Navigating the Glycemic Index – Low Glycemic Foods and Benefits
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A simple Dietitian’s guide to the glycemic index for better blood sugar control and increased energy 

Tips for Navigating the Glycemic Index

Maybe you have heard the term glycemic index before but don’t really know what it means or why it is important or how it can apply to you. After reading today’s blog post, where we will be diving into the world of the glycemic index (GI) – a handy tool that can be a game-changer in managing diabetes and that has important health benefits such as increased energy, I hope you feel more comfortable answering those 3 questions. 

Let’s break it down in a way that’s easy to understand and even easier to apply in your daily life. 

What is the Glycemic Index?

In simple terms, it is a scale that measures how different carbohydrate containing foods or beverages can affect your blood sugar levels. 

The scale is between 1-100 and has three main categories: low (0-55), moderate (56-69), and high (70+) GI foods. 

Think of it as your blood sugar Richter scale. The higher the food ranks on the scale the greater the impact it will have on your blood sugar. Meaning that food will increase blood sugar higher and faster than foods with a lower glycemic index value.  

How the Glycemic Index Works and Why it Matters 

Now, let’s get into some of the details. To look at why it matters we need to understand a bit about carbohydrate digestion. When we eat or drink carbohydrate-containing foods (all foods get digested, but we are focusing on carbohydrate foods when we talk about GI) the body starts to break them down starting in the stomach and all throughout the digestive tract depending on their complexity. 

All carbohydrates are broken down into a simple sugar molecule known as glucose, the body’s preferred source of energy. Glucose then enters the bloodstream and raises the concentration of glucose levels in your blood, also known as blood sugar level. 

How quickly these carbohydrate-containing foods and beverages get broken down into glucose molecules depends on the kind of carbohydrate it is and what else you consume with those foods, i.e. protein, fat, or fiber. 

Something like candy, which is a basic form of sugar, will enter your bloodstream quite quickly and elevate your blood sugar levels. Whereas something that contains starch, a more complex form of carbohydrates, like fruit, sweet potatoes, or whole grain bread, will take some time to impact blood sugar levels. 

Thus, the GI scale breaks down how fast or slow carbohydrates are digested. Low-GI foods release glucose gradually, helping to keep your blood sugar steady.

On the flip side, high-GI foods can cause a rapid spike, leaving you on a blood sugar rollercoaster. 

Benefits of Low Glycemic Foods 

Choosing low glycemic foods isn’t just about numbers and a choose more often list– it’s about how they impact your health. Low glycemic foods help: 

1. Stabilize blood sugar 

2. Keep your energy levels in check 

3. Play a role in managing your weight 

It’s like giving your body a nutritional high-five. 

When considering the glycemic index, we want to aim to choose low glycemic foods more often but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat from the moderate or high list on occasion. 

Being particular with what we pair our foods with is also important as adding protein, healthy fats, and other fiber sources can help slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream and lower the impact on blood sugar levels.  

The glycemic index isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s a valuable piece of the puzzle. Balancing your diet is crucial, and the GI can be your sidekick in that journey. 

Low Glycemic Food List

Foods and Their Glycemic Index Levels 

Let’s talk about some specific foods. 

Low Glycemic Foods: 

  • Legumes 
  • Non-starchy veggies 
  • Sourdough bread 
  • Sweet potato 
  • Berries 
  • Cows milk and almond milk  
  • Avocado 
  • Quinoa  
  • Nuts and seeds  

Medium Glycemic Foods Include: 

  • Some fruits  
  • Whole wheat products and breads  
  • Most rice  

High Glycemic Troublemaking Foods Include: 

  • Sugary snacks 
  • Refined grains  

These can throw a party in your blood sugar levels.  

Diabetes Canada put together a guide of commonly consumed foods and their glycemic category 

You can also find a fairly extensive list at the link below: 

Glycemic Index Chart Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Ratings for 500+ Foods

Practical Tips for Your Everyday Life

Now, for the good stuff – practical tips you can start using today.  

1. Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index  

2. Note some foods you consume that fall on the moderate or high list and find alternatives on the low list  

3. Check food labels for GI information if available  

4. Make a plan for when you would like to enjoy some of the higher-value foods and how you can incorporate them into your diet without impacting your blood sugar levels too much  

5. Use this tool in combination with others, such as eating a balanced plate, incorporating physical activity, listening to your body when it is full, and managing emotional or habitual eating, to manage your health!  

How a Dietitian Can Help 

Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you understand how to incorporate the glycemic index into your diet in a simple way. We can help you make easy adjustments to incorporate more low glycemic foods to help stabilize your blood sugar and energy. You can still eat the foods you love and a Dietitian on our team can help you achieve this.  

In Conclusion – Let’s Recap 

So, there you have it – the breakdown of the glycemic index. Remember, it’s not about overhauling your entire diet but making smart choices that work for you. Start small, and gradually incorporate those low glycemic food options into your meals. 

Take charge of your health, one glycemic choice at a time. Your future self will thank you for it! 

Are you interested in improving energy or lowering your blood sugar? Our team of Registered Dietitians can help you navigate the glycemic index

Our Registered Dietitian team specializes in nutrition for energy, mental health, meal planning, health conditions like diabetes, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health and more. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.

As trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you.  

Want to keep learning? Check out these blog posts below:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As seen in


Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This