When it comes to following a healthy diet, there are many terms we come across. “Fibre-rich,” “high-protein,” “low-cal,” and “gluten-free” are just some of the labels often attached to foods, products and diets. Another technical concept you may have heard about is glycaemic index (or GI). Are you wondering what exactly it means? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! The idea of a low GI diet has had its fair share of criticism as people tend to ignore the complex factors at play. Remember that following a health ‘trend’ without context and customisation is never a good idea. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Glycaemic Index?
Glycemic Index (GI) is a method of ranking foods with carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Foods with a low GI value (55 or less) imply a gradual rise in blood glucose post-consumption. On the other hand, those with a GI higher than 70 are said to cause spikes in blood sugar levels, as they are metabolised faster. GI as a concept was first developed by Dr David Jenkins and his colleagues at the University of Toronto. It is important to note that a number of factors, including ripeness and cooking methods, can affect the final GI of any food. For instance, ingredients cooked for a relatively longer period will result in a dish with a higher GI (as the sugars will be broken down more easily).
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Why Are Low GI Foods Considered Healthy?
A low GI diet has been associated with weight loss, lowered blood sugar and a decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Most Low GI foods also have a high fibre content and can thus promote satiety. By helping curb your appetite, they can aid your weight loss goals. Their effect on blood sugar levels provides possible benefits for diabetics, as they can help prevent unwanted fluctuations. Certain low-GI foods are also said to aid those with insulin resistance and PCOS.
However, remember that the quantity consumed is equally important. Blindly eating low-GI foods will not translate into a healthier body. You need to follow a balanced diet and also pay attention to the overall glycaemic load (GL). GL is calculated on the basis of GI as well as quantity consumed. It is recommended to keep your daily GL under 100.
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Here Are 10 Everyday Foods With A Low Glycaemic Index:
1. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans have a GI that is less than 30. These protein-rich beans are especially common in North Indian cuisine – the most famous dish being rajma chawal. Rajma also contains iron, phosphorous, vitamin K and soluble as well as insoluble fibre.
Also known as channa, chickpeas are another popular ingredient in Indian kitchens. Chickpeas are high in protein and fibre while having a low GI. They are also said to be good for your bones, brain and heart. Click here to know healthy ways to add it to your diet.
The GI score of fresh cherries is only 20 and thus you can safely add them to your diet. However, as always, pay attention to the portion. Cherries are low in calories but rich in vitamin C, potassium, fibre and antioxidants. They are said to promote healthy skin and hair, while also providing relief from insomnia.
Rich in vitamin C, oranges are another fruit that is often recommended to diabetics. Their GI score is around 40. Oranges are low in calories but high in antioxidants, including ascorbic acid and beta-carotene. They improve your immunity and can help keep blood pressure under control.
Good old apples are also considered a low GI fruit. Apples contain fructose, polyphenols and anthocyanin – all of which are associated with lowered risk of diabetes. Consuming this fruit is said to be good for your bones, teeth, gums and digestive health. Apples can also help decrease levels of unhealthy cholesterol and boost heart health.
Many green leafy veggies also have a low glycaemic index. Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can add to your diet. Being rich in iron and folate, it can give you a sustained energy boost. It also contains beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and chlorophyll, which can work wonders for your immunity and eyesight. Spinach is a great source of fibre, calcium, antioxidants and vitamins too.
The glycemic load of one radish is said to be the equivalent of eating 1 gram of glucose. The potassium content of radish makes it especially useful for individuals suffering from hypertension. This high-fibre veggie is good for your digestive and heart health. Radishes also contain anthocyanins, vitamin C, folic acid, and flavonoids.
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Another veggie you should be consuming more of is carrots. Carrots have a GI of around 40 and are also full of fibre. This veggie is good for your skin, eyes, heart, brain and digestion. They are also helpful in keeping blood pressure in check.
Also known as “kuttu” in Hindi, buckwheat is another versatile ingredient full of health benefits. This ‘pesudocereal’ is a great source of gut-friendly fibre and antioxidants. Buckwheat also provides protein, riboflavin, folate, niacin, and thiamin. You can use buckwheat flour in place of other types to make wholesome parathas, cheelas, snacks and much more.
Among the grains, barley has one of the lowest GI scores. Barley is rich in antioxidants as well as a range of minerals including manganese and selenium, copper, phosphorus and magnesium. You should consume barley as a whole grain in order to derive maximum benefits. It also contains beta-glucans that can help lower levels of bad cholesterol.
Now you know some of the low-GI foods you can consume regularly.
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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.