Foods with Low Glycemic Index - And How They Can Help Avoid Spikes in Blood Sugar Levels

If you have diabetes, the chances are you’ve heard of the Glycemic Index, or GI. But do you know how to use GI to control your blood sugar levels? Today, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about low glycemic index foods, including what GI is, and a handy list of low glycemic foods and meals with a low glycemic index. We’ll even dive into the limitations of GI, and how best to lower your blood sugar naturally.

What is Glycemic Index?

Glycemic Index is just one tool to add to your arsenal to help you manage your diabetes. GI assigns carbohydrate foods a score, according to how much it increases blood sugar levels. Foods are classified as having low (0-55), medium (56-69) or high (70-100) GI.

If you’re wondering how to lower your blood sugar levels, it’s easy to see why a knowledge of the glycemic index is helpful. You can incorporate low GI foods and reduce high GI foods in order to avoid blood glucose spikes after meals.

Glycemic Response on Blood Sugar for Various Food Types
Glycemic Response on Blood Sugar for Various Food Types

Is GI the only way to lower blood sugar levels?

Not even close.

Understanding the glycemic index, and identifying low GI foods that work in your diet, is a great start. However, everyone responds differently to the same foods, and what causes a blood sugar spike for you might not cause a spike in the next person.

In reality, blood glucose levels depend on a whole lot more than just the GI score of your food: it also depends on how much food you eat, plus factors like exercise, sleep and stress. New research even suggests that your unique microbiome makeup affects how you respond to specific foods.

To truly understand how your body responds to food, use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) in conjunction with an app like SNAQ. CGMs replace finger pricks, taking readings of your blood sugar over regular intervals. Connect your CGM with SNAQ - take a photo of your food on the SNAQ app to understand how your individual blood glucose levels react to different foods.

With SNAQ, you can even make better choices and predict your glucose curve, with insights on your current meal, based on how you responded to past, similar meals.

Similar Meals Feature of the SNAQ App
Similar Meals Feature of the SNAQ App

Low Glycemic Foods List for Diabetics

We’ve covered that the glycemic index is a helpful measuring stick, rather than a full solution for managing your blood glucose levels. With that in mind, here’s a helpful list of foods with a low glycemic index, that can keep your blood glucose levels in check after meals.

Remember: only carbs are included on the glycemic index. There are plenty of other foods that usually have a limited effect on your blood sugar levels, like meat and fish.

Various Food on a Table
Depending on the Food, your blood sugar response will vary.

Fruits & Veg

  • Apples: With a glycemic index of 39, apples are a great sweet treat to satisfy that sugar craving.
  • Grapefruit: One of the lowest GI fruits, coming in at 25, grapefruit is the perfect mid-morning snack.
  • Peaches: Loaded with Vitamins A and C, peaches also have a low GI of 38.
  • Carrots: Most veg is low on the glycemic index, and carrots are no different, with a GI of 35.
  • Cherries: Cherries have a GI of 22, making them one of the lowest GI fruits.

Nuts & Beans

  • Baked beans: One of the best low glycemic foods, this diabetes super-food manages blood sugar levels much better than other starchy foods. With a GI of 40, baked beans are a great food choice for people with diabetes.
  • Black beans: Black beans are high in fibre and take a long time to digest, so they have a surprisingly low glycemic index of 30.
  • Chickpeas: If you’re super sensitive to blood sugar spikes after meals, try incorporating chickpeas, which have a GI of 10.
  • Cashews: Struggling with mid-afternoon snacks that don’t spike your blood sugar? Try cashews, with a GI of 27.
  • Lentils: They’ve got a low glycemic index of 29, but lentils have so many more health benefits too, including being packed full of folate, iron and potassium.

Eggs & Dairy

  • Skimmed milk: Go for a lower GI alternative to whole milk - skimmed milk has a glycemic index of 32.
  • Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit: An ideal low-GI breakfast for busy people with diabetes, top low-fat yogurt with fruit, which clocks in with a glycemic index of 33.

Baking Alternatives

  • Walnut flour: Since walnut flour contains so few carbs, it’s generally not scored on the glycemic index.
  • Almond flour: Like walnut flour, almond flour has so little effect on your blood sugar that it doesn’t have an official GI score.
  • Coconut flour: Higher in carbs but still on the low end of GI, coconut flour is a tasty baking substitute with a glycemic index of 51.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (NutraSweet), and Stevia (Truvia) are so low on the glycemic index, they don’t even register!

Rice, Pasta & Grains

  • Corn tortilla: Swap your regular tortillas for their lower GI corn alternative, with a glycemic index of 52.
  • Whole-wheat kernels: Whole-wheat kernels, also known as wheat berries, boast a low GI of 30, making them an excellent low-GI carb choice.
  • Bulgur: A super healthy low glycemic food, one cup has fewer calories but twice the fibre of rice. Plus, bulgur wheat’s GI sits at a friendly 48, in contrast to white rice’s high GI of 73.
  • Fettucini: Contrary to popular belief, pasta is usually a low GI food, despite it being high in carbs. Fettuccine has a GI of 32, but, because it’s high in carbs, large portions can still cause blood sugar spikes.

Best Low Glycemic Meals for People with Diabetes

When’s the last time you ate a tomato or a corn tortilla on its own?

GI is great for identifying key ingredients to base your meal around, but it would be incredibly time-consuming to work out the GI of each meal, given that home-cooked and restaurant meals have many different ingredients in.

Here are some examples of low-GI meals you can cook at home yourself:

  • Cauliflower Rice Stir-Fry: Struggle with post-dinner blood glucose spikes? Switch out rice for lower-GI cauliflower.
  • Jerk Sweet Potato & Black Bean Curry: With a lower GI than potatoes, sweet potatoes make for a satisfying alternative in this low-GI curry.
  • Chilli con Carne: Although rice is high GI, by pairing chilli con carne with a lower-GI alternative to rice, like quinoa or cauliflower rice, you’ve got yourself a low-GI feast!
  • Fruit & Oats Breakfast Bowl: Forget instant oats and swap them out for their lower-GI alternative, rolled oats, with a glycemic index of 55. This low-GI breakfast bowl recipe is packed full of protein too!

How to Find Foods That Lower Blood Sugar Levels

If you want to stop following the recipe book for low-GI meals, and gain ultimate control over your food decisions, download SNAQ.

Instead of working out the GI score for a meal - and then accounting for all the other factors that affect blood glucose level - just snap a photo of your meal. SNAQ’s advanced food recognition AI understands the food that’s on your plate with very little effort.

Food Logger of the SNAQ App
Food Logging Screen of the SNAQ App

By syncing SNAQ with your CGM, you can see how meals affect your body - because it’s different to everyone else’s, even if they have the same type of diabetes as you. Then, you can make smart decisions about the food you actually eat, finding meals that help you to avoid blood sugar spikes.


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