- Know that starches, such as white potatoes and rice, can raise blood sugar faster and higher than eating sugar or candy. However, rice differs. Sticky cooked rice where grains clump together has a high GI. Basmati rice, where grains separate when cooked, has a low GI. Both brown rice and pasta have GIs similar to white rice and pasta. It’s also a myth that pasta has a high GI and makes you fat. All pastas are fairly low GI foods, helping dampen blood sugar, appetite, and tendency to gain weight.
- Eat legumes with abandon. All legumes are slowly digested, causing slow, gradual rises in blood sugar, and thus have low GI ratings ranging from 48 to 18. This includes baked beans, butter beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, soybeans, and peanuts, which technically are a legume and not a nut.
- If you eat high GI foods, combine them with low GI foods. That reduces the overall GI of a meal. Combining dried beans and rice, for example, produces an intermediate GI. When you eat snacks alone, choose ones with a low GI, such as apples, peanuts, popcorn. A high GI food, such as jelly beans eaten alone, is sure to spike blood sugar.
- Eat lots of vegetables and nuts. You can think of salad vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, avocado, as well as nuts as “free” foods, with no significant impact on blood sugar. Their GI is effectively “zero” says Dr. Brand-Miller. Meat does not raise blood sugar, but its fat promotes insulin resistance. It’s important to restrict high fat foods as well as high GI foods, she cautions, although lean meat can be nutritious.
- Restrict processed foods made with finely ground flour, such as bread, cereals, cookies, crackers. They have a high GI because the fine particles of starch zip right through your digestive tract. Many cereals and both white and whole wheat bread made from highly processed flour have higher GIs than table sugar, which has a GI of 60-65. White or whole wheat bread has a GI of 70. Most cold cereals have high GIs, above 70. Some with a low GI: AllBran with extra fiber, Bran Buds with psyllium, Special K, muesli.
- Add vinegar or lemon juice to foods to lower their glycemic index. Studies show that eating only four teaspoons of vinegar in a salad dressing with an average meal lowered blood sugar as much as 30 percent. Dr. Brand-Miller advises eating a salad with a vinegar or lemon juice dressing with high GI meals.
- Eat small amounts frequently. It’s better for maintaining steady blood glucose if you eat several smaller meals six times a day rather than three times a day. It’s the evolutionary thing to do also. “Our bodies were designed to eat little and often,” says Dr. Benton.
- Be sure to eat something for breakfast. Overnight blood sugar levels sink and need replenishing. Your memory and learning abilities suffer if you don’t feed your brain when it wakes up. Some experts favor a combination carbohydrate-protein breakfast, such as cereal with skim milk. Avoid pure carbohydrates (toast and jelly), pure proteins, and high animal fats.
- Take alpha-lipoic acid, a supplement that tends to lower blood sugar. Recommended dose for normal individuals: 50 to 100 milligrams a day. For diabetics: 300 to 600 milligrams daily.
- Take chromium supplements-200 micrograms if you are nondiabetic and 1000 micrograms if you are diabetic. U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher and diabetes specialist Dr. Richard Anderson finds that chromium tends to “normalize” blood sugar, bringing it up if it’s low and down if it’s high.
THE BEST AND THE WORST
Here is a capsule look at common foods with high and low glycemic index values, according to the latest Australian research. Best are those with low glycemic index values.
Food: Low GI High GI
(slowly digested) (quickly digested)
Bread: Sourdough (52) French baguette (95)
Hot Cereal: Oats, old fashioned (49) Oats quick (65)
Cold Cereal: Muesli (43) Corn flakes (84)
All Bran (51)
Dried Fruit: Apricots (31) Dates (103)
Fresh Fruit: Cherries(22) Watermelon (72)
Vegetable: Sweet potato (54) Red skin potato (93)
Grains: Pasta, fettucine (32) Instant rice (87)
Dairy Yogurt, fat Ice cream (61)
Products: free (14)
fruit flavored with sugar (33)
Candy: M&M Peanuts (33) Jelly beans (80)
Snacks: Peanuts (14) Pretzels (83)