Decoding Low GI Diets - The key to weight loss?

The idea of weight loss can often bring up feelings of utter frustration for many of us. With an overwhelming amount of information on the subject, it’s no wonder we’re confused. With each new diet trend guaranteeing weight-loss, it’s difficult to figure out how and what you should eat on a day-to-day basis to support healthy metabolism and sustainable weight loss.

This is where a low-glycemic diet comes into play. It’s an intelligent way of eating if you’re looking for healthy weight loss, increased metabolism, better blood glucose control, and even a lowered risk of heart disease. Let’s take a look at some of the key elements of a low-glycemic diet, so that you can decide what’s best for your overall health and well being.

What is a low-glycemic diet?

To put it in simple terms, a low-glycemic diet is one that focuses on foods that are low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index assigns a number to any food that contains carbohydrates. 

When we eat a low-glycemic diet, our blood sugar levels remain slow and steady, as opposed to the dramatic ups and downs caused by foods with high numbers on the glycemic index. The GI ranges from 1-100, with 100 being the GI of Glucose. Thus, the glycemic index of foods can be classified into three categories: low GI (<55), medium GI (55-69), and high GI (>70)

Why is a low-glycemic diet key to healthy weight loss?

Healthy blood sugar levels are key when it comes to sustainable weight loss. Why? Because foods that spike blood sugar levels also increase the amount and levels of insulin in the body. When we have high insulin levels, day in and day out, not only do we gain weight but we’re also at greater risk for diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and even cancer. When insulin is continually too high, insulin-resistance often follows, which makes the body secrete even more insulin. It’s an endless vicious cycle.

Low GI foods help keep blood glucose levels under control, which also promotes appetite control. Low GI foods are generally composed of complex carbohydrates, and one can think of a low-glycemic diet as a slow-carbohydrate diet. The carbohydrates eaten cause a slow, steady rise in blood glucose, as well as a slower release of insulin from the pancreas. This helps in reducing food cravings, thus managing weight loss effectively and ensuring that the body gets enough nutrients at regular intervals without indulging in binge eating. 

How a low GI lifestyle is beneficial:

For those needing to lose weight, incorporating low Gi and higher protein foods into your daily diet can help you achieve this. Low Gi foods actually help facilitate weight loss in a smart and sustainable way by:

  • Reducing insulin levels, which plays a role in fat metabolism
  • Facilitating greater fat loss – low Gi foods help burn more body fat and less muscle
  • Promoting satiety and delaying hunger due to a slower rate of digestion
  • Reducing food cravings
  • Helping maintain long-term weight loss

Foods with a high glycemic index:

Some of the biggest weight-loss saboteurs rank dangerously high on the glycemic index scale. Think of foods with lots of sugar: sugar-laden beverages (soda, sweetened coffee drinks, and even fruit juice), pastries, cookies, candies, jams, processed grains, and almost all desserts. By simply removing or reducing the intake of such foods from your diet, you’ll be able to notice a difference in your weight and how you feel, and thereby ensuring that your body gets a more healthier and balanced diet.

Rather than just targeting the obvious ones such as desserts, we should take this opportunity to educate about other foods that are High GI such as White rice, Wheat, Cereal, potatoes, corn, certain fruits such as grapes etc. Please include this

Foods with a low glycemic index:

When you stick to low GI foods, you’ll experience considerable improvement in your weight loss efforts — especially if you have a regular exercise and workout program set in place, side by side. 

Some of the vital low GI foods that need to be incorporated in your daily diet are:

  • Non-starchy vegetables - Almost all non-starchy vegetables have a low-GI. Leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, fermented veggies, garlic, onions, green beans, bell peppers, and artichokes — these are all foods you should incorporate into your grocery list. Apart from these, its always a good idea to include legumes and beans into your diet as they’re low GI and contain sufficient protein value.
  • Millets - Millets are considered a superfood and one of the healthiest sources of nutrition among people for a very long time. They’ve found their place in almost every meal of the day and can enrich your diet with all the necessary nutrients. A variety of millets are available and you can choose the flavour depending upon your taste. 
  • Fruits - Most fruits also have a low GI. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, berries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and grapes are all safe to eat in moderation. One important point to note here is that it is better to consume fruits than fruit juices as the sugar content in fruit juices (even natural) is a lot.
  • Nuts & Seeds - Nuts and seeds should definitely be part of your weight-loss plan in moderation. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, cashews, almonds, almond butter, and cashew butter are great sources of protein and healthy fat. Peanut butter, however, should be taken in moderation as it often contains added sugars.
  • Lean animal protein - We all need healthy sources of protein in order to lose weight. Wild-caught fish like cod and salmon, cage-free eggs and free-range chicken are all low on the glycemic index.
  • Healthy oils & fats - We’ve long been told to avoid fats to lose weight. Today, we know it’s not that simple. You should always avoid hydrogenated oils, but include healthy oils in your diet. These include extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and MCT oil. 
  • Lemon juice, Apple cider, balsamic and red wine vinegar - Adding these acidic foods to salads, veggies, and proteins can actually lower the glycemic index of your meal even further. Eating a salad with a vinaigrette is a good staple to turn to daily.

Conclusion:

As is with any journey of self-improvement, it’s very important to be patient with yourself and understand that you will have setbacks. Listen to your body, find out which foods work for you, foods that you’re allergic to and most importantly, consider consulting your dietician or any nutritionist to know more about foods that are healthy for your body. A low GI diet must be initiated slowly until your body gets acquainted with the new diet. This includes consuming millets, green leafy vegetables and healthier options in fruits. You should always keep the concept of glycemic load in mind before initiating the low GI diet and incorporating these foods in your diet. We shall be discussing the concept of glycemic load in the next article. As of now, you can start by making small changes that you can stick with, and then you can gradually continue to build healthy dietary habits.