Living your best life involves so many factors, just one of which is healthy eating. We're here to investigate one facet of a healthy diet, a focus on the glycemic index. We'll deep dive into what the GI actually is, why it matters, and provide a comprehensive list of low glycemic index foods to add to your healthy lifestyle.
Before we begin, it's best to understand the GI or glycemic index. This measurement tool tracks how a carbohydrate-containing food affects (raises) your blood glucose by ranking foods compared to a reference point like white bread. Foods with a high GI raise your blood glucose more than those with a medium or low GI. According to the American Diabetes Association, low GI foods fall into the 55 or less range, medium sits between 56-69, and high GI foods register 70 plus. Please note that both fats and meats can't be measured using the glycemic index since they don't contain carbohydrates.
Diabetes Canada states that a low GI diet can be helpful for a number of different conditions. These include lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and decreasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Additional bonuses for paying attention to the GI of your food include feeling full and satiated longer and maintaining or losing weight. But ultimately, with all of the conflicting health information out there, just pay attention to what works for you and your body. Additionally, make sure to chat with your doctor before totally revamping your diet or if you have any questions regarding your health concerns.
Now that we fully understand what the glycemic index actually is, plus why it's important, it's time to implement that knowledge. Here is our well-researched list of foods that are low on the GI. Add these to your daily diet as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Cauliflower registers as a 15 on the glycemic index scale. This versatile vegetable can be "riced" for a low carb substitute for traditional rice. It has a mild taste that will take on any flavor profile which means it can work for almost any type of food. Cauliflower is also great for digestion due to its high fiber content. Additionally, it contains high amounts of vitamin C, which has been linked to happier moods, is vital for building blood vessels, bone, cartilage, and muscle, and has antioxidant properties; vitamin C is also necessary for your body's healing processes.
Cherries sit at 22 on the GI scale. They're especially high in antioxidants and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. They are also an excellent source of potassium, one of the essential macrominerals needed for the human body to properly function. Potassium helps to regulate fluid in the body, lowers risk of stroke, and maintains electrical activity of the heart; it also prevents kidney stones, lowers blood pressure, and helps bones remain strong and intact. Cherries are delicious in salads, smoothies (pitted!), and desserts.
Chickpeas are one of our all-time favorite ingredients and have a GI of 22. These pretty pulses are even great for your digestive system since they are high in fiber and magnesium. Just one cup of chickpeas contains 14 grams of protein too, so they are especially filling. We love roasting chickpeas for a perfect snack or salad topper or making a healthier version of cookie dough for a more indulgent twist.
Old-fashioned rolled oats have a GI of 55 while steel-cut oats sit at 42. Both varieties are filling and great for digestion due to high fiber content. Rolled oats are an especially great source of the ever important calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and teeth; calcium also helps with blood clotting, hormone release, and nervous system function. Steel cut oats offer another way to get the recommended amount of potassium too. We love them for breakfast options like overnight oats!
Strawberries register a 41 on the glycemic index, which is on the lower end for berries. They offer some incredible health benefits as well. This ravishing red fruit actually contains more vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C has a plethora of health benefits, including boosting the immune system, helping your body absorb iron, and facilitating bone, cartilage, and collagen formation. Additionally, recent studies have shown Vitamin C may decrease anxiety and elevate mood. Strawberries have a plethora of uses like breakfast chia pudding, homemade preserve, boozy beverages, and dessert fun. Enjoy them solo for the healthiest way to snack.
The versatile sweet potato rests at 44 on the GI scale. This terrific tuber is high in vitamin A which has antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also supports vision, immunity, and reproduction. We love the upscale Hasselback preparation for an elevated twist on traditional sweet potatoes. We recommend boiling the potato which helps keep the GI low, though there are numerous other ways to prepare these spuds.
Soy milk is a plant-based, dairy-free milk option made from soybeans. It also has a low GI of 34. Soy milk provides a great alternative to conventional milk, especially since it contains 7 grams of protein per one cup serving. Additionally, this bean-based beverage conveniently includes helpful amounts of vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and vitamin A. Soy milk truly shines in the breakfast arena; we like it mixed into healthy smoothie bowls, overnight oats, or chia pudding.
Zucchini, a member of the squash family, is a mere 15 on the glycemic index. It's flavorful yet mild and a very trendy vegetable. Plus, zucchini is super high in water content to help keep us hydrated. We love it as a low carb substitute for heavy pasta as "zoodles" aka zucchini noodles. Another great way to sneak some more veggie power into your daily diet is to add half a frozen zucchini to your daily smoothie. Additionally, zucchini is a great addition to a vegetable tray or is delicious grilled in sweet summertime.
Registering at 53 on the GI are beautiful blueberries. They are a great source of free radical fighting antioxidants which support healthy glowing skin, heart function, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. They are super easy to incorporate into your diet since nothing says weekend brunch quite like the ultimate blueberry pancake. We also love them sprinkled into fresh salads for a juicy pop, in smoothies for a healthy boost, or in festive desserts to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Popular superfood kale is about to get another healthy attribute: it's low on the GI at 15. Kale also offers an excellent source of fiber, calcium, and potassium. Plus, consuming kale is a great way to add heft to soups or stews. Extra bonus? It's delicious in chip form. There are truly so many ways to prepare and enjoy kale.
Lovely lentils reside at 32 on the GI. These pulses provide excellent plant-based protein power. They are also an incredible source of fiber, with over 20 grams per cup! Lentils even offer immunity-boosting zinc, powerful potassium, and red blood cell-producing iron. We love them in Mediterranean stews, in vegan sloppy joes, or as a plant-based taco meat substitute.
Carrots are naturally sweet-tasting but are only 39 on the glycemic index. Carrots are also hydrating due to their high water content. They also provide potassium, which as previously stated is one of the essential macrominerals needed for the human body to properly function; it's vital for proper kidney output, regulating fluid in the body, and helping bones stay strong. We dig carrots for a healthy road trip snack or in colorful fresh salads. Pro tip: to sweeten any tomato-based sauce without sugar, add carrots. That's an old Italian trick of the trade.
Artichokes measure just 15 on the GI. Plus, they contain helpful fiber and potassium. It's easy to be intimidated by their bizarre appearance, but we can't get enough of artichoke purée. There are even lots of other simple ways to prepare this pokey vegetable.
Overall, we've covered the glycemic index, why it's useful, and some great low GI options to add to your healthy lifestyle. It's pretty sweet that focusing on blood sugar can have so many great benefits from such tasty and healthful options.