You can use the glycemic index to create a diet that controls blood sugar levels and hunger. To lower the glycemic index of your meals, you can alter the way you prepare your foods and the combinations of foods you choose to eat. As you plan your diet, remember that the glycemic index encompasses only the carbohydrate content and its effects on your blood sugar, not the overall nutritional value of each food.
Description of the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index measures the effects of foods that have carbohydrates on your blood sugar levels. High-glycemic foods lead to steep spikes in your blood sugar, while low-glycemic foods have a more moderate effect. Foods containing carbohydrates have a glycemic index value that compares their effect on your blood sugar to the effects of a control food, such as white bread or glucose, which has a value of 100. Diets that consist mainly of low-glycemic foods can help you control your weight and reduce your risk for diabetes as well as heart disease, according to a 2008 metaanalysis by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition.
Choose Less Processed Forms
Select less processed forms of foods, as processing tends to raise the glycemic index. Fresh fruit has a lower glycemic index than dried counterparts and fruit juice, and cooking pasta for less time can lower its glycemic index compared to pasta that's cooked longer. Grains are high-carbohydrate foods, but you can lower their effects on your blood sugar levels by choosing whole grains instead of refined grains. Harvard University suggests choosing whole-grain bread instead of refined white, brown rice instead of white and bran flakes instead of corn flakes.
Add Fiber, Fat and Protein
Dietary fiber, fat and protein slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream and help lower the overall glycemic index of a meal with carbohydrates, according to the University of California at Los Angeles. Add sliced avocado, a source of healthy fats, to a burrito with beans and brown rice, or dip apples into peanut butter, which contains protein, healthy fats and dietary fiber. For breakfast, consume hard-boiled egg whites, which are high in protein, along with your whole-grain cereal.
The Linus Pauling Institute explains that the glycemic load of a portion of food is the product of the grams of carbohydrates in a serving of food and the glycemic index of that food. Foods with a high glycemic index may not have a high glycemic load if they are relatively low in carbohydrates, and vice versa. Limit your portion sizes of high-glycemic foods to lower their glycemic effect. High-glycemic foods can be more appropriate in certain situations, however, such as after a hard workout when your body needs extra nutrients.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- University of California at Los Angeles: Glycemic Index
- Harvard University: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Chronic Disease Risk -- A Meta-analysis of Observational Studies; 2008