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Glycemic Index Diet — Here’s How It Works
Updated on September 16, 2022
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Diet / Weight Loss
Glycemic Index Diet — Here’s How It Works

You might wonder — is the glycemic index diet just another weight loss fad? 

We asked registered dietitian Elise Harlow to help us understand what a low GI diet is and if it can really help you lose weight. Before you try it out, there are a few things you need to know.

Glycemic Index Diet — Here’s How It Works 2

What is the Glycemic Index Diet?

The diet promotes foods that have little impact on your blood sugar levels. 

Your meals will largely comprise of low glycemic index (GI) foods. Foods with medium GI scores may also be added to your meal plan.

Calorie counting and portion control aren’t as important to a low GI diet. The quality of the food you eat is what matters more.

How Does the Glycemic Index Diet Work?

The glycemic index diet is based on the glycemic index (GI). The system measures the effects of carbohydrates on your blood sugar.1 

Carbohydrates that have a high glycemic load will cause your blood glucose to increase drastically (hyperglycemia). It can lead to diabetes and weight gain.

A low glycemic load diet can help prevent weight gain and diabetes by keeping your blood sugar stable.

Unlike your typical weight loss diet, the amount of calories you consume isn’t considered. That said, low GI foods tend to contain fewer calories. 

Eating modest food portions is still crucial. This allows you to get adequate nutrition from your meals without gaining excess fat.

Who Can Follow the Low Glycemic Diet?

Most healthy people can follow a low GI diet. Since it doesn’t completely out carbohydrates, it may not feel like a big change.

The diet may also benefit people who have diabetes. It can help control your blood sugar level and improve your insulin response.

But if you have other health conditions or intend to lose weight, you should talk to a doctor before switching to a low glycemic diet.

The Glycemic Index Diet Guide

Low GI diets usually include foods that rank below 55 on the glycemic index. 

You may also consume foods with a medium GI score (between 56 and 69). But you should only do so sparingly.2 

This approach changes the quality of carbs you eat, instead of simply reducing or eliminating them from your meals.

Some GI diets may also offer guides on portion control and calorie intake.  

Foods You Can You Eat On A Low GI Diet

Low GI foods are carbohydrate sources that contain more proteins and fat. They should make up the bulk of your diet. Examples of foods with a low glycemic index are:2

  • Most fruits
  • Carrots 
  • Lentils 
  • Kidney beans 
  • Bran breakfast cereal 
  • Green vegetables

You can also enjoy moderate amounts of medium GI foods, such as:

  • Raisins 
  • Bananas 
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples 
  • Oat breakfast cereals
  • Multigrain, oat bran, or rye bread

Foods You Should Avoid On A Low GI Diet

Carbohydrates that cause your blood glucose levels to spike are off-limits. This includes food items that are heavily processed or sweetened.

Some high GI foods to stay away from include:

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Potatoes

These foods typically lack fiber, which is an important nutrient found in most low GI foods. Fiber can help to balance your blood sugar response when eating carbohydrates.

Can Low Glycemic Diets Help You Lose Weight?

“Many people can lose weight on a low glycemic diet. However, personal results will vary on somebody's medical history, amongst several other factors,” says Elise Harlow, a registered dietitian.

If you follow this diet, your meal plan will contain foods that fill you up and slowly release sugars for energy. This means you won't get hungry quickly.

One study found that a low GI diet can help you lose significant weight. It may even be better than a low-fat diet.3

Most people who follow calorie-restricted weight loss plans are unable to stick to it. After a few days or weeks, they usually go back to eating unhealthy foods.

A low GI diet won’t drastically change your food choices. So it may help you sustain your weight loss efforts.4

What Are Other Benefits of Eating Low GI Foods?

Your overall health can improve with a low GI diet. Below are some of its benefits:5 

Blood Sugar Control

Low GI foods won’t dump lots of sugar into your bloodstream. This prevents sudden increases in blood sugar, which can lead to hyperglycemia.

Your body digests low GI foods slowly and adds small amounts of sugar to your blood. It is beneficial for people with diabetes.

Steady Energy Level

Low GI foods prevent your energy levels from spiking and crashing later on. This can help you to prevent fatigue throughout the day.

Protects Your Heart

A low GI diet can also be good for your heart. They can help with weight loss, which is great for your cardiovascular health.

Is A Glycemic Diet Easy to Follow?

Meal planning is never easy, but a low glycemic diet isn’t too difficult to follow. 

You don't have to give up carbohydrates completely. You just have to swap high GI carbohydrates for lower GI carbohydrates.

This makes it easier to transition to the diet. The key is to replace most high GI foods in your meals with low GI alternatives.

For instance, you can replace white rice with brown rice. It has a low GI and is a healthier way to keep eating the food you love.6

Elise Harlow
Elise Harlow, M.S., R.D.N.
Medical Reviewer
Elise Harlow is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences. She is the founder of an online nutrition consulting and coaching business.

Elise helps people use the power of food to lead healthier lives. She works with various clients, including those who want to achieve a healthier weight, improve their gut health, lower cholesterol, manage their blood sugar, or balance their hormones.
Jennifer Anyabuine
Jennifer Anyabuine
Content Contributor
Jennifer Anyabuine is a content writer with KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry. She has been writing for 2 years. Her focus is women’s health, fitness, mental health, and general wellness.
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