Low-Glycemic Foods List Guide

Medically Reviewed on 1/13/2023

Which are the low-glycemic foods?

It is better to eat foods that have a low gycemic index to support health.
It is better to eat foods that have a low glycemic index to support health.

Some of the common low-glycemic foods are as follows:

  • Most vegetables
    • Green peas
    • Onions
    • Lettuce
    • Cabbage
    • Leafy greens such as spinach, collards, kale, and beet
    • Green beans
    • Tomatoes
    • Cucumbers
    • Bok choy
    • Artichokes
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Celery
    • Eggplant
    • Peppers including bell peppers and jalapenos
    • Zucchini 
    • Crookneck squash
    • Snow peas
    • Mushrooms
  • Certain fruits
    • Apples
    • Pears
    • Plum
    • Avocado
    • Olives
    • Dried apricots
    • Unripe banana
    • Peaches
    • Strawberries
    • Oranges
    • Cherries
    • Coconut
    • Grapefruit
    • Cranberries
    • Blueberries
  • Whole or minimally processed grains
    • Barley
    • Whole wheat 
    • Oat bran and rice bran cereals
    • Whole-grain pasta
    • Whole-grain pumpernickel bread
    • Sourdough bread
    • Wheat tortilla
  • Dairy and dairy substitute products
    • Plain yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Cottage cheese
    • Milk 
    • Soy milk and yogurt
  • Miscellaneous
    • Nuts and nut butter 
    • Seeds such as pumpkin, chia, sunflower, and flax seeds
    • Poultry such as chicken and turkey
    • Eggs and egg whites
    • Fish and shellfish
    • Meat such as beef and pork
    • Oils such as extra virgin olive oil and canola oil
    • Fats such as lard, shortening, and butter
    • Mayonnaise

Studies report that raw green vegetables, most citrus fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and bran breakfast cereals are low GI foods.

Table. Other foods that have a low glycemic index
Food Serving size in grams Glycemic index (GI) Glycemic load (GL)
Coarse barley bread, 75 to 80 percent kernels, average 30 34 7
100 percent whole-grain bread (natural ovens) 30 51 7
Corn tortilla 50 52 12
Wheat tortilla 50 30 8
Oatmeal 250 55 13
Pearled barley 150 28 12
Quinoa 150 53 13
Brown rice 150 50 16
Converted, white rice 150 38 14
Whole wheat kernels 50 30 11
Bulgur 150 48 12
Milk, full fat 250 mL 41 5
Milk, skim 250 mL 32 4
Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit 200 33 11
Apple 120 39 6
Dates, dried 60 42 18
Grapefruit 120 25 3
Orange 120 40 4
Peach 120 42 5
Peach, canned in light syrup 120 40 5
Pear 120 38 4
Pear, canned in pear juice 120 43 5
Prunes pitted 60 29 10
Baked beans 150 40 6
Blackeye peas 150 33 10
Black beans 150 30 7
Chickpeas 150 10 3
Chickpeas, canned in brine 150 38 9
Navy beans 150 31 9
Kidney beans 150 29 7
Lentils 150 29 5
Soybeans 150 15 1
Cashews, salted 50 27 3
Peanuts 50 7 0
Green peas 80 51 4
Carrots 80 35 2
Parsnips 80 52 4
Yam 150 54 20
Fettuccine 180 32 15
Macaroni 180 47 23
Spaghetti, white, boiled 180 46 22
Spaghetti, whole grain, boiled 180 42 17

What is a glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a numeric value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they can increase your blood glucose levels. It is a rating system for carbohydrate-containing foods. Foods having a low GI are the ones that tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. By contrast, foods that fall high on the GI scale release glucose rapidly.

Foods with a low GI help to facilitate weight loss and promote satiety. People who have or are at risk of diabetes should eat foods with a low GI. This is because they tend to have low amounts of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or a high degree of resistance to insulin (type 2 diabetes).

  • Insulin is the hormone that keeps blood glucose levels under check.
  • In its absence, blood sugars may increase when a person eats high-glycemic foods.
  • Low-glycemic foods release sugar gradually and thus will prevent an abrupt increase in blood sugar.

High-glycemic foods help with energy recovery after exercise. High-glycemic foods also aid recovery from low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia).

GI is assigned concerning pure glucose that is arbitrarily given a GI of 100. Thus, if a food has a GI of 30, it means it will boost blood glucose by only 30% compared with pure glucose.


Foods That Aren't as Healthy as You Think See Slideshow

What are the glycemic load and gycemic index?

The glycemic load (GL) is a relatively recent method of assessing the impact of a carbohydrate diet that includes the glycemic index (GI) but provides a better picture than the GI alone.

A GI rating merely reflects how quickly a carbohydrate converts to sugar. It does not say how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a certain dish. People must understand both GI and GL to understand how food affects blood sugar levels.

There is a formula to determine the glycemic load (GL) in a particular food.

  • To calculate, the glycemic index (GI) and weight of carbohydrates in grams of that food are needed.
  • GI is calculated by multiplying total carbohydrates in grams with glycemic index and dividing by 100.

GL = Total no. of carbohydrates in grams × glycemic index (GI)/100.

What value constitutes a low glycemic index?

  • A low glycemic index (GI) refers to a GI value of 55 or less. Low-GI foods include most fruits and vegetables, whole or minimally processed grains, beans, pasta, low-fat dairy products, and nuts.
  • Foods with a GI of 56 to 69 come under the category of moderate-GI foods. They include potatoes, white rice, corn, couscous, and breakfast cereals such as Mini-Wheats and Cream of Wheat.
  • High GI means a GI of 70 or more. Foods with high GI include white bread, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, croissants, and most packaged breakfast cereals.

What are the best low glycemic foods for diabetics?

low-glycemic foods list guide
Raw green vegetables, citrus fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and bran breakfast cereals are the best low-glycemic foods for diabetics.

The food people consume contains carbohydrates that provide energy when it gets metabolized in the body. Blood sugar levels increase as carbohydrates are absorbed in the blood.

  • The glycemic index (GI) is higher if the carbs are digested more quickly.
  • This results in high blood glucose levels in the body.
  • So, it is recommended that people with diabetes consume food with a low glycemic index.
  • This helps digest slowly and releases glucose gradually into the blood, which helps maintain good blood glucose levels.

The GI Index is classified as:

  • Low GI: 1 to 55
  • Medium GI: 56 to 69
  • High GI: 70 and higher

What is the importance of glycemic index in people with diabetes?

According to the American Heart Association, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to die from heart disease or have a life-threatening stroke.

For people who do not effectively manage their condition, the chances of developing health problems ranging from cardiovascular problems to nerve damage and renal disease increase tremendously. That is why people with diabetes need to maintain good blood sugar levels. This may be achieved by consuming food with a low glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) indicates how much sugar levels are raised in the blood after consuming a particular food.

What are the indications of consuming food with different glycemic indexes in people with diabetes?

Low glycemic index foods

Foods having a low glycemic index (GI) aid in weight loss and increase satiety. People who have diabetes or are at risk of developing it should consume foods with a low GI.

Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels and blood sugar levels may rise when a person consumes high-glycemic meals in the absence of insulin. Low-glycemic meals release sugar gradually, preventing a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Diabetes is of two types.

  1. Type I diabetes: The patient naturally has low insulin levels.
  2. Type II diabetes: The patient has a high level of insulin resistance

High glycemic index foods

Foods with a high GI are easily digested and actively absorbed raising the blood glucose levels, so they are to be avoided by people with diabetes.

This type of food can be taken after strenuous physical activity when the body needs more glucose to work and during bouts of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Weight Loss/Healthy Living Newsletter

By clicking "Submit," I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time.

Medically Reviewed on 1/13/2023
Image Source: iStock Images

Medscape Medical Reference

Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/a-good-guide-to-good-carbs-the-glycemic-index


University of Michigan Health System. Diabetes: Eating Low-Glycemic Foods. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aba5112

Harvard Health Publishing. The lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load

Diabetes Care. Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/1/glycemicindex.pdf