Glycemic Index – and why you should care about it!

Let’s start with the basics, the Glycemic Index (GI).  You should read this blog if you want to:

  • lose weight
  • have more energy
  • control your mood swings
  • decrease sugar/carb cravings
  • Live Well!!!

The GI is simply a measure of the rate and amount that a particular food raises your body’s blood sugar or blood glucose level (BGL).  High GI foods will cause your BGL to rise rapidly.  Let’s take white bread for example, a high GI food.  When you eat a slice of white bread it is broken down in your stomach rapidly into smaller simple sugar molecules called “glucose.”  Next your pancreas will release a hormone called “insulin.”  Insulin acts as a taxi cab taking the glucose to various parts of your body – your brain, your muscles, your liver, and finally your fat cells!  Yep, that fat-free white bread is broken down into a sugar molecule and what is not used by your brain, muscles or liver is stored as body fat!  Remember I said white bread is high GI and that is bad, because it spikes your BGL?  Well, what goes up must come down.  So after all the insulin taxi’s have worked really hard to quickly shuttle all that glucose (sugar) around, suddenly there is no glucose left in your blood stream.  Just as rapidly as your BGL shot up, it will now rapidly drop.  This is that after-noon lul that you feel, or that craving for sweets after lunch, or maybe the irritable feeling you get at work, or that “stress” headache.  We don’t realize it, but many of the things we feel throughout the day and attribute to “stress” are really due to rapid swings in blood sugar!

What is the answer?  Controlling blood sugar, it is not just for diabetics!  Eating low GI foods is the first step to controlling BGL.  Here are some tips to choosing low GI foods.

  1. Foods in their natural state have a lower GI.  What is more natural an orange or orange juice?  A whole orange is much lower GI that OJ.  Fruit juice is typically very high GI.  There are much better ways to get your Vit C, don’t let the pretty Florida OJ commercials fool you.  OJ is NOT the healthy way to start your day.
  2. Foods higher in fiber are lower GI.  What is higher in fiber a white potato or a yam?  Just cut them open and take a look.  The white potato is like mush and the yam is dense and full of fibrous strands.  A yam is much lower GI and a great alternative to the white potato.  Plus it is loaded with nutrients.
  3. Avoid most white foods.  White potato, white bread, and white sugar are all high GI and very low in nutrient content = empty calories.  White cauliflower is an exception and is low GI and a great alternative to breads and rice.  We use cauliflower to make “mash potato” and “rice” and “pizza crust.”
  4. Eat real foods that you can gather, pick, and grow.  Snack on more fresh fruits and veges, nuts and seeds!  Avoid foods that come in boxes and bags!  Most packaged snack foods and breakfast cereals, even the ones marketed as “healthy” like grape-nuts raisin bran or granola are high GI!  Eating cereal in the am is the best way to ensure that you will crash about mid afternoon and crave a sugary snack.
  5. Eat Fat!  Eating fat with your meal or snack will help to slow down the release of sugar into your blood stream, allowing for more steady blood sugar control by avoiding the large rapid BGL spikes.  Grab an apple and some cashew butter for a great low GI snack.

Eating a diet based on blood sugar control and low GI foods will help you to:

  • Lose weight
  • Control mood swings
  • Decrease carb/sugar cravings
  • Have more energy throughout the day
  • Sleep better at night
  • Reduce your need for coffee and caffeine
  • Prevent diabetes and other chronic health conditions

Check it out for yourself, eat low GI for 1 week! Here are some ideas.

Breakfast:

  • Fruit Smoothie: strawberries, blueberries, protein powder, cashew butter.
  • 2 eggs, Paleohash (dice yams, onion, garlic and brown in coconut oil till brown), fruit (apple, pear, nectarine).
  • Greek yogurt, sliced berries, sliced almonds.  **option = drizzle w/ raw honey (honey is not low GI by itself, but a small amount combined with the protein and fat in the rest of the meal will not drastically spike your BGL)

Lunch:

  • Lettuce Wrap “sandwich” – Get a nice big piece of lettuce, stuff it with sliced cucumber, carrot, onion, add left over chicken breast, tuna or other meat.  Top with mashed avocado with lemon juice and olive oil.  Wrap it all in tinfoil. Grab an apple and some almonds and drop it all in a little lunch bag (add an ice pack if needed).  I promise when you get in the habit of packing your lunch with left-overs it takes less time than the fast food drive through!  And come on, your health is worth it!
  • Big salad – I mean BIG, especially for you guys.  Grab 2-3 big handfuls of lettuce and then load it with veges and left over protein like chicken or ground turkey.  Get creative with your ingredients and post your favorite salad combinations on this blog for others.  Add nuts and seeds.  For dressing just toss the lettuce with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of sea salt!  Get a salad spinner to make making salads a whole lot easier!
  • Chicken Stew – About twice a month Drew and I make a BIG pot of chicken soup/stew.  We throw in lots of veges like onion, squash, cabbage, carrot, celery add chicken broth and chicken and fresh herbs and simmer it for an hour or so then we stick it in the fridge.  It’s an easy go-to for a last minute meal or to pack for lunch.

Dinner:

  • The basic idea is this:  Protein (chicken, beef, turkey, fish etc) + 1-2 vegetables (cauliflower and brussels sprouts or broccoli and beets) + a salad drizzled with olive oil.  No bread or potato or starch at dinner!  I promise you, if you eat enough veges and dinner, you wont have room for that sweet tooth.  I serve Drew about 6-8 oz of protein, a big salad, and 1-2 cups each of two different veges!  He does not leave the table hungry.  A key is to make enough for left overs the next day for you to take to work for a healthy lunch!
  • There are so many great recipe blogs out there, let me just refer you to a few of my favorites.  Paleo Diet Lifestyle, Girl Gone Primal, Elana’s Pantry

Ok, that’s it for now.  I hope this helps.  As I said before, writing these blogs still feels a bit overwhelming to me.  And I really want to serve you guys.  So let me know what you think.  Does this help?  Feel free to post your questions here.  Better yet be brave and tell me what you eat in a day and I will make some low GI suggestions!  You can take baby steps, start by eating low GI just for breakfast (or lunch if it seems easier for you) for a week or two.  For you radical types, go for eating low GI for a solid week and let me know how you feel!

<<Scroll down past the GI chart to read and post comments.  I have answered lot’s of Q&A in the comments section>>

Glycemic Index Food Chart

Foods with GI index less than 55 are considered Low Glycemic Index food (GI < 55). Foods with GI index between 55 and 70 are considered intermediate (55< GI <70). High Glycemic Index foods are with GI index more than 70 (GI >70).

Food List Rating Food Glycemic Index 

Bakery Products

*Pound cake Low 54
Danish pastry Medium 59
Muffin (unsweetened) Medium 62
Cake , tart Medium 65
Cake, angel Medium 67
Croissant Medium 67
Waffles High 76
Doughnut High 76

Beverages

Soya milk Low 30
Apple juice Low 41
Carrot juice Low 45
Pineapple juice Low 46
Grapefruit juice Low 48
Orange juice Low 52

Biscuits

Digestives Medium 58
Shortbread Medium 64
Water biscuits Medium 65
Ryvita Medium 67
Wafer biscuits High 77
**Rice cakes High 77

Breads

Multi grain bread Low 48
Whole grain Low 50
Pita bread, white Medium 57
Pizza, cheese Medium 60
Hamburger bun Medium 61
Rye-flour bread Medium 64
Whole meal bread Medium 69
White bread High 71
White rolls High 73
Baguette High 95

Breakfast Cereals

All-Bran Low 42
Porridge, non instant Low 49
Oat bran Medium 55
Muesli Medium 56
Mini Wheats (wholemeal) Medium 57
Shredded  Wheat Medium 69
Golden Grahams High 71
Puffed wheat High 74
Weetabix High 77
Rice Krispies High 82
Cornflakes High 83

Cereal Grains

Pearl barley Low 25
Rye Low 34
Wheat kernels Low 41
Rice, instant Low 46
Rice, parboiled Low 48
Barley, cracked Low 50
Rice, brown Medium 55
Rice, wild Medium 57
Rice, white Medium 58
Barley, flakes Medium 66
Taco Shell Medium 68
Millet High 71

Dairy Foods

Yogurt low- fat (sweetened) Low 14
Milk, chocolate Low 24
Milk, whole Low 27
Milk, Fat-free Low 32
Milk ,skimmed Low 32
Milk, semi-skimmed Low 34
*Ice-cream (low- fat) Low 50
*Ice-cream Medium 61

Fruits

Cherries Low 22
Grapefruit Low 25
Apricots  (dried) Low 31
Apples Low 38
Pears Low 38
Plums Low 39
Peaches Low 42
Oranges Low 44
Grapes Low 46
Kiwi fruit Low 53
Bananas Low 54
Fruit cocktail Medium 55
Mangoes Medium 56
Apricots Medium 57
Apricots  (tinned in syrup) Medium 64
Raisins Medium 64
Pineapple Medium 66
**Watermelon High 72

Pasta

Spaghetti, protein enriched Low 27
Fettuccine Low 32
Vermicelli Low 35
Spaghetti, whole wheat Low 37
Ravioli, meat filled Low 39
Spaghetti, white Low 41
Macaroni Low 45
Spaghetti, durum wheat Medium 55
Macaroni cheese Medium 64
Rice pasta, brown High 92

Root Crop

Carrots, cooked Low 39
Yam Low 51
Sweet potato Low 54
Potato, boiled Medium 56
Potato, new Medium 57
Potato, tinned Medium 61
Beetroot Medium 64
Potato, steamed Medium 65
Potato, mashed Medium 70
Chips High 75
Potato, micro waved High 82
Potato, instant High 83
**Potato, baked High 85
Parsnips High 97

Snack Food and Sweets

Peanuts Low 15
*M&Ms (peanut) Low 32
*Snickers bar Low 40
*Chocolate bar; 30g Low 49
Jams and marmalades Low 49
*Crisps Low 54
Popcorn Medium 55
Mars bar Medium 64
*Table sugar (sucrose) Medium 65
Corn chips High 74
Jelly beans High 80
Pretzels High 81
Dates High 103

Soups

Tomato soup, tinned Low 38
Lentil soup, tinned Low 44
Black bean soup, tinned Medium 64
Green pea soup, tinned Medium 66

Vegetables and Beans

Artichoke Low 15
Asparagus Low 15
Broccoli Low 15
Cauliflower Low 15
Celery Low 15
Cucumber Low 15
Eggplant Low 15
Green beans Low 15
Lettuce, all varieties Low 15
Low-fat yogurt, artificially sweetened Low 15
Peppers, all varieties Low 15
Snow peas Low 15
Spinach Low 15
Young summer squash Low 15
Tomatoes Low 15
Zucchini Low 15
Soya beans, boiled Low 16
Peas, dried Low 22
Kidney beans, boiled Low 29
Lentils green, boiled Low 29
Chickpeas Low 33
Haricot beans, boiled Low 38
Black-eyed beans Low 41
Chickpeas, tinned Low 42
Baked beans, tinned Low 48
Kidney beans, tinned Low 52
Lentils green, tinned Low 52
Broad beans High 79

Notes: *high in empty calories**low-calorie and nutritious foods

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23 Responses to Glycemic Index – and why you should care about it!

  1. Chris - Daily Cadence says:

    This is a great post. I am going to share it on my site!

  2. Pingback: Day 12 – No grain, No dairy, No problem | The Daily Cadence

  3. Annaleis says:

    switched out my beloved baked potato for the sweet potato. not bad, definitely different and foreign as this was the first time I’ve ever eaten a sweet potato. Yes, we have them at Thanksgiving but no, I’ve never tried it.

    how do you make cauliflower rice or mashed potatoes? I’d love to hear about that as I usually cook with brown rice but I’m always up for new things.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • kellycouch says:

      Sweet Potato and Yam are actually different varieties, totally different taste etc. If the “sweet potato” is too mushy or too sweet for ya try a few “yam” varieties. We LOVE the Japanese Yam, garnet and jewel yams are nice as well. Just bake it like you would a potato and top with butter or olive oil. You can also make Breakfast Hash with yams, check out the post on the Glycemic Index for the recipe.

    • kellycouch says:

      Stay tuned for cauliflower recipes soon to come… remind me if I don’t post them this week! But here is a quick one. Cauliflower “mash” – Steam a head of cauliflower for about 12 minutes (use a steamer or put an inch or two of water in a big pot and boil w/ the lid on), then cut your cauliflower into quarters, use a food processor or Vitamix to puree it. We add 1-2 tablespoons of Hemp Milk (or Almond Milk) – cause we don’t do a lot of dairy. Add butter and salt to taste. (add liquids slowly to get desired consistency of mashed “potato”

  4. Annaleis says:

    okay sorry to post twice but i noticed you said cashew butter and coconut oil. any reason you use those instead of conventional?

    • kellycouch says:

      I like cashew or almond butter instead of peanut butter cause technically peanuts are a “legume” and not a nut. Legumes contain “lectins”. Lectins contribute to a condition best described as “leaky gut” – which I will need to blog more about soon. Short version is that they increase the intestinal permeability – meaning they can cause internal inflammation in the gut that causes holes in the gut lining. Not a good thing! For more on Lectins check out this post.

      Here is a great post on foods to avoid. I will blog later about the “Paleo” diet. I will say that Drew and I eat do eat Paleo, but my reasons for eating Paleo have more to do with health and our modern food supply than trying to live like a “cave man.” I have been studying the diet of our biblical ancestors as well and found some interesting things. But, alas, this will have to wait for another post!

      Now, about coconut oil! It is by far the best oil to cook with. Here is a great post. I don’t agree w/ Dr. Mercola’s views on everything, but this is a good post. We don’t use the coconut oil he sells though, we use Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, and we get it on Amazon. Check out our Amazon Store for more great products.

    • kellycouch says:

      And no need to apologize for posting twice… I love you r questions. They are all things I need to blog about but can’t figure out how to organize, so this Q&A format is great for me! Keep asking girl!

  5. Annaleis says:

    How/what do you use to make a pizza crust? I found a delicious recipe for Mexican Pizza that I want to try. They use a wheat tortilla or wheat pita bread as the crust.

    • kellycouch says:

      Haha…the cauliflower pizza crust is a bit more complicated, we accidentally used twice as much cauliflower as the recipe called for so it was not very crispy, but still yummy, we are gonna try and perfect it soon.

      Here is a basic recipe

      We don’t use the microwave much for anything so we steamed the cauliflower for about 10 minutes instead, but I read several recipes that used raw cauliflower as well. Don’t get the crust too think, it won’t crisp well.

      Le me know how it goes.

  6. Thanks for the meal ideas and the chart. Those help me plan my food calendar. I feel like I don’t know enough to be creative with meals so this is great and at first I thought I could eat all those meals for Breakfast (I was thinking YES!) but then I realized this is a plan for a whole week…ha ha! I will attest to the yogurt, berries and nuts and honey thing – awesome! I use the agave like you showed us its awesome!

    • kellycouch says:

      I miss led you on the Agave a while back… it is high in fructose and turns out that is not so great. I will email you an article on it. I dont know how to post a PDF on my blog. If anyone knows how to do that let me know. There is no easy answer to the question of what sweetener to use. Other than, stop using them and let your taste buds re-adjust to the natural sweetness of fruits and other foods. Honey is a more whole/pure food, but it will effect blood sugar. Agave does not effect blood sugar as much, but the high fructose content can increase triglyceride production (thus negatively elevating cholesterol). Xylitol is a great option, but a bit more expensive. Don’t get me started on artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine, they are nothing but toxic chemicals designed to trick your brain in into thinking it just ate something sweet.

      We still use Agave from time to time. We do use honey. And we also use Xylitol. We are experimenting w Xylitol to bake with lately and looking for a cost effective brand. I will have to get back to ya on this..

      Anyone else have anything to add?

  7. Pingback: Eating well, Playing well, Loving Well, Living Well | Living Well…

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  9. Kelly your awesome. Love the site. I am on a pretty serious mission to get healthy, loose weight, tone and over well-being this summer. So I subscribed and look forward to your coming post!

  10. Holly Shell says:

    This is great Kelly!!! I love all the info and creative ideas for cooking 🙂 one of my sisters’ is straight up all organic and natural so I’m always hearing new things…made my first home made organic all natural blueberry pie and muffins this past week with the fresh blueberries and blackberries we picked and was able to purchase fresh eggs and goat milk from a farm 😀 so great to hear all about your new lifestyle of healthy eatting! btw the diabetes thing has come up quite a bit so very interesting to find you wrote about that…def needed info. thank you!

  11. Pingback: Bannana Smoothie… so yummy! | Living Well…

  12. Pingback: Chocolate Mousse!!! SO GOOD! Yes, Paleo-”ish” | Living Well…

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