Low Glycemic Food List – The Low GI Diet

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 which are the perfect foods to eat the a low GI diet.

This great low glycemic food list will show you the best foods to eat to keep your blood sugar on an an even keel, help you to lose stomach fat, and in turn help you avoid the kind of insulin response that encourages your body to store fat.

What is insulin?

mans belly fat

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that 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 then 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.

Insulin Resistance

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

assorted cup cakes

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!

iced donut

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 (an effect is 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 correctlyFor 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 refined 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 parts 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, obesity, and all the other problems that come along with those 2 things in themselves.

High GI food swaps examples

mashed potato in bowl

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, then 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, plus 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


head in hands

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 the eating of healthy omega 3 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 major changes you are making to your diet and lifestyle first. 


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. 


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.


  • High quality plant based protein powders. (Find the highest reviewed here)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables 
  • Avocados
  • Brown rice
  • Wholewheat/spelt/brown rice/corn or buckwheat pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Oat cakes/wholegrain rice cakes/rye crackers
  • No added refined sugar breakfast cereals including oats/wheatabix*/some granolas and mueslis/shredded wheat
  • Flours – wholemeal/spelt/buckwheat/brown rice/quinoa
  • Low sugar baked beans
  • Green and red lentils either canned or dried
  • Chickpeas
  • 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) 
  • Hummus
  • Tahini
  • 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

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.

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Stefanie Taylor
Plant based eating is set to EXPLODE in 2020, not just for health reasons, but also to help keep our beautiful planet thriving. I have lived this healthful lifestyle for over 3 years, and created Zestforever to share my experiences, trials, errors, how I overcame them, and to show you how easy it is for you to do it for yourself and thrive too!

I have studied, tried and tested all manner of healthy lifestyles over the past 20 years, but nothing has come close to giving me the buzz that plant based eating has. I have also studied and worked as a Sports Nutritional Advisor, Nutritional Therapist, and Clinical Weight Loss Advisor, and have a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer reviewing and contributing to posts.

This website is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical diseases or illnesses. It's merely meant to show you ways of potentially boosting your health through the eating of more nutritious plant foods in place of junk foods.

14 thoughts on “Low Glycemic Food List – The Low GI Diet”

  1. Thank you for such an informative post. This post can definitely benefit many people with diabetes as well as people that like to have a healthier diet. I love sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Avocado is my favorite fruit of all and I make avocado salad on a weekly basis. It is delicious. I will be sharing this post to my friends that have diabetes.

    • Hi Hong, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that would be great if you could share with your friends who have diabetes as it would be of fantastic help to them I am sure. Yes, I love all those foods too, especially avocados, they must be one of the healthiest foods around in terms of blood sugar control, weight loss and good monounsaturated fats. Can’t recommend them enough and I make sure to have at least half an avocado a day.

  2. Hi Stefanie,
    Great information on low glycemic eating. I have a few people in my family that have just discovered they are in onset of diabetes and I will be passing this information on to them.
    I have already changed my eating habits to include many items on your list. You have done a good job of explaining the benefits and I feel what we eat can make a big difference in our health.

    • Hi Monika, I am so glad this list has helped you and yes they can probably reverse the onset of diabetes if they start to eat like this as soon as possible. I really hope you can convince them to change their eating habits. This can be tough though, especially when there is a life time of conditioned thinking about food. It’s something that may need to be tackled one step at a time which is why I also created this post How To Eat Clean – 10 Easy Steps.

      Please also show them this as it may be of a big help.

      Wishing you and all your family all the best for their health and the future, and I would be happy to help if you have any more questions. Just drop me a line!

  3. Great information. Thanks so much for sharing. Education is key. People can only take action and make changes when they have the information and motivation to take action. Would love your input on my recent weightloss app thinvested.com
    I have the link to an article below Too. Best!

    • Hi Jorge, You are absolutely right, education is definitely key. I’m often surprised to see how many people, even with all the information out there, still have little idea about nutrition and are walking around sick and depressed and a million other things. That is why I love what I do, and it feels great when I can help others feel as good as they should.

      Yes I would love to read your article but I see no link here to it. Maybe it is because I am on my mobile phone so I will check again later. Or you could pm me it. Thanks for reading and have a fantastic, healthy day:-)

  4. This is a great list of glycemic foods. My son’s doctor told me that he needs to start eating less sugars, because of a genetic disorder he has. This can cause him to get diabetes. I have tried talking to him about this, and how scary diabetes is. He can prevent it now, or have diabetes his whole life. So, are these foods the ones that he needs to stick with for this? We have not been back the doctor yet to have this discussion. Thanks!

    • Hi Leahrae, I’m sorry to hear about your sons condition, and yes he most definitely can stop it becoming full on diabetes which would obviously mean then he would then have to cut all sugar out of his diet. As it stands at the moment, and if he balances his food he can probably get away with odd treats etc. But although I am a sports nutrition consultant I am not doctor so check with him as well.

      And yes these low GI carbohydrate foods on my list are the foods he should be eating (and are the foods everyone should be eating to stop diabetes as it is so common). Try to balance them with protein and fats as this will slow down those sugars even more. If he really does have to have sugar then never have ‘just’ sugar if you know what I mean. Example, never eat dried fruit alone, always mix it with nuts for fats and protein.

      In fact you should read my post as there is much better information in there on slowing down carbohydrates in your food. The great thing about eating low GI and food combining like this is it will stop you craving sugar anyway so it shouldn’t be to much of an issue when you get used to it. Please let me know if you have any more questions and I will be happy to help.

  5. Hi Sarah, yes it is very important to eat low GI for health, and keeping slim also of course! And it is especially useful to have a list to be able to go on and even take shopping with you. Thanks for the nice things you have said and I am glad you find my website helpful to you.

  6. I found the explanation of insulin and the role it plays in fat storage was written in a way that is really clear and easy to understand.

    Diabetes is prevelant in one side of my family so I do try to limit refined sugar as much as possible. Its not always easy though!

    • Hi Darren, really glad that my articles are easy to understand as that is my aim. People don’t really want complicated jargon when it comes to these sort of things, which is why I try to keep things simple.

      Yes, sugar is crazy hard for some people to quit. I had a hard time with it at one point, but fortunately I now have it under control. Hormones and mood still play a big role in my cravings for me which is why I like to have craving busters to hand at all times such as dried fruits, nuts, seeds etc.

  7. Hi, Stefanie, you hit it exactly right. I do love that you mentioned ‘about to do an intense workout,’ as I will eat more simple sugars about thirty minutes before hitting the gym, but one must keep in mind my workouts occur in two one-hour bouts per day, where in such workouts I’m constantly moving.

    Other times of the day, with each meal, sugar remains low while fat is moderate and protein and complex carb intake is high. Ultimately, it depends on lifestyle, but for most of us, low GI is the way to go.

    • Hi Todd,you sound like a super fit guy if you’re working out 2-3 times per day. Wow! You can afford to eat more sugar than most of us that’s for sure.

      So many people eat sugar in abundance and never work it off at all, which of course means masses of weight gain. I think there needs to be a happy medium, which is what I try to promote on this website.


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