Carbohydrates have a big impact on your blood sugar levels—more so than fats and proteins—but you don’t have to avoid them. You just need to be smart about what types of carbs you eat.
In general, it’s best to limit highly refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as soda, candy, and snack foods. Focus instead on high-fiber complex carbohydrates—also known as slow-release carbs. Slow-release carbs help keep blood sugar levels even because they are digested more slowly, thus preventing your body from producing too much insulin. They also provide lasting energy and help you stay full longer.
|Choosing carbs that are packed with fiber (and don’t spike your blood sugar)|
|Instead of…||Try these high-fiber options…|
|White rice||Brown rice or wild rice|
|White potatoes (including fries and mashed potatoes)||Sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, cauliflower mash|
|Regular pasta||Whole-wheat pasta|
|White bread||Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread|
|Sugary breakfast cereal||High-fiber breakfast cereal (Raisin Bran, etc.)|
|Instant oatmeal||Steel-cut oats or rolled oats|
|Corn||Peas or leafy greens|
Making the glycemic index easy
What foods are slow-release? Several tools have been designed to help answer this question. The glycemic index (GI) tells you how quickly a food turns into sugar in your system. Glycemic load, a newer term, looks at both the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrate in a food, giving you a more accurate idea of how a food may affect your blood sugar level. High GI foods spike your blood sugar rapidly, while low GI foods have the least effect.
You can find glycemic index and glycemic load tables online, but you don’t have to rely on food charts in order to make smart choices. Australian chef Michael Moore has come up with an easier way to regulate the carbs you eat. He classifies foods into three broad categories: fire, water, and coal. The harder your body needs to work to break food down, the better.
- Fire foods have a high GI, and are low in fiber and protein. They include “white foods” (white rice, white pasta, white bread, potatoes, most baked goods), sweets, chips, and many processed foods. They should be limited in your diet.
- Water foods are free foods—meaning you can eat as many as you like. They include all vegetables and most types of fruit (fruit juice, dried fruit, and canned fruit packed in syrup spike blood sugar quickly and are not considered water foods).
- Coal foods have a low GI and are high in fiber and protein. They include nuts and seeds, lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and beans. They also include “white food” replacements such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta.
8 principles of low-glycemic eating
- Eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables, beans, and fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and berries. Even tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes, and papayas tend to have a lower glycemic index than typical desserts.
- Eat grains in the least-processed state possible: “unbroken,” such as whole-kernel bread, brown rice, and whole barley, millet, and wheat berries; or traditionally processed, such as stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and natural granola or muesli breakfast cereals.
- Limit white potatoes and refined grain products such as white breads and white pasta to small side dishes.
- Limit concentrated sweets—including high-calorie foods with a low glycemic index, such as ice cream— to occasional treats. Reduce fruit juice to no more than one cup a day. Completely eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Eat a healthful type of protein at most meals, such as beans, fish, or skinless chicken.
- Choose foods with healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and avocados. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Completely eliminate partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in fast food and many packaged foods.
- Have three meals and one or two snacks each day, and don’t skip breakfast.
- Eat slowly and stop when full.
- COUNTING CARBS? UNDERSTANDING GLYCEMIC INDEX AND GLYCEMIC LOAD (National Institute of Health) (ironmightfitness.com)
- Glycemic Index Food Record Prices (georgemiller146tganus411.wordpress.com)
- How to Use the Satiety Index (healthy-weight-loss-made-easy.com)
- Glycemic Index… A little help please? (snaccards.com)
- Low Glycemic Index Foods To Avoid (healthy-weight-loss-made-easy.com)
- The Glycemic Load diet explained (lht19881204.wordpress.com)