Nutritious Low-Glycemic Superfoods

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There has been a lot of research on the benefits of eating low-glycemic foods, especially for those with diabetes. Incorporating low-glycemic foods into your regular meal plan has been shown to even out many of the large, rapid blood glucose spikes that many with type 1 diabetes experience.

Low-glycemic foods contain less sugar (either natural-occurring sugar or sugar added through processing) and, therefore, won't raise your blood glucose as much as foods that have a greater amount. Adding a few low-glycemic foods into your current meal plan may help you better manage your blood glucose levels.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The research on glycemic foods has resulted in a glycemic index that ranks foods according to their glycemic impact, or how they affect blood sugar levels. The index focuses specifically on carbohydrates and ranks them on a scale from zero to 100.

Foods that are higher on the glycemic index are absorbed more quickly by your digestive tract and therefore cause a faster and greater rise in your blood sugar. So, when using the glycemic index, you want to choose foods in the low glycemic category that have a ranking of less than 55.

Glycemic Ranking System

The generally accepted standard for identifying the glycemic ranking of foods are:

  • Low glycemic foods have a ranking of 55 or less
  • Medium glycemic foods have a ranking of 56 to 69
  • High glycemic foods have a ranking of 70 or higher

Glycemic Load

To effectively use the glycemic index, you also need to consider the glycemic load of a food. The glycemic load tells you how much carbohydrate is in a particular food. It considers the serving size and calculates the number of carbohydrates in that serving, which gives you a more accurate means of predicting how it will affect your blood sugar.

To obtain the glycemic load of a particular food, multiply the glycemic index ranking by the amount of carbohydrate in that food and divide the result by 100. You can then measure the glycemic load accordingly:

  • Low glycemic load is 10 or less
  • Medium glycemic load is 11 to 19
  • High glycemic load is 20 or more

For example, a medium-sized apple has a glycemic index of 40 and about 16 carbohydrates. If you multiply 40 by 16, this equals 640. You then divide 640 by 100 for a glycemic load of 6. So, a medium-sized apple would qualify as having a low glycemic load.

There is also a searchable database that will provide you with the glycemic index, number of carbohydrates, and the glycemic load of various foods.

Low-Glycemic Superfoods

Superfoods are foods that are nutritionally dense, making them healthier options because they supply the body with a lot of nutrients. Here are five low-glycemic foods that are also high in nutrition.

  1. Chana dal. Chana dal is a type of chickpea that is widely used in India and the Mediterranean region of the world. It has one of the lowest glycemic rankings and is wonderful in soups. Three-fourths of a cup of cooked chana dal provides 25 grams of high-quality carbohydrate with a glycemic load of only 3.
  2. Dried beans. Dried beans vary somewhat in the glycemic rankings depending on the type of dried bean you choose. One-third of a cup of soaked and cooked dried beans, on average, will provide about 21 grams of carbohydrate and a glycemic load of about 5.
  3. Lentils. Lentils are also popular fare in the Mediterranean and Middle East. They are very nutritious and inexpensive, and they have a low glycemic load. A half cup of cooked lentils provides about 24 grams of carbohydrate and has a glycemic load of about 7.
  4. Whole wheat pasta. It may surprise you to hear that pasta could have a low glycemic load. But it is unique to whole wheat pasta and how you prepare it. A one cup serving of al dente (firm vs. soft) whole wheat pasta has about 25 grams of carbohydrate with a glycemic load of about 10. Cooking pasta beyond the al dente stage increases the glycemic load.
  5. Split peas. Split peas are high in dietary fiber and B vitamins, in addition to being a low glycemic food. A half cup of cooked split peas provides about 20 grams of carbohydrate with a glycemic load of about 10.
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