A popular tool for maintaining your weight (or losing weight) and keeping your blood sugar level stable is the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a way of looking at how a particular food impacts your blood sugar. This is crucial for diabetics, as maintaining their blood sugar levels at an appropriate number can help prevent complications like neuropathy or kidney damage.
If you are interested in maintaining or losing weight, the glycemic index can also help you. When you keep your blood sugar steady, your body releases less insulin. Insulin is important because it helps our bodies store food as fat, something we want to avoid.
For the most part, protein and fat have a negligible glycemic impact. They do not raise your blood sugar at all. The foods you will see listed on a chart of glycemic index values will be primarily carbohydrates.
The glycemic index of a food may be either high, medium, or low. Low glycemic impact foods have a glycemic index number of 55 or less. You want to base your diet on low glycemic index foods, have only occasional servings of moderate glycemic index foods, and very rare servings of high glycemic index foods.
There are very few grain products that qualify as low glycemic index. These include barley, rolled oats, and products made from 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. Meats that have not been sugar cured or processed generally have a very low glycemic index.
Seafood that has not been breaded or had sugar added is also low glycemic index. Most dairy products are low glycemic index, unless they have added sugar.
Most vegetables are low glycemic index with the exceptions of corn, potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, and vegetables to which sugar has been added and fruits with the exception of bananas, raisins, watermelon, pineapple, and other fruits to which sugar has been added.
Beans are usually low to medium glycemic index as well as good sources of protein and fiber.
You may want to start easing into a low glycemic index by moving away from processed foods and moving toward more foods in their natural state. For example, instead of having fries as a side with your next lunch, choose a salad or baked potato instead.
While a baked potato isn’t low glycemic index, it is better for you than fries. Start choosing 100% whole wheat bread over white bread, and start switching to whole grain pasta. Look for sauces that have the least amount of sugar in them.
You will find sugar (and high fructose corn syrup) in a surprising number of places, including spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. The more sugar you can cut out of your diet, the better you will feel.
Choose whole fruits over juices, and avoid fruits that have added sugar. When you are not buying fresh fruit, you may find that frozen fruit is less likely to contain added sugars than canned (even light syrup usually means sugar has been added).