In This Article
In This Article
You might be wondering—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.
The glycemic 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.
The glycemic index is a rating system for any foods that have carbohydrates and how quickly they affect your blood sugar.
The higher the ranking on the glycemic index, the quicker the food is broken down and turned into glucose by the body. Constant increases in blood sugar may not be healthy and often accompanies conditions like diabetes.
The lower the ranking, the slower the carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels, making it easier to keep stable. Blood sugar spikes don't occur with a lot of low GI foods.
The breakdown is as follows:
Many dietitians recommend focusing on a variety of food with lots of foods low in the glycemic index.
This is why the diet is called the low glycemic diet. It focuses more on low glycemic food to help keep your blood sugar stable.
It's normal for blood sugar levels to fluctuate, but when your blood sugar is constantly at high levels, you may suffer from the following:
Blood sugar spikes may also, in themselves, cause dizziness and nausea.
Take note that the glycemic index is a tool used by healthcare professionals and not necessarily the only reference you should lean on. Some foods that are high on the index aren't always bad for you. Your blood sugar and body will benefit most from a balanced diet full of a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
Watermelons, for example, have a high glycemic load, but they're not considered bad for you.
It's not just about avoiding high glycemic foods altogether. Remember that how healthy a food is also depends on:
Talk to your doctor before starting a low glycemic diet. They may instruct you to start slow or want to ensure your body can make the adjustment.
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. You need to pay attention to your blood sugar levels to feel your healthiest.
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.
Take note that the glycemic index isn't the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining how healthy food is. You should still consult your doctor for any major lifestyle or diet changes and if the low glycemic diet is for you.
If you want to start low glycemic diet, consider the following steps and tips:
Most healthy people can follow a low GI diet. Since it doesn’t completely cut 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 GI diet is relatively easier and lower-effort compared to other diets, making it a good place to start if you want to begin your weight loss journey. Paying attention to the glycemic index is often the most difficult part of the diet, and even then, most foods are already laid out on the index.
Not only is it relatively simple, but you also don't have to cut out every single "bad food." As long as you're moderating yourself, you should be fine.
Your overall health can improve with a low GI diet. Low glycemic diets aren't hard to follow most of the time and have lots of pluses for your blood sugar levels.
Here are some of its benefits:5
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.
Low GI foods prevent your energy levels from spiking and crashing later on. This can help you to prevent fatigue throughout the day.
A low GI diet can also be good for your heart. They can help with weight loss, which is great for your cardiovascular health.
Low glycemic 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
You can also enjoy moderate amounts of medium GI foods, such as:
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:
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.
“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 them. 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. Low glycemic foods are pretty widely available and not too hard to source. So it may help you sustain your weight loss efforts.4
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