to get to work to bring it down. Insulin's job is to get that sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells.
GI is a measure of how quickly a food increases your blood sugar. As a general rule, higher GI carbs tend to be more processed or refined – think white bread or rice, sweetened cereals, and desserts. These foods have a more drastic impact on your blood sugar. They spike it quickly, which makes your insulin work hard and longer than it should. When you eat lots of high GI foods day after day, eventually your body stops responding to insulin. Insulin resistance is the step before diabetes.
Eating lots of high GI foods also turns on brain regions linked to overeating – those involved in reward, craving, and hunger.
Two important steps you can take to stop prediabetes from turning into diabetes:
- Exercise most days of the week - 30 minutes of exercise each day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%
- Swap in lower GI carbs for any that are high GI. Here's a good list of low, medium, and high GI foods
Lower glycemic index foods are usually less refined and lower in added sugar. They're also higher in fiber, which helps to fill you for longer. They include things like high fiber whole grains, whole fruits (as opposed to juice) and vegetables. Individuals who eat low GI foods for a meal tend to have lower blood sugar levels until the next meal.
Did you notice that meats, poultry, fish and eggs aren't on the GI list? That's because they provide only protein and fat. ZERO carbs = a big ZERO for their glycemic index. That's why it's always a good idea to balance any carbs you eat, with some protein - or healthy fats from nuts or avocado.
Even if you don’t have diabetes or prediabetes, whole grains and lower GI foods are still a good choice, because they’re usually much healthier overall, and higher in fiber and vitamins. Low GI foods also tend to keep you fuller, longer, which means fewer calories consumed, and healthier weight.
Start following a low GI diet by making some of these low GI swaps for higher GI carbs:
- Instead of Corn Flakes choose Bran Flakes
- Instead of white rice choose quinoa
- Instead of a white potato choose a sweet potato
- Instead of corn choose peas or leafy greens
- Instead of watermelon choose peaches
- Instead of pretzels choose peanuts
If you're having trouble quitting some of those high GI foods - especially sweets, check out my post on How to Quit Your Sugar Cravings.
Do most of your carbs fall into the low, medium or high GI range?