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Diabetes versus high- and low-glycemic foods

Next time you sit down for a meal, you might want to ask your food a question: "Are you a good carb or a bad carb?"

Though it sounds silly, it can be an important step in both managing your diabetes and your weight. Foods with a low glycemic index (GI), or those with good carbohydrates, traditionally have a low or moderate effect on blood sugar levels, while those with higher a GI might cause blood sugar levels to spike. Being aware of foods' GI is one way you can take control of your blood sugar levels, and by doing so, help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

High- and low-glycemic index foods

Basically, foods that contain refined white flours and sugars are considered high-GI, and generally, should be avoided. Examples of these foods include the following:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Alcohol

Low-GI foods generally include those that contain complex carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. According to research from the University of North Carolina, the following foods all contain low GIs:

Dairy: Artificially-sweetened low-fat yogurt, fat-free milk, low-fat ice cream, low-fat cheeses

Fruits: Grapefruit, peaches, plums, cherries, dried apricots, apples, pears

Vegetables: Asparagus, peppers, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, spinach

Whole grains: Brown rice, whole-grain pasta, cheese tortellini, All-Bran cereal, Bulgar

Swapping high- for low-glycemic foods

Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller has authored several books about GI and low-GI diets, including The Glucose Revolution and the Shoppers Guide to GI Values, which is updated annually. Brand-Miller suggests those wishing to incorporate low GI foods into their diet make simple swaps. For example, if you like eating cooks, she suggests trying whole-wheat toast with low-sugar fruit spread and switching out chips and other pre-packaged snacks for dried fruit and unsalted nuts.

Though knowing the GI of the foods you're eating is a great start, information from WebMD suggests that what eat with your food is also important. Other factors that might alter how your body reacts to food might include the following:

  1. Other components of a food, such as the amount of protein or fat
  2. How the food was prepared
  3. Other foods eaten at the same time

Any change in diet, even for the better, should be discussed with your health care provider. He or she might also be able to refer you to a dietitian, who can help you set up unique nutritional goals.

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