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15 Low Glycemic Index (GI) Foods For Diabetes Management

Many factors contribute to the development of diabetes such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, lack of physical activity and consumption of high carbohydrates foods. The role of dietary carbs is, however, controversial in many studies.

This is because, in many previous studies, glucose response was directly linked to the consumption of carbohydrates in ways that if a person consumes more carbs, their glucose levels tend to increase soon.

However, with the arrival of the concept of the glycemic index (GI), the theory got controversial as some carb-rich foods such as bread and brown rice with similar carbohydrates contents, do not usually cause a sudden spike in the glucose levels.

Glycemic index is a value which is assigned to foods based on how much blood sugar levels they increase. If the GI of a food is low (below 55), it contains carbs that take longer to break down, get digested, absorbed and metabolised and thus, tends to raise the glucose levels very slowly. [1]

But the glycemic index, however, does not take into account the amount of food consumed. It does not say about the complete effect of glucose on blood levels. This is why, glycemic load (GL), another factor was developed which combines both the quantity and quality of carbohydrates.

For example, the GI of watermelon is 80, which is high compared to other fruits. But a small serving of carbs will not do any harm. The low GL foods (10 or below) along with low GI foods together stabilise the glucose levels and help in the management of diabetes.

In this article, you will find some of the low glycemic index and glycemic load foods which are also healthy and nutritious and can be added to a diabetes diet. Take a look.

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1. Orange

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), orange is low on the glycemic index, which is why it tends to affect the glucose levels very slowly. It is also packed with fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin C which contribute to the health benefits of diabetics.

The GI of orange is: 48

The GL of orange is: 6

2. Grapefruit

Both grapefruit and grapefruit juice are considered healthy for diabetics as they are low in the glycemic index. Grapefruit is also rich in protein and fibre and its effect is also similar to metformin, an effective antidiabetic drug.

The GI of grapefruit is: 25

The GL of grapefruit is: 3

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3. Apple

According to the ADA, apple can be included in a diabetes diet although they contain carbohydrates and sugars. This is because they contain sugar (fructose) which is quite different from other processed sugars. Also, apple is a great source of fibre and many micronutrients. [2]

The GI of apple is: 38

The GL of apple is: 5

4. Banana

Banana is a very good choice for diabetics. It is available in all seasons and has a low GI due to the presence of fibre. However, avoid consuming too many bananas as they are also high in carbs. Also, avoid bananas which are too ripe.

The GI of banana is: 54

The GL of banana is: 11-22 (small-large banana)

5. Grape

Grape is significantly associated with a lower incidence of diabetes. It contains a potent phytochemical called resveratrol that modulates the glucose levels and prevents them from increasing.

The GI of grape is: 46

The GL of grape is: 14

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6. Broccoli

Broccoli contains a high concentration of sulforaphane that tend to decrease glucose levels and improve insulin resistance in diabetics. It has a low GI and low GL along with vital nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc and vitamins. [3]

The GI of broccoli is: 15

The GL of broccoli is: 1

7. Spinach

According to a study, inorganic nitrate in this veggie tend to reverse the progression of insulin resistance and cell dysfunction, thus stabilising the glucose levels and preventing complications related to diabetes. [4]

The GI of spinach is: 15

The GL of spinach is: 1

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8. Tomato

Tomato is low in the glycemic index as well as rich in antioxidants. It tends to decrease oxidative stress in the body and prevent inflammation, which is the main cause of diabetes and its complications.

The GI of tomato is: 15

The GL of tomato is:

9. Carrot

Both raw and cooked carrot are considered healthy for diabetics as carrots help decrease the blood glucose value. Juice of carrot is also preferred for the management of diabetes. Carrots are low in glycemic index and calories and packed with essential vitamins.

The GI of carrot is: 47

The GL of carrot is: 2

10. Cucumber

Cucumber is an ideal food for both glycemic control and reduction of diabetes complications. This food also has antioxidative effects on pancreatic cells and prevent them from the damage caused by free radicals.

The GI of cucumber is: 15

The GL of cucumber is: 1

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11. Almond

Dried fruits like almonds help reduce the glucose spike and manage hyperglycemia. They also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels and potentially decrease the risk of heart diseases in diabetics. [4]

The GI of almond is: 5

The GL of almond is: less than 1

12. Prunes

Prunes are dried plums which are rich in fibre and low in glycemic index. They are also packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B2, potassium and protein. Prunes are also known to increase satiety and decrease the intake of food.

The GI of prunes is: 40

The GL of prunes is: 9

13. Chickpeas

A study talks about the high satiety and low glycemic index of chickpeas. They can cause a reduction of 29-36 per cent in the glucose levels within 0-120 minutes. Chickpeas are high in fibre and resistant starch which is responsible for their low GI. [5]

The GI of chickpeas is: 28

The GL of chickpeas is: less than 10

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14. Lentils

Regular consumption of lentils is associated with improved glycemic index and lower incidence of diabetes. They are packed with a wide range of bioactive compound, including polyphenols that possess anti-diabetic properties.

The GI of lentils is: 32

The GL of lentils is: less than 10

15. Brown rice

A study says that replacing white rice with brown rice tend to lower diabetes risk by 16 per cent. Brown rice contains a large amount of dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins that help manage the glucose levels and prevent its sudden spike.

The GI of brown rice is: 55

The GL of brown rice is: 23