When you are looking forward to living a healthy lifestyle, weight loss might be one of your goals. You can lose weight using different methods and diets, and one of the diets used for weight loss is a low glycemic diet.
The main aim of a low-GI diet is to consume foods containing carbohydrates whose digestion and absorption won’t result in a large increase in your blood sugar levels.
We shall look at what a low glycemic diet for weight loss is, how to practice this diet and benefits and drawbacks.
- 1 What is a Glycemic Index Diet?
- 2 What is the Glycemic Index?
- 3 GI ratings
- 4 What Affects The GI value of Foods?
- 5 Classification Of Glycemic Load
- 6 Foods With Low a GI Index
- 7 High Glycemic Foods
- 8 How to Observe a Low Glycemic Diet For Weight loss
- 9 What Are The Results of a Low GI Diet?
What is a Glycemic Index Diet?
A diet based on the glycemic index of a meal is one whose eating plan is rooted in how the food you eat affects your blood sugar level.
Research shows that a low Glycemic diet may lead to weight loss, lower risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and a reduction in blood sugar levels.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a measure created in the early 1980s by Dr. David Jenkin, a Canadian professor, that categorizes food according to how they affect your blood sugar levels.
To measure the glycemic index (GI) of food, the level at which different meals affect your blood sugar is compared with the absorption of pure glucose weighing 50g. Fifty grams of pure glucose has a GI value of 100, and glucose is used as the reference food.
To get a better understanding of the glycemic index, here is an example. Bread, cereals, dairy products, and vegetable contain carbohydrates.
When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, they are broken down into simple sugars, and these simple sugars enter your bloodstream.
All carbohydrates are not the same. Different types of carbohydrates affect your blood sugar differently.
There are carbohydrates whose consumption will result in a high increase in blood sugar levels compared to other carbohydrates.
Foods containing carbohydrates are the only ones assigned a GI value.
There are three GI ratings:
• Low: 55 or less
• Medium: 56-59
• High: 70 or more
The preferred choice is foods with a low-GI value. Foods with low Glycemic index values are slowly digested and absorbed, resulting in the rise of blood sugar levels that is slow and smaller.
It is recommended that you consume foods whose GI values are high in limited amounts as they are quickly digested and absorbed, and this fast process leads to a quick rise and fall of blood sugar levels.
What Affects The GI value of Foods?
Several factors determine the GI value of a meal. These are:
• The type of sugar
It is not true that all sugars GI values are high. The range of GI values in sugar can range from 19 in fructose to 105 in maltose. Therefore, the type of sugar in a meal plays a role in the GI value of the food.
• Structure of the starch
Amylopectin is digested easily while amylose’s digestion is difficult. Foods that have a low GI value are high in amylose content.
• Amount of refinery on carbohydrates
How refined carbohydrates are determines their GI values. Processing methods like rolling and grinding raise the GI value of meals since they cause a disruption in amylopectin and amylose molecules. The general rule is, the more processed a meal is, the higher its glycemic index.
• Composition of nutrients
The rate of digestion and absorption is slow when you consume foods rich in fats or acid. When digestion and absorption of food are delayed, the resulting GI value is lower. To lower the GI value of your meal, add some healthy fats like avocados or useful acids like lemon juice.
• Method of cooking
The GI value of a meal can change depending on the preparation and cooking method employed. In general, the GI value of food is higher when the meal is cooked for a longer time.
This is because the meal’s sugars are digested and absorbed faster, causing a spike in the blood sugar levels.
• How ripe is the food?
In general, the GI value is higher is riper fruits. Fruits that are unripe are rich in complex carbohydrates. As the fruit ripens, these complex carbs break down into sugars.
An example of how GI value range depending on the ripeness of the fruit is; an unripe banana’s glycemic index is 30, whereas the GI of an overripe banana is 48.
• The amount of carbs
Three factors determine the rate at which meals affect blood sugar levels. These factors are the nutrient composition of the food, the type of carbs contained in the food, and the amount you consume.
The GI is a measure that does not take into account the amount of food consumed. The glycemic load (GL) was developed to solve this problem.
The glycemic load measures how a particular carbohydrate affects your blood sugar levels by using the quantity of the carbs consumed and the type of carbohydrate.
Classification Of Glycemic Load
The GL has three classifications like the GI.
• Low: 10 or less
• Medium: 11-19
• High: 20 or more
Although the most vital factor to consider in a low-GI diet is the Glycemic value of the food, it’s crucial that you also monitor your glycemic load. The recommended total daily GL is under 100.
There are databases that you can use to identify the GI and GL of common foods. If you cannot access these databases, you can still consume the recommended 100 GL by eating foods with low-GI in moderation.
Foods With Low a GI Index
The following foods have a glycemic index value of 55 or less:
- Whole or skim milk
High-calorie or high-fat foods may also have low GI values. Such foods are like Snickers bars, corn chips or some cakes.
Example of foods with moderate glycemic index values (56 to 69)
- Brown rice
- Grain bread
High Glycemic Foods
High glycemic foods have a glycemic index value of 70 or above. Some of these foods are white bread and instant noodles.
Consumption of these foods results in a quick spike in your blood sugar, followed by a dip.
The sudden rise and fall in your blood sugar levels result in a decrease in energy, hunger, and the need to eat again.
Some foods have few to no carbohydrates but can be incorporated in a low-GI diet in moderation. These are:
- Eggs and meat such as chicken.
- Herbs and spices like garlic and basil.
- Fish and seafood such as prawns, tuna, and sardines.
How to Observe a Low Glycemic Diet For Weight loss
Having looked at what a low glycemic diet is and the foods that have low GI values, the next step is looking at how you can observe this weight loss diet.
• Prioritize eating plenty of beans and non-starchy vegetables. Also include a lot of fruits in your diet like peaches, pears, apples, and berries. There are tropical fruits whose glycemic index values are low.
These fruits include mangoes, papaya, and bananas. You can swap these fruits with your usual desserts whose GI values are mostly high.
• Eat the grains that are least processed. Remember, we mentioned that there are processing methods that cause a disruption in amylopectin and amylose molecules and the more processed carbohydrates are, the higher their GI values.
Therefore, consume grains such as brown rice, whole-kernel bread, millet, whole barley, and wheat berries.
You also consume traditionally processed foods like natural granola, stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and breakfast cereals like muesli.
• Consume white potatoes and refined-grain products in limited amounts. When eating white pasta, consume them as a side dish instead of making them the main course.
• Check your sweet tooth. When it comes to concentrates sweets, eat them in small amounts and not a regular basis. Also limit your consumption of high-calorie foods whose GI value is low, such as ice cream.
Eat ice cream as an occasional treat since although its glycemic index is low, it is high in calories and it’s not particularly filling. Consuming high-calorie foods in large amounts can lead to weight gain.
Limit your fruit juice intake to a maximum of half a cup per day. Try to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.
• Include a good amount of healthy protein in all your meals such as skinless chicken, fish, and beans.
• Go for foods that contain healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts such as pecans, almonds, and walnuts but remember to eat these foods in moderate amounts.
Put a limit on animal products like dairy that are high in saturated fats. Eliminate trans fats (hydrogenated fats) present in most of the packaged foods and fast foods.
• Eat three meals in a day and include a maximum of two snacks. Avoid skipping breakfast.
• Eat your food slowly and when your full, stop eating.
What Are The Results of a Low GI Diet?
There are mixed results on the benefits of low GI diets.
One of the main reasons people choose a low GI diet is to lose weight. In 2015, a 16-year study monitored the diets of 120,000 men and women was published.
The research found that high GL diets obtained from eating refined starches, sugars, and grains resulted in an increase in weight gain.
There are other studies that indicate that diets low in GI promote weight loss, and more importantly, these days help sustain weight loss. Keeping the weight lost off is crucial in a weight loss journey.
Blood glucose control
Studies indicate that blood glucose response is significantly determined by the total amount of carbohydrates in food. According to research, people living with diabetes can best manage their blood glucose by keeping track of their carbs.
There are clinical studies that indicate that a diet whose GI is low may help control blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes.
Low glycemic diets may help lower the total cholesterol in the body as well as reduce lipoproteins that are considered to be “bad” cholesterol.
A combination of a low-GI diet with a high intake of dietary fiber works perfectly to combat cholesterol. You can get fiber from foods that have low to moderate GI values such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
One of the effects of low-GI diets is appetite control. Consuming foods whose GI values are high results in a rapid increase in your blood glucose, fast insulin response, and finally a drop in glucose levels.
The sudden spike and dip in your blood sugar levels result in you feeling hungry within a short period from your last meal.
When you want to lose weight, the last thing you need is a constant feeling of hunger that will make you eat more to come down the hunger. Therefore, to get a grip on your appetite, low-GI foods are recommended.
Foods whose GI values are low are slowly digested and absorbed, causing low spikes in blood glucose levels and delayed feelings of hunger.
A low-GI diet suppresses your appetite, and the long-term effect of this diet is that you’ll choose to eat less since you’re not constantly hungry, and overtime, you will manage your weight loss.
Managing to lose weight is a combination of several factors and eating a low-GI diet is one of them.
You can manage your weight by choosing foods whose glycemic index or glycemic load values are low since most of the low-GI foods are low in fats, and they undergo no to minimal processing.
To manage your weight, you need to eat a well-balanced diet, and most foods whose glycemic index values are low, form part of a balanced diet.
However, you need to understand that the glycemic index shouldn’t be applied in isolation.
You need to consider other factors such as calories, fiber, fat, vitamins, and other nutrients to successfully lose weight and sustain your weight loss journey.