If you're looking for an eating plan that can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease and help you lose weight, the low-glycemic diet makes a good choice. The low-glycemic diet is aimed at getting you to eat foods -- namely carbohydrate foods -- that take your body longer to digest and absorb, and this aids in hunger control. The low-glycemic diet does not require you to count calories or carbs but encourages you to eat more whole foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Glycemic Index 101
Before you start your low-glycemic diet, it's important to understand a little more about the glycemic index, which is what the diet is based on. The GI is a system in which carbohydrate foods, such as bread, fruit and milk, are ranked on a scale of zero to 100 on how they affect blood sugar. Foods with a low GI, 55 or less, cause only a small, gradual rise in blood sugar, while foods with a high GI, 70 or more, cause more rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. Foods that fall in the middle are referred to as medium-GI foods and are considered OK to include on your low-GI diet.
Low- and Medium-Glycemic Foods
In general, low-GI foods are carbohydrates in their least processed form. For example, rolled oats are a low-GI food, while instant oats are a high-GI food. Other low-GI foods include 100 percent stone-ground whole-wheat bread, barley, most fruits, beans, sweet potatoes, lima beans, corn and nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli and green beans. Medium-GI foods include whole-wheat bread, brown rice and couscous.
It's OK to Eat High-Glycemic Foods
While you should include mostly low- or medium-GI foods on your low-glycemic diet, it's OK to eat some high-GI foods in moderation. Examples of high-GI foods include corn flakes, bagels, pretzels, saltine crackers, rice cakes, white potatoes, pineapple and melon. To help balance blood sugar and hunger, combine your high-GI food with a low-GI food. For example, eat broccoli with your baked russet potato, or top your saltine crackers with hummus.
Putting It All Together
Although the low-glycemic diet focuses its attention on carbs, it's still important to eat lean sources of protein, such as poultry or fish, and healthy fats, such as olive oil, for balance and health. A healthy low-glycemic breakfast might include cooked rolled oats topped with raisins and almonds and served with nonfat yogurt. For lunch, you might enjoy a turkey sandwich on 100 percent stone-ground whole-wheat bread with an apple, carrot sticks and a cup of vegetable soup. And for dinner, have shrimp and veggie kebabs served with brown rice and beans and a garden salad.