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Low Glycemic Diet for Diabetics

written by: Sarah Mitchell • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/16/2011

A low glycemic diet for diabetics assists with blood sugar level regulation. Such ones choose foods based on their glycemic index, selecting those with low scores. Although there is no cure for this disease, the low glycemic index diet and diabetes often complement each other.

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    Low Glycemic Diet for Diabetics: What is the Glycemic Index?

    Diabetics must monitor their food consumption since there are known foods that have the ability to cause blood sugar level spikes, thus, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). Other foods help maintain and regulate blood glucose levels, ideal food choices for diabetics. Food types are generally assigned a glycemic index score. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, “The glycemic index indicates the after-meal response your body has to a particular food compared to a standard amount of glucose.”[1]

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    Low Glycemic Index Diet and Diabetes: Following the Glycemic Index Chart

    In the world of the glycemic diet, diabetics become accustomed to recognizing both “high” and “low” glycemic foods based on the glycemic index chart. High glycemic foods are foods with a score of 70 or higher. Such high-indexed sustenance includes both processed and enriched groups, such as white bread or flour.

    Foods with a score of 55 and under have less of an impact on blood glucose, generally diets high in fiber and lower in sodium and saturated fat that include whole grains and beans. The American Diabetes Association suggests diabetics consume “45-65 percent of their total diet from carbohydrate foods.”

    Potential Complications of Low Glycemic Foods

    Although generally a healthier alternative for diabetics, it is true that the effects of low index food types varies amongst individuals; therefore, following a low glycemic diet can prove to be both difficult and frustrating. Low glycemic food choices have the potential of becoming high glycemic foods based on several factors:

    • Time: Storage length, cooking and/or processing time of food can affect its index type, thus, fluctuating between both a high and low score. Known foods include both carrots and potatoes.
    • Fruits and vegetables: The riper the produce is, the higher its index.
    • Bodily digestion, age and physical activity: Elements determining the speed at which an individual digests his or her food; such factors also vary from one person to the next.
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    Low Glycemic Foods: Ten Foods that Have a Low Glycemic Index

    The following food choices have a low glycemic index for diabetics:

    1. Beans

    Ideal choices include pinto, kidney, black and navy beans – all are high in potassium, protein and fiber.

    2. Leafy green veggies

    Spinach, kale and collard greens – the darker and richer the better. These greens are chock-full of vitamins and minerals and low in carbohydrates.

    3. Citrus

    These fruits contain plenty of vitamin C and soluble fiber. Examples include lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit.

    4. Sweet potatoes

    Recommended over regular potatoes, these spuds are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth while providing the body with plenty of fiber and vitamin A.

    5. Berries

    Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and the like not only neutralize the effects of free radicals with their antioxidants, they also provide fiber and other vitamins.

    6. Tomatoes

    Vitamins C and E, as well as iron, can be found in this superfood.

    7. Omega-3-containing foods

    Perhaps the perfect food for heart and brain health, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in food such as fresh fish.

    8. Whole grains

    Products containing whole wheat flour provide essential nutrients, such as folate, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and potassium. Enriched wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat flour in that it does not contain these vital nutrients.

    9. Nuts

    A good source of protein and healthy fats, nuts are an effective way to cease cravings and subside hunger pains.

    10. Fat-free dairy

    Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for strong bones and disease prevention, such as osteoporosis.

    Healthy Eating Plan: Diabetes

    Low glycemic index dieters are advised to limit saturated and trans fats, processed foods, tropical fruits – bananas, for example – and enriched products such as white flour and bread to keep their cholesterol and sodium levels low and blood glucose levels in check.

    Disclaimer: The above article is not intended to replace sound medical advice from a licensed physician or registered dietitian specializing in diabetes.

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    References

    Joslin Diabetes Center. “The Glycemic Index and Diabetes”, http://www.joslin.org/info/the_glycemic_index_and_diabetes.html.[1]

    WebMD. “Low-Glycemic Index Diet for Diabetes”, http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20081216/low-glycemic-index-diet-for-diabetes?page=2.

    American Diabetes Association. “Blood Glucose Control and the Glycemic Index”, http://www.diabetes.org/news-research/research/access-diabetes-research/ma-glucose-control-and-glycemic-index.html.

    Diabetes Forecast (American Diabetes Association). “10 Diabetes Superfoods”, http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/only-online/10-diabetes-superfoods.