Low Glycemic Index refer to a certain group of foods (usually wholegrains, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, fats, and certain fruits and vegetables) that release their sugars slowly into the bloodstream over a sustained period, and they are the perfect foods to eat the a low GI diet.
The below low glycemic food list will show you the best foods to eat to keep your blood sugar on an an even keel, help you lose stomach fat, and in turn help you avoid the kind of insulin response that encourages your body to store fat.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and is released in response to sugar in the blood. It signals to the muscle, liver and fat cells to uptake these sugars from the bloodstream and either use them for energy or stored them as fat (which is bad thing, as this type of fat usually goes on around the middle where it can be dangerous and a precursor for disease). But insulin is also designed to keep blood sugar levels stable: too high can cause hyperglycemia, and too low can cause hypoglycemia – both of which can be dangerous conditions if left untreated.
The body is producing insulin after every meal, but if it’s a high carb/sugar meal then you will have a high insulin response, which is exactly what needs to be avoided as much as possible. If this keeps occurring regularly (as it does in most people eating a junk food filled diet) then over time this can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to problems such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
However, how high your insulin response will be after a meal is not always a clear cut thing. For instance, you can get away with eating sugar a lot more if you consume it alongside fats, protein and fiber, as all these things help to slow the release of the sugar release into the bloodstream. But if you were to eat just pure sugar on its own, then it would be released very fast thus causing a very high insulin response . So, the take-away here is, it’s not always about what you eat, but what you eat it with.
Insulin and Fat Storage
Insulin promotes fat storage and is part of our survival mechanism ready for times of need, but we rarely need this mechanism nowadays as most of us live in a world of food abundance.
Every time we eat refined carbohydrates such as white sugar, flour, rice, pastries, cakes and confectionery, the sugars in those foods will hit the bloodstream quickly and cause a rapid insulin response, and unless you’re about to run a marathon or do a hard workout, then these high calorie sugars will not be needed for energy. And if they’re not burnt off they end up being metabolised and pushed into fat cells, which of course just keep swelling and swelling.
Unfortunately, and here’s the real kicker – this sugar usually goes on as dangerous belly fat; the kind that increases your risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Fiber slows this process down, which is why low glycemic load foods such as wholegrain breads, pasta, rice, sweet potatoes, whole fruits, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds should all be eaten in abundance on the low GI, fat burning diet.
Giving up Sugar!
Sounds hard right? Getting off the adequately termed ‘sugar train‘ can be a nightmare as most of us have some level of sugar addiction going on, which is usually more of an addiction to the feel good endorphins that are released when we eat high sugar and fatty foods (especially potent when sugars and fats are mixed together. This is our body’s way of rewarding us for seeking out high calories foods as part of our survival instinct, but of course, it’s redundant in first world society.
So, to keep these cravings at bay as best you can, you should keep your blood sugar levels more stable by always eating as low GI as possible, AND also to food combine correctly. For instance, eating low GI foods with equal amounts of protein and a little fat will not only help slow down the sugar release, but also keep you full and satiated for hours. This in itself is a great weight loss tool that will help to stop sugar cravings and snacking.
Low GI Food Combining
An example of low GI food combining would be either oatcakes, wholegrain rice cakes or a piece of fresh fruit with sugar free peanut butter. Oatcakes are a wholegrain that is full of satiating fiber, and when combined with peanut butter (which is high in protein and heart healthy monounsaturated fat) it makes for a perfect low GI snack.
The low GI foods on this list will release their sugars slowly over a sustained period of time as they haven’t been refines and contain all the fibers and nutrients of the food in its ‘whole’ and natural state. During the refining process of many foods such as white sugar, rice, bread, flours etc all the fibrous pats of the original food are taken out making them far easier and faster for us to digest.
But digesting something fast is not good because it means that you will get a fast sugar spike into the bloodstream, which then means a higher insulin response than is natural to the body. These responses can be continual throughout the day in a person that eats lots of junk foods and snacks, and are often a pre-curser to diseases such as diabetes and obesity and all the other problems that come along with those 2 things in themselves.
High GI food swaps examples
If you love potatoes (who doesn’t), then you can either eat them high GI or low GI depending on how you prepare them. This is where a bit of understanding of this concept of ‘slowing down a food’s natural sugars’ comes in.
For example:- If you eat mashed potato, you have literally refined a potato down as far as you can in the mashing process itself. All that breaking down of its fibers means that your body doesn’t have to do any hard work and can literally use the potatoes energy instantly – not good in terms of insulin response. But if you were to eat a new potato (which are lower GI naturally) in its skin, then it would be much lower GI due to the fact that the skin is full of fiber and it also hasn’t been mashed up.
If you bake a potato in its skin, or make your own healthy fries or chips with their skins on and oven baked, again, this is much lower GI than your mash.
This is just one example of how different cooking methods of the same foods can change the food’s GI value. The general principle is to keep something as close to nature as possible and allow your digestive system to do the hard work of breaking it down. This is why a diet high in raw foods is perfect, as the cooking process of most vegetables (no matter how its done) breaks down fibers and ups their GI value.
Other benefits of the low GI diet
1. GENERAL MOOD
You will start to notice a big difference in your mood, as low GI foods keep your blood sugar stable, and stable blood sugar equals stable mood – the two go hand in hand. Also, stable blood sugar (along with other factors, such as healthy fats and exercise) plays a big role against anxiety, depression, PMS, and other mood disorders.
Few people who suffer depression and anxiety actually make the correlation between their diet and their mood, but sorting my diet out was one of the single MAJOR reasons I was able to help my severe depression. Cutting down on sugar, and eating wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates totally changed my life; that along with high strength omega 3 fish oils, and physical exercise (the best for depression being weight bearing exercise, such as gym, kettlebells, HITT and power walking).
Yes, doing all these things helped me hugely when I suffered severe depression, so do not for a second underestimate how powerful these simple changes are. But, if you are a sufferer of mental illness then it is crucial that you speak with your doctor about any changes you are making to your diet and lifestyle first.
2. ANTI AGING
Every time you have an insulin response from high GI foods, your cells will go into accelerated aging mode (now that’s a scary though for most of us!) making not only your skin more wrinkly, but everything else on the inside and out will age more rapidly too.
Eating a low GI diet along with lots of high antioxidant fruits and vegetables, plus green superfood shots, will really help your body to regenerate rather than degenerate – thus slowing down the aging process and keeping you looking youthful for longer.
3. KEEPING DIABETES AT BAY
A low GI, highly plant based diet diet will help keep your blood sugar stable, which in itself can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Unfortunately, these nasty diseases have a long list of side effects in themselves, making a low GI diet, along with a good fitness plan, absolutely vital for long term health.
LIST OF LOW GI FOODS:
- High quality plant based protein powders. (Find the highest reviewed here)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Fruits
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Brown Rice
- Wholewheat/Spelt/ Brown Rice/ Corn or Buckwheat Pasta
- Oat Cakes/ Wholegrain Rice Cakes/ Rye Crackers
- No Added Refined Sugar Breakfast Cereals, Including Oats/ Wheatabix*/ Some Granola’s and Muesli’s/ Shredded Wheat
- Flours – Wholemeal/ Spelt/ Buckwheat, Brown Rice/ Quinoa
- Low Sugar Baked Beans
- Green and Red Lentils, either Canned or Died
- Kidney Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Black Beans
- Borlotti Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Butter Beans
- Aduki Beans
- Wholegrain Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Rye Bread
- Marmite or Vegemite
- Any kind of No Added Sugar Nut Butter
- Nuts of all kinds, preferably RAW
- Seeds – Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame, Flax, Hemp
- Tofu or Tempeh
- Any Dried Fruits – No Added Sugar
- Milks – Soy/ Rice/ Almond/ Coconut
- Fats for Cooking – Coconut Oil/ Olive Oil/ Avocado Oil/ Canola Oil/ Safflower Oil/ Peanut Oil/ Sesame Oil
- Cold Pressed Oils for Dressings and Salads – Extra Virgin Olive Oil/ Avocado Oil (also can be used for cooking)/ Flax Oil
- MEAT AND DAIRY IS NOT ON THE GI RATING SCALE AS IT DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY CARBOHYDRATES, BUT IN ESSENCE THEY ARE LOW GI.
Thanks for reading this post today. If you are on a plant based or vegan diet then you may want to check out these other weight loss foods and add them to your shopping list.
Please leave any relevant comments below and I will be sure to answer them as soon as possible. I would love to hear from you and am always happy to help with any questions about low GI eating and the plant based diet in general.