Low Glycemic Food List

Karen Frazier
asparagus

Many people looking to lose weight go online looking for a simple low glycemic food list, hoping to get the kind of eat-this, not-that kind of comparison typically found about fatty foods. With so many different brands and local variations you can't get a reliable at-a-glance chart that covers everything. Fortunately, there are a few general guidelines you can use to make educated guesses.

What Is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index provides a rough measure of how quickly certain carbohydrate foods will cause blood glucose to rise. The more quickly blood glucose rises in the wake of consumption of that food, the higher its glycemic index.

Low Glycemic Foods

According to the Mayo Clinic, low-glycemic foods typically have a glycemic index of 55 or lower.

Vegetables

Vegetables contain large amounts of fiber and low amounts of sugar, which helps many score a low glycemic index. Some starchy vegetables such as beets, winter squash, corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes have a higher glycemic index and aren't considered low-glycemic index foods. Non-starchy vegetables aren't tested for glycemic index because they are so naturally low in sugars and are therefore very low glycemic index.

Vegetable Glycemic Index
Onion 10
Chili peppers 10
Bell peppers 40
Broccoli 11
Carrots 35
Dark leafy greens
(spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, etc.)
Not tested (NT)
Yams
(not sweet potatoes)
54
Parsnips 52
Green peas 51
Celery NT
Cauliflower 20
Asparagus 15
Bean sprouts 25
Radish NT
Cucumber NT
Summer squash
(zucchini, yellow squash)
NT
Brussels sprouts NT
Artichoke NT
Eggplant NT
Okra NT
Cabbage NT

Fruit

Fruit is also healthy, but some come packed with a surprising amount of sugar including watermelon, grapes, and raisins. Low glycemic fruits include:

Fruit Glycemic Index
Apple, raw 53
Apple, dried 40
Grapefruit 35
Dates, dried 42
Pear, raw 38
Peach 42
Orange 42
Prunes 29
Apricots, dried 52
Banana, green
(under ripe)
52
Plums 53
Tomato 38
Avocado NT
Cherries 22
Strawberries 40
Blueberries 53
Apple juice (unsweetened) 44
Tomato juice 38

Legumes

Like vegetables, many legumes are notoriously low on the GI scale thanks to the high fiber content. Some, such as fava beans and pinto beans, do have a high glycemic index. Good examples from the legume family include:

Legume Glycemic Index
Kidney beans 29
Lentils 30
Yellow split peas 34
Black eyed peas 30
Soybeans 25
Green lentils 34
Black beans 31
Navy beans 53
Chickpeas
(garbanzo beans)
34
Peanuts 4
Cashews 27
Red lentils 36

Grains and Cereals

The glycemic index of grains depends largely on how they have been processed. Whole grains, which contain germ, bran, and endosperm are typically lower on the glycemic index than refined grains; however, even these grains are fairly high glycemic index foods. Most cereals, except for whole oat cereal, are considered high glycemic index. Low glycemic index grains include:

Grain Glycemic Index
Barley 29
Whole grain pasta 42
Rye 48
Quinoa 53
Steel cut oatmeal
(not instant)
55
Spelt 54
Wild rice 45
Bulgar 48

Bread

All white, easy to chew bread is almost always higher GI than darker, rougher options. Avoid the traditional sandwich rolls in favor of the kinds below:

Bread Glycemic Index
Pumpernickel 40
100 percent whole wheat 49
Corn tortilla 52
Whole wheat tortilla 30
Sprouted grain bread
(such as Ezekiel bread)
35
100 percent whole wheat pita bread 55

Dairy

This is an area where things can get very confusing in a hurry. Fat content decreases the GI value. Thus, a decidedly unhealthy Ben & Jerry's ice cream may seem like a better choice than a lean fruit yogurt. Likewise, it is common to add wildly varying amounts of sugar to dairy products such as chocolate milk and ice cream. Some low-glycemic index dairy products include:

Dairy Product Glycemic Index
Whole milk 39
Plain, lowfat yogurt 40
Skim milk 46
Soymilk 50
Almond milk
(unsweetened)
30
Coconut milk
(unsweetened)
40

Nuts and Seeds

Like legumes, nuts and seeds contain fiber and fats that lower the glycemic index. Low glycemic index nuts and seeds include:

Nut/Seed Glycemic Index
Chia 1
Almonds 15
Pistachio 15
Walnuts 15
Pecans 15
Sesame seeds 35
Pumpkin seeds 25
Sunflower seeds 35
Hazelnuts 15
Pine nuts 15
Coconut 35
Peanut butter
(unsweetened)
25
Brazil nuts 15

Animal Proteins

Animal proteins contain very little in the way of carbohydrates or sugars and are therefore not tested for the glycemic index. Eating moderate amounts of animal proteins can be a healthy part of a low-glycemic diet.

Where to Learn More

The glycemic index of foods doesn't exist in a vacuum. Combining ingredients into a product will affect a food's glycemic index. If you'd like the glycemic index of specific, processed foods, you can learn more by searching the University of Sydney's Glycemic Index Database.

Low Glycemic Food List