30 Low-Glycaemic Foods That Won’t Eff With Your Blood Sugar
It’s a tale as old as time: you eat a huge-ass cupcake, get a surge of energy – and then 30 minutes later you crash. Well, a lot of foods beyond desserts (brown rice, peas and some other vegetables) can mess with your blood sugar and cause the same effect. It’s a brutal cycle that often leads to cravings and weight gain.
Luckily, there’s this thing called the glycaemic index that makes the process of choosing blood-sugar-friendly foods less of a guessing game. It’s basicaly a ranking system that looks at how foods with carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels.
A low-GI food is anything below 55, medium 56 to 69 and high is rated 70 or higher. The lower the number, the less that food affects your insulin and blood sugar level. So whether you’re a diabetic or just want to avoid the crash-and-burn cravings cycles, check out the 30 foods to keep on your low-glycaemic list.
“A delicious, low carbohydrate way to ‘beef up’ the nutrient density of your dishes! Think breads, rice and even mashed potatoes,” says dietician Elizabeth Ann Shaw.
Per 1/2 cup serving (cooked): 15 cal (63kJ), 0 g fat (0 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 1 g fibre, 1 g protein.
GI: Around 20
“A great way to boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts provide an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet,” says Shaw.
Per 1/4 cup serving: 160 cal (669kJ), 16 g fat (1.5 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2 g fibrer, 4 g protein.
“Surprisingly, the ruby-red fruit is actually a low GI food!” says Shaw. You can also add it to fruit salads, desserts and smoothies.
Per 1 cup serving (with pits): 90 cal (376kJ), 0 g fat (0 g sat), 22 g carbs, 20 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 3 g fibre, 1 g protein.
Blueberries are high in antioxidants to better your heart and skin health and to reduce inflammation, and they happen to also be low on the GI scale, says dietician Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Per 1 cup serving: 80 cal (334kJ), 0g fat/sat fat, 0mg sodium, 19g carbs, 6g fibre, 10g sugar, 0g protein.
Add chickpeas to salads or eat them roasted with spices for a protein-packed, low-GI food, says Harris-Pincus. They are also high in fibre, magnesium and iron to keep you full and energised.
Per 1/2 cup serving: 120 cal (502kJ), 1g fat, 0g sat fat, 150mg sodium, 20g carbs, 7g fibre, 0 sugar, 7g protein.
Old-fashioned rolled oats are great for boosting satiety and providing fibre, and they come in at a low GI score. Harris-Pincus says steel-cut oats have an even lower GI score.
Per 1/2 cup serving: 150 cal (627kJ), 3g fat, -5g sat fat, 0mg sodium, 27g carbs, 4g fibre 1g sugar, 5g protein.
Boiled sweet potato without the skin is high in antioxidants like beta-carotene. But baking sweet potato increases the GI, says Harris-Pincus, so you’ll want to boil it for the lowest number.
Per 1 medium sweet potato: 115 cal (481kJ), 0.2g fat, 0g sat fat, 40mg sodium, 27g carbs, 4g fibre, 9g sugar, 2g protein.
“Whole-wheat pasta used to be synonymous with cardboard, but with improvements in product development, it now has a pleasant mouth feel and cooking versatility,” says dietician Maggie Moon, author of The MIND Diet.
Per 1 cup serving: 174 cal (727kJ), 2 g fat (0.3 g sat), 35 g carbs, 0.9 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 4.6 g fibre, 7 g protein.
“Dates are naturally sweet and can add sweetness as well as fibre to smoothies, grain salads and more,” says Moon.
Per 1/4 cup serving: 104 cal (435kJ), 0.1 g fat (0 g sat), 28 g carbs, 23 g sugar, 1 mg sodium, 2.9 g fibre, 0.9 g protein.
“For those looking for a plant-based alternative to conventional milk, soy milk offers up a good amount of protein per cup,” says Moon.
Per 1 cup serving: 79 cal (330kJ), 4.0 g fat (0.5 g sat), 4 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 84 mg sodium, 1.0 g fibre, 7.0 g protein.
“Strawberries are among the lower end of GI for berries. Stick with the proper portion for a snack high in fibre and vitamin C,” says Hultin.
Per 1 cup serving: 49 cal (205kJ), 0.5 g fat (0.0 g sat), 12 g carbs, 7.4 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 3.0 g fibre, 1.0 g protein.
GI: Around 27
“Many types of nuts are low GI because they are an unprocessed, whole food high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Keep in mind that a serving is fairly small at about 16 to 18 nuts,” says Hultin.
Serving size of 16-18 nuts.: 157 cal (656kJ), 12.4 g fat (2.2 g sat), 8.5 g carbs, 22 g sugar, 3 mg sodium, 1 g fibre, 5.2 g protein.
Sugar Snap Peas
Snow peas are a great low-glycaemic, crunchy snack (and interestingly, they’re way lower on the GI scale than regular peas).
Per 1 cup serving: 26 cal (109kJ), 0.1 g fat (0 g sat fat), 5 carbs, 3 g sugar, 3 mg sodium, 2 g fibre, 2 g protein.
It’s time to get on board with the zoodle craze. “Courgettes and other squash are very low GI foods, low in kilojoules yet flavourful and versatile for cooking,” says Hultin, making them a great sub for pastas and carb-focused dishes.
Serving size of 1 cup: 19 cal (79kJ), 0.4 g fat (0.0 g sat), 3.5 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 9 mg sodium, 1 g fibre, 1.4 g protein.
“Celery is a very low glycemic food and a perfect crunchy snack that has very little impact on blood sugars,” says Hultin.
Per 1 cup serving: 14 cal (59kJ), 0.2 g fat (0.0 g sat), 3 g carbs, 1.4 g sugar, 8 mg sodium, 1.6 g fibre, 0.7 g protein.
“Perfect for hearty salads and to add bulk to soups and stews,” says dietician Dana Angelo White of this nutritional powerhouse. It’s also high in iron, protein and folate for brain health and satiety.
Per 1 cup serving (raw): 33 cal, 0g fat (0g sat), 7g carbs, 0g sugar, 29mg sodium, 1g fibre, 2g protein.
“Pulses like lentils are a go-to for plant-based protein, fibre and healthy carbs,” says White.
Per 1/2 cup serving (boiled): 115 cal (481kJ), 0.5g fat ( 0g sat), 20g carbs, 2g sugar, 2mg sodium, 8g fibre, 9g protein.
“Apples live up to the nutritional hype!” says White. They’re high in fibre and low on the glycaemic index, making them a great snack.
Per 1 medium apple: 95 cal (397kJ), 0g fat (0g sat), 25g carbs, 19g sugar, 2mg sodium, 4 g fibre, 0g protein.
“Carrots get a bad reputation for being too high in natural sugars, but they are truly an antioxidant powerhouse. Don’t pass on this handy, colourful snack-friendly food,” says White.
Per 1/2 cup (cooked): 27 cal (113kJ), 0g fat (0 g sat), 6g carbs, 3g sugar, 45mg sodium, 2g fibre, 1g protein.
“Choose quinoa over higher GI grains for stuffings, fillings, bowls and grain salads,” says White. Quinoa also offers a ton of protein and fibre to fill you up and boost your metabolism.
Per 1 cup serving (cooked): 222 cal (928kJ), 4 g fat (0 g sat), 39 g carbs, 0g sugar, 13mg sodium, 5g fibre, 8g protein.
“Artichokes are packed with phytochemicals that protect the heart and fibre, which may help lower blood pressure,” says dietician Natalie Rizzo.
Per 1 medium artichoke: 60 cal (251kJ), 0g fat (0 g sat), 13 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 120 mg sodium, 7 g fibre, 1.9 g protein.
“Many people don’t realise that mangoes actually have more vitamin C than most citrus fruit. Plus, it is rich in fibre, making it super satisfying,” says Rizzo.
Serving size of 1 cup: 100 cal (418kJ), 0 g fat (0 g sat), 24 g carbs, 22 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 3 g fibre, 1 g protein.
“Not only does milk have nine essential vitamins and minerals, it’s also packed with protein. It also contains bone-building calcium and vitamin D,” says Rizzo.
Per 1 cup serving: 105 cal (439kJ), 3 g fat (1 g sat), 12 g carbs, 12 g sugar, 130 mg sodium, 0 g fibre, 8 g protein.
“This cruciferous vegetable is high in glucosinolates, which have been shown to reduce DNA damage. They are also high in fibre, which helps with weight management,” says dietician Kailey Proctor.
Serving size of 1 cup raw: 38 cal (159kJ), 0.3 g fat (0.1 sat fat), 8 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 22 mg sodium, 3.3 g fibre, 3 g protein.
“This nut is high in vitamin E, which keeps skin healthy and may reduce the signs of ageing. The protein and fat content make a great snack because fat, fibre and protein keep us fuller, longer, making us less likely to overeat at other meals,” says Proctor.
Per 1/4 cup serving: 164 cal (686kJ), 14.4 g fat (1.1 g sat. fat), 5.6 g carbs, 1.4 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 3.4 g fibre, 6 g protein.
“Greek yoghurt helps you feel fuller, longer, between meals, so you are less likely to snack between meals,” says Proctor. Also, yoghurt is a great source of calcium, which will keep your bones strong and lower the risk of osteoporosis.
Per 1 cup serving (plain, non-fat): 120 cal (502kJ), 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 9 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 85 mg sodium, 0 g fibre, 22 g protein.
Your favourite toast topping aka avocado “helps maintain blood sugars due to low carbohydrate content and high unsaturated fat content,” Proctor says.
Per 1/3 medium avocado: 80 cal (334kJ), 8 g fat (1 g sat fat), 4 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 3 g fibre, 0 mg sodium, 1 g protein.
Like quinoa, bulgur is high in nutrients like magnesium and iron, while staying lower on the GI index than other grains (like brown rice).
Per 1 cup serving (cooked): 151 cal (631kJ), 0.4 g fat (0 g sat fat), 34 g carbs, 0.2 g sugar, 8 g fibre, 9 mg sodium, 6 g protein.
Onions (especially red onions) are high in the antioxidants anthocyanin and quercetin, which together can kill human cancer cells.
Per 1 cup serving: 64 cal (268kJ), 0.16 g fat (0 g sat fat), 15 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 3 g fibre, 6 mg sodium, 2 g protein.
The classic salad base is def a good food to have in your low-glycaemic arsenal. Romaine in particular is packed with vitamin C and folate.
Per 1 cup serving (shredded): 5 cal (21kJ), fat (sat fat), carbs, sugar, fibre, sodium, 0.5 g protein.
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