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Low Glycemic Cooking 101

On this page, you will find some basic information about low glycemic cooking, my personal experience with low glycemic eating, and a list of links to helpful articles and resources.

Although I don’t write about low glycemic eating anymore, I update this page from time to time if I find anything interesting and relevant on this subject. This page was originally published on April 2, 2013, and last updated on August 18, 2020.

Collage of low glycemic dishes with the text overlay: Low Glycemic Cooking 101.

I started researching low glycemic cooking in 2008. At that time, there was hardly any information about it available on the internet. I read books written by medical doctors and attended seminars held by scientists. Needless to say, they were very hard to understand.

So, whenever I found anything interesting about this subject, I shared it here on the blog so that others could also benefit from it.

Nowadays, there is plenty of information about low glycemic cooking and eating available on many reputable websites. So, I don’t see any need for me to write about this subject anymore.

Instead, I put together a list of links that I think provide the best information about low glycemic eating. I am also keeping the articles about low glycemic cooking I wrote and published here on the blog. All the links can be found below.

Glycemic index graphic by USANA Health Sciences

What is Glycemic Index?

Glycemic Index is a way of measuring how quickly a carbohydrate converts to sugar in our body and appears in the bloodstream.

Glycemic Index is measured on a scale from 1 to 100:

  • GI levels below 55 are considered to be low, indicating that the particular carbohydrate is great for keeping the blood sugar stable.
  • Medium Glycemic Index ranges from 55 to 70. Carbohydrates in this range are moderately desirable.
  • High GI carbohydrates have Glycemic Index over 70 and spike the blood sugar very fast.
  • Glucose has the highest Glycemic Index of 100 which means it spikes the blood sugar instantly.

What Happens When I Eat a High GI Meal?

As soon as you eat a high GI food, your blood sugar rises rapidly. In response to that, your body declares a state of emergency and starts producing insulin (the fat-storing hormone) in order to eliminate the blood sugar from the bloodstream.

Insulin pumps the blood sugar into fat cells. If there are not enough fat cells available, the body will make some more of them.

As your body works hard trying to lower the spike in the blood sugar caused by a high GI meal, it often over-produces the amount of insulin and causes a drop in the blood sugar.

You just had a high blood sugar level but before you know it, the blood sugar plummets and you become hungry again. Now you are on a lookout for your next meal and most likely you will choose another high GI meal. And the process begins again.

Imagine doing that for 10, 20, or 30 years!

Which foods are blood sugar enemies or high GI?

They are:

  • processed foods
  • most types of potatoes
  • white bread
  • white pasta
  • most types of rice
  • cakes and donuts
  • sugary foods and candy
  • fruit juices.

Aren’t these the foods that are consumed several times a day by most people? No wonder that obesity and diabetes have reached such enormous proportions in today’s world!

But the good news is that there are so many low and medium glycemic foods out there that you won’t feel deprived in any way!

Glycemic Index VS. Glycemic Load

Glycemic index can be confusing at times because it doesn’t reflect the amount of actual carbohydrate in a particular food. To help clarify this confusion, another index of the blood-glucose-raising potential of carbohydrate-containing foods has been developed. It’s called the glycemic load.

Glycemic load is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a particular food by the grams of carbohydrate in a specific amount of food. The result is then divided by 100. The glycemic load formula looks like this:

GL (glycemic load) =(GI (glycemic index) X the amount of carbohydrate) / 100

For example, an apple has a GI of 40 and contains 15 grams of carbohydrates. So, we will calculate the GL of an apple as follows: 40 X 15 / 100 = 6 g. The glycemic load of an apple is 6.

Glycemic load less than 10 is considered to be low; GL from 10 to 20 is considered to be moderate or medium, and GL above 20 is considered to be high.

Glycemic load helps us understand why some fruits with a high glycemic index are still good for us and won’t spike out blood sugar.

For example, a watermelon with a glycemic index of 72 and a cantaloupe with the glycemic index of 65 have a low glycemic load of 4.

On the other hand, fruit juices spike blood sugar despite the fact that they might have the same glycemic index as the fruit they are made of.

For example, fresh apple and apple juice have the same glycemic index of 40. But fresh apple has a glycemic load of 6 and apple juice has a glycemic load of 12 which means that apple juice will have twice the metabolic effect of an apple.

Both, glycemic index and glycemic load are important principles to understand if you want to learn how to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day and / or are interested to know how low-glycemic eating can help you lose maintain a healthy diet/lifestyle.

My Personal Experience with Low Glycemic Eating

Personally, I’ve been eating a mostly low glycemic diet since 2008. I started it because a lot of my family members are overweight and some have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In other words, I have bad genes when it comes to gaining weight.

As a teenager and young adult, I was very skinny and could eat anything without gaining any weight. However, in my late twenties, I started gaining weight without any apparent reason. I hadn’t changed the way I ate and I also was very active and exercised regularly but it didn’t help.

I was very worried because when I was a kid, I promised myself that I would not become overweight. So, if I really wanted to avoid my destiny I had to do something.

When I learned about the low glycemic approach to eating, suddenly everything made so much sense. As soon as I started eating mostly low glycemic foods, I started losing weight. I really liked this approach because I didn’t have to starve myself or count calories.

So, this is how I’ve been eating for over 10 years and I am happy to share that I’ve kept my healthy weight.

I also have to stress that everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for the other. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or any other disease or condition, or take any prescription medication, make sure to consult your health care provider before trying any new foods or recipes.

Why Choose Low Glycemic Eating?

There are three main reasons to choose a low glycemic way of eating:

1. To Manage Symptoms

Low glycemic diet may be recommended to help manage symptoms of diseases or conditions related to blood sugar, for example, type 2 diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

In these cases, it’s important to work with a qualified health care provider to create a personalized meal plan. Those who manage symptoms of a disease might have to follow a very strict low glycemic diet and eat only low GI foods.

2. To Help with Weight Loss

The low glycemic way of eating is often used to help with weight loss. If the weight gain was caused by a medical issue it’s also very important to consult a qualified nutrition consultant.

Those who follow a low glycemic diet in order to lose weight might be able to incorporate into their diet medium glycemic foods or foods that have a high GI but low GL such as fruits, starchy vegetables, and root vegetables, as well as beans, pasta, and whole grains. It’s also important to take into consideration personal tolerance of these foods.

3. To Help Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Understanding low glycemic eating principals may also be helpful for those who just want to eat a healthy diet.

Low glycemic foods are mostly whole foods that we generally don’t eat enough of so keeping in mind low glycemic eating approach when planning family meals is a great way to stay on track with healthy eating.

Medium glycemic whole foods, as well as foods that have a high GI and low GL such as fruits, starchy vegetables, and root vegetables, as well as beans, pasta, and whole grains also make great healthy choices.

My Articles on Low Glycemic Cooking

This is a list of articles about low glycemic cooking I published a while ago here on the blog.

Low Glycemic Eating - Helpful Links and Resources

This is a list of links to helpful resources about low glycemic eating. Here you will find answers to almost any question about this subject. There are also links to the glycemic index database and a printable PDF document of glycemic index values of most common foods.

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