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 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.
| Dark leafy greens |
(spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, etc.)
|Not tested (NT)|
| Yams |
(not sweet potatoes)
| Summer squash |
(zucchini, yellow squash)
Fruit is also healthy, but some come packed with a surprising amount of sugar including watermelon, grapes, and raisins. Low glycemic fruits include:
| Banana, green |
|Apple juice (unsweetened)||44|
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:
|Yellow split peas||34|
|Black eyed peas||30|
| Chickpeas |
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:
|Whole grain pasta||42|
| Steel cut oatmeal |
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:
|100 percent whole wheat||49|
|Whole wheat tortilla||30|
| Sprouted grain bread |
(such as Ezekiel bread)
|100 percent whole wheat pita bread||55|
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|
|Plain, lowfat yogurt||40|
| Almond milk |
| Coconut milk |
Nuts and Seeds
Like legumes, nuts and seeds contain fiber and fats that lower the glycemic index. Low glycemic index nuts and seeds include:
| Peanut butter |
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.