In the first blog and video in this series we discussed what the glycemic index is, why and how it was developed, and how improving the glycemic index of the foods you eat improve your health, weight, and energy. I also shared what foods are commonly found in each of the high, medium, and low GI list. If you haven’t yet reviewed that video, I highly recommend you click HERE – so THIS blog (and the video below) will make more sense. This blog includes 17 lowering glycemic index tips.
In that blog (and video) I suggested that you NOT just simply stick with the low glycemic index foods and skip the others. First of all, you’ll be missing out on some very healthy foods. Secondly, avoiding those foods are totally unnecessary. The GI is not an exact science. Much of the glycemic response you’ll get from foods depends on 1) how much of that food you’re eating 2) what else you’re eating with it, and 3) specifics such as how the food was prepared, cooked, and so much more. And, that’s what this blog is about. If you prefer, you can view the video instead (see at the bottom)
17 Tips to Lower the Glycemic Index (GI) of the Foods You Eat
- Don’t confuse low GI with healthy. Just because chocolate and ice cream are in the low GI group, doesn’t mean they’re a more nutritious choice than potatoes, carrots, or watermelon. And even though sodas and fruit juices are both medium GI, doesn’t mean they have the same nutrition. Sodas have no nutritional value, whereas fruit juices contain of the many vitamins and minerals found in their fruit sources. Some processed foods such as snack or meal bars are labeled low glycemic but aren’t necessarily healthy because they contain excessive amounts of processed sugar and saturated fats like palm oil. Be sure to read the ingredient list. GI is just one consideration in choosing foods.
- Eat Adequate protein at every meal. Protein slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. So keep to the recommended 20 to 35 g of protein at every meal.
- Snack healthy. The GI score is more important at snack time (and less so at meals) because you’re typically eating just one or two foods…so there may not be enough protein to slow down the absorption. Instead of reaching for cookies, cakes, chips, and pretzels reach for a low glycemic snack such as nuts. Or dip apples into nut butters, raw broccoli into hummus, or try the newer chips made from beans.
- There’s no need to eliminate all high G.I. foods like breads, potatoes, and most desserts. Just be sure to enjoy them WITH a meal, not alone. Unless, you’re enjoying them during and right after a workout. Consider sports beverages – they’re high in sugar for a reason. They are absorbed quickly so that it doesn’t upset your stomach and the glucose goes immediately to fuel the exercising cells.
- Mix high G.I. with low G.I foods. A perfect example is mixing beans (low GI) and rice (high GI). If you want soda or dessert that’s high GI just choose a lower GI meal.
- Enjoy a variety of carbs. Instead of eating three portions of one type of carb, eat one portion of three different types of carbohydrates. For example, instead of a 6” submarine sandwich (equivalent of 3 slices of bread), enjoy 3 different types of carbs such a slice of bread made into a half sandwich, PLUS a glass of milk, and a piece of fruit. Not only does this meal have a lower glycemic index, it’s more nutritionally balanced.
- Try lower GI vegetables. I grew up in a family where we had potatoes nearly every day. And, I still eat potatoes, which are high GI. But, don’t be afraid to add into the mix, lower GI options including sweet potatoes, winter squash, and parsnips. It turns out baby new potatoes have a lower GI value than most other types of potatoes.
- Choose brown rice – it’s low GI, while white rice is high GI. If you’re not quite ready for the switch, choose a longer grain white rice such as basmati rice, which have a lower GI than the short sticky variety (like Jasmine)
- Eat more legumes. Most beans or pulses have a low GI. Add these to stir fry dishes, chili, soups, casseroles, and salads. And yes, it’s okay to use canned beans to save time.
- Substitute low GI grains. Instead of always eating rice or pasta, try wholesome nutritious low GI grains such as quinoa, barley, and buckwheat.
- Don’t overipen fresh fruit. As fruit ripens, those starches turn into sugar, which then increases the GI. So it’s best to enjoy yellow only bananas instead of those covered with black spots.
- Don’t overcook starches. Just like overripening of fruits increases the GI, overcooking starches can do the same thing. So enjoy your pasta and noodles cooked al-dente.
- Choose whole grain bread. Instead of white or even multigrain bread, select a bread that has, as it’s first ingredient 100% whole grain, like 100% whole-wheat. Also authentic sourdough bread contains resistant starch but also is lower GI.
- Choose unrefined breakfast cereal. Rolled or steel cut oats are a better option than processed cereals. Cooked millet also makes a good breakfast cereal.
- Eat starchy foods cold. You can actually drop the GI when you cool down, cooked starchy foods such as pasta, rice, oats, and potatoes. The cooling process helps to create resistant starches that are naturally found in beans. This includes cold pasta or potato salad – or perhaps rice pudding.
- Modify your favorite recipes. Add nuts to your pancakes, bran to your muffins, or try a recipe for black bean brownies. I love the texture and taste of adding raw oats to my yogurt.
- Consider the portion size. Sure bananas and watermelons are on the high glycemic list, but it’s really difficult to over eat fruits and vegetables. I’m more concerned about people eating an entire deli-sized bagel. Bagels, a high glycemic food, are the equivalent of 4 to 5 slices of bread. Then again, why do you see long distance bikers eating bagels during their rides…they’re looking for a quickly digestible high glycemic food!
In addition to considering WHEN you’re eating carbohydrates, consider how much you’re eating of it. Jellybeans and mints are high GI, but eating just few at a time isn’t going to spike your blood glucose.
In the 3rd video in this series (coming soon) I’ll be introducing a new term – Glucose Load. This takes into consideration both the glycemic index – and the portion size. It will help you to understand why certain high GI foods are just fine to enjoy. In fact, I’ll show how drinking soda, a medium GI food, will actually spike your blood glucose more than many high glycemic index foods.
There you go, 17 tips to help you lower the glycemic index of the foods you eat. As you saw, low GI foods aren’t necessarily healthier. And, high glycemic index foods aren’t off-limited either.