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Low Glycemic Index Food: Diet for Managing Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Dec 21, 2022

Low Glycemic Index Food: Diet for Managing Diabetes

Managing diabetes, or trying to avoid diabetes, involves lifestyle changes that revolve around a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar levels. A good way to monitor your food intake is using the glycemic index. This is used to recommend food that affects your blood sugar level a certain way.

People who have diabetes or are prediabetic may refer to the glycemic index because they are trying to manage insulin deficiency and are trying to avoid the risks in elevated blood sugar levels triggerred by food intake. However, low glycemic index (low-GI) diet could also be a means to lose weight or avoid cardiovascular diseases.

Glycemic index

The glycemic index is an indicator that measures the potential of a food item to raise your blood sugar.

Food is placed on a scale of 1 to 100. Low glycemic index food fall under a GI rating of 55. Moderate GI ratings are within the 56 to 69 range. Anything above 70 is considered high GI.

The consumption of food with a high glycemic index rating causes an increase in blood sugar that declines rapidly. The opposite happens for consuming low glycemic index food. In this case, the blood sugar will not peak as high and its decline is gradual. This is important in avoiding and managing diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease, and gallbladder disease.


For carbohydrates, a good rule of thumb is to opt for the least processed state of the carbohydrate possible. This means taking whole kernel bread over white bread, brown rice over white rice, whole barley over pre-processed barley, and more. Traditionally processed food like steel-cut oats, natural granola and muesli, and stone-ground bread could make for good low glycemic index food alternatives.

In the same way, staying away from food with high GI ratings like white potatoes and refined grain products like bread, cereal, and pasta would help your diet.


A low glycemic index diet would mean limiting concentrated sweets and sugary treats. This includes high-calorie foods, regardless of their GI content, like ice cream and other sweetened snacks.

Though fruit juice is often good for you in vitamins and fiber content, it is recommended that you keep it to at most a half cup a day. You are also recommended to go for fresh, unsweetened fruit juice. Drinks that are sweetened by sugar should generally be avoided. This includes soft drinks, artificially flavored shakes, and sweetened tea.


For your protein, the low glycemic index food options you have are those cooked in healthy fats. This means lean meat that is cooked in olive, nut, or avocado oil. This is to avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are often found in animal products and dairy, while trans fats are found in most fast food and processed food.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables could be used to make up for the protein you can’t get through just lean meat. It’s important to have enough of these in your diet so as to guarantee that you get the protein you need in a day. Beans, for example, are good sources of protein.

For multivitamin and mineral content, low glycemic index food options are mostly non-starchy fruits, vegetables, and beans. These include apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, papaya, pear, and peach.

These fruits are better for your diet than other conventional desserts that are often artificially sweetened with sugar. The next time you’re picking through a dessert menu, keep your diet in mind and order tropical fruits if you want something sweet to finish a meal off.

Using the glycemic index to make food choices

The insight that GI ratings give us is limited.

In general, it is best to opt for low glycemic index food in general cases where you’re trying to stabilize and prevent your blood sugar from shooting up. However, substituting some low glycemic index food to replace high glycemic index food isn’t as simple as it seems.

Let’s take fruits and vegetables with high GI for example. It may seem intuitive to replace these with diet biscuits or other snacks, but that would cause a deficit in the daily required nutrients that you’re getting. Consult with your doctor or nutritionist to ensure you have a healthy diet.

Key takeaway

The glycemic index is a helpful way to determine what foods you can eat to better manage your blood sugar levels. Incorporating low glycemic index food into your diet has many benefits. In addition, eat your food slowly, in healthy amounts, and stop when you feel full.

Learn more about Diabetes here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Dec 21, 2022

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