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Diabetes: Eating Low-Glycemic Foods

Table of Contents


Introduction

Eating low-glycemic foods is one tool to help keep your diabetes under control. The glycemic index is a rating system for foods that contain carbohydrate. It helps you know how quickly a food with carbohydrate raises blood sugar, so you can focus on eating foods that raise blood sugar slowly.


How do you follow a low-glycemic eating plan?

You don't have to deny yourself certain food groups or favorite dishes when you follow a low-glycemic eating plan. You focus on eating measured amounts of low- or medium-glycemic foods and trying to eat a balanced diet.

Write down what you eat now

The first step is to look at the kinds of foods you're eating now. Write down the carbohydrate-rich foods you eat over several days. Then find the glycemic index of these foods.

Foods in the index are given a number from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the higher the glycemic index. Foods are compared to glucose, which is sugar. It has a rank of 100.

Glycemic index of some common foods1, 2

Fruits


Glycemic index


Apples


Low


Oranges


Low


Watermelon


High


Vegetables


Glycemic index


Potato, baked (such as russet)


High


Pumpkin


High


Sweet potato


Low


Dried and canned beans and legumes


Glycemic index


Kidney beans


Low


Lentils


Low


Peanuts


Low


Cereals and grains


Glycemic index


Rice (brown)


Medium


Instant oatmeal


High


Corn flakes


High


Breads


Glycemic index


Whole-grain bread


Low


Hamburger bun (white)


Medium


White bread


High


Pasta


Glycemic index


Spaghetti (whole wheat)


Low


Spaghetti (white)


Low


Macaroni


Low

Under columns labeled low, medium, or high, list the different foods you eat, according to their glycemic index. You can see at a glance how many high-, medium-, and low-glycemic foods you eat. You may find that you already are eating many foods that are low or medium on the index. But you also may find many foods that are high-glycemic or on the high end of medium.

A dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you pick foods that you like and that are low on the index. You can get more information from the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.

Swap some high-glycemic foods with low-glycemic choices

Look at your list for high-glycemic foods that you eat only now and then or that you wouldn't mind removing from your diet.

Find some low-glycemic choices that you could eat in place of those high-glycemic foods. So, for example, if you like baked potatoes, try having a baked yam instead. If you often eat a plain bagel for breakfast, try a slice of multi-grain toast instead. Watermelon is a fine treat once in a while in the summer. But you could limit how much of it you eat. Or you could have strawberries or other low-glycemic berries instead.

Follow some tips to make low-glycemic choices

Set goals and get support


References

Citations

  1. Atkinson FS, et al. (2008). International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 31(12): 2281–2283.
  2. American Diabetes Association (2013). The Glycemic Index of Foods. Available online: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/the-glycemic-index-of-foods.html.

Other Works Consulted


Credits for Diabetes: Eating Low-Glycemic Foods

Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian


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