You might already know that certain sweet junk foods, like donuts and candy, are going to increase blood sugar levels and cause a spike. And that’s why it’s best to keep these sugary foods to a minimum to protect your heart health and prevent diabetes.
These kinds of foods are ranked high on the glycemic index, which is a marker for how fast a food will raise blood sugar levels. The scale runs from 0-100, where low glycemic snacks and foods will be closer to 0, while high glycemic foods will be at the top.
The GI score for glucose, which can be considered as white bread for example, is 100. Low glycemic index foods are those with a score under 55, medium-GI foods are between 55-70 and high glycemic foods will be above 70 on the glycemic index foods list.
What are Low Glycemic Foods?
Sugary and high-carb snacks that lack fiber, such as chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, granola and cereals containing white flour, and desserts like cake or ice cream, will be high-glycemic and elevate your blood sugar level quickly, with a subsequent drop shortly after.
The same goes with white potatoes, many cereals and white rice or grains, and white pasta. Technically, these foods should not be eaten on a strict low glycemic diet.
But there are also several snacks you’d assume to be low glycemic snacks because of their high nutritional profile—and while this is fine for the average person, if you are pre-diabetic, are diabetic or have diabetes in your genetics, then you may need to follow a low glycemic diet and be wary of those healthy, yet blood sugar raising foods.
Fruit is an excellent example—watermelon, pineapple, other kinds of melon, as well as dried fruit and fruit juice are actually considered to be high on the index. Although watermelon has antioxidants, like lycopene, and is hydrating and diet-friendly, its low fiber content causes its ranking to increase, as opposed to fruits that have pectin (a kind of fiber) in the skin. Think: apples or pears.
In general, low glycemic foods will be more protein-based, vegetable-based, and non-starchy and sugary foods, or they will have a higher fiber content to counteract the effects. If you are on a low glycemic diet, these are the best low GI food pairings and snacks to choose from, all of which are at the bottom of the low glycemic index foods list. That means green veggies are very low, while starchy veggies, like carrots, will be higher up. Foods that are low in carbs and sugar in general, like dairy products, animal meat, and beans and legumes, will be low on the list.
Best Low Glycemic Snacks
Whole Wheat Crackers with Grapes and Cheese
This low glycemic snack is a good option for those with diabetes, since the whole wheat provides fiber, and grapes are lower on the GI snacks list in terms of fruit. When paired with cheese, there’s protein to further stabilize blood sugar.
Go for cheese cubes or slices and then slice the grapes as a final topper. Green and red grapes both are healthy, but red will have the antioxidant resveratrol to better heart health.
Apple Slices with Nut Butter
Apples are a low glycemic food because of the high fiber content, which keeps blood sugar in check and provides satiety. With nut butter, there’s added fiber and protein to improve satiety and prevent spikes.
Peanut or almond butter are both easy and delicious choices—just make sure you’re getting an unflavored, natural nut butter that’s free of any sweeteners, hydrogenated oils (that’s trans fat!) or strange additives during processing.
Check the label and look for brands that have minimal ingredients and say they are natural or raw. A tip? Generally these nut butters have oil on the top of the nut butter spread within the jar, as opposed to being one thick spread (like you’d find in JIF or Peter Pan, for example).
You can also grind up the nuts yourself in a machine where it’s literally the purest you can get. Plus, many stores have this option, such as Whole Foods.
Yogurt and Sliced Banana with Nuts or Seeds
While bananas are high in carbs, they are also high in fiber and low on the glycemic index foods list. Slice one up and add it to a bowl of plain, unsweetened Greek or skyr yogurt, which works nicely as a snack.