20 Low GI carbs you shouldn't fear

low glycemic diet

Are you eliminating carbs from your diet in fear of gaining weight? 

In this blog post, we’ll explain:

  • Why carbohydrates are essential to your health
  • Explore complex and refined carbs
  • Give you the best low GI carbs to have in your diet

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the fibers, sugars, and starches found in the foods you eat and are one of the three macronutrients your body needs to produce energy.

Despite what diet culture preaches, not all carbohydrates are bad. In fact, lumping them together ignores the nutrients they offer and depriving yourself of them would be detrimental to your overall health and well-being. 

“It’s the type and quantity of the carbs you eat that cause weight gain,” says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. “Not carbohydrates themselves.”

Complex carbs vs. Refined carbs 

Ever noticed how much fuller you feel after eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry from Starbucks? You can thank complex carbohydrates for that! 

These are the carbs found in whole foods where little to no processing has occurred.

And because they’re packed with nutrients, complex carbs:

  • Slow your digestion as the fibers are harder to break down
  • Keep your blood sugar levels steady
  • Leave you feeling fuller for longer

Some examples include broccoli, oranges, and quinoa. 

Refined carbohydrates, though, are the reason why carbs have a bad reputation, and for good reason. 

Known as “empty calorie” foods, these are heavily processed carbs that:

  • Have no nutritional value and break down fast in digestion
  • Spike blood sugar levels
  • Leave you feeling hungry and vulnerable to weight gain

Some examples include white bread, sugary cereals, and candy.

Healthy GI carbs you can eat

Contrary to popular belief, weight loss is possible when carb-heavy foods are in your diet as they have a lot of nutrients that are essential to your health. It’s just a matter of substituting high GI carbs with low GI carbs.

Most of your carbs should have a GI of 55 or lower, and a moderate amount should have a GI of 69 or less. Avoid those at a higher level whenever possible. 

20 Of The Best Low GI Carbs

Here is Well and Easy’s list of the best low GI carbs to add to your diet:

1. Steel-cut oats

This whole grain is rich in protein and fiber, and has a GI of 55. It’s a great alternative to sugary cereals and will keep you full longer while lowering your cholesterol.

2. Barley 

With a score of 28, barley has the lowest GI of any grain, making it the perfect substitute for higher GI grains such as rice and quinoa. It’s also an excellent source of fiber which can aid digestion and constipation. 

3. Lentils 

With a GI of 32, lentils have the highest protein count of any vegetable, making it the perfect meat substitute. 

4. Blueberries 

Rich in antioxidants, this fruit has a GI of 53 and is great with yogurt, cereal, and smoothies. Research also shows a compound in blueberries called polyphenols helps tissues in the body absorb glucose. 

5. Chickpeas

With a GI score of 28, chickpeas are high in protein and fiber, making them a great alternative to high glycemic foods such as potatoes and white rice. 

6. Sweet Potatoes 

Although higher on the GI scale, sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in moderation while keeping your blood sugar levels stable. They offer plenty of antioxidants and nutrients such as iron and magnesium, and it’s fiber helps to slow digestion. Opt to boil your sweet potato to keep it’s GI between 46 and 61. 

7. Kidney beans 

Ranking low on the GI scale with a score of 24, these legumes provide an abundance of protein and fiber and have hardly any fat. Kidney beans are a great meat substitute and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways such as in vegetarian chili or in a salad. 

8. Whole grain bread

Depending on the type, whole grain breads have a GI of 34 to 58 and are packed with nutrients that you can’t find in white breads. 

9. Apples

With a GI of 36, this fruit has a low impact on your blood sugar levels and is an excellent source of fiber. 

10. Whole wheat pasta 

With a GI of 48, this pasta can be enjoyed in moderation as it contains less carbs than white pasta. It’s also a better source of minerals such as iron and magnesium. 

11. Peanut & Peanut butter 

Sprinkled on a salad or enjoyed by the spoonful, this nut is high in protein and healthy fats, and has a GI of 14. When turned into butter, enjoy in moderation and opt for a jar with minimal ingredients. Avoid added sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils. 

12. Kale 

With a GI of 15, this leafy green vegetable is rich in iron, folate, and protein, and makes for a great addition to salads or smoothies. 

13. Plain yogurt 

Plain yogurt is a great source of vitamins and protein, and has a GI of 14. It’s also a probiotic which aids digestion. Pair with an apple or berries and avoid any yogurts with added sugar as that will increase your blood sugar levels. 

14. Milk 

Rich in calcium, skimmed milk has a GI of 37, while full-fat has a GI of 39. It can be enjoyed in oatmeal, smoothies, and even on its own. 

15. Carrots

With a GI of 39, this non-starchy vegetable is packed with fiber and can be used in your diet in a number of ways. Enjoy raw as a snack or steamed as a side dish for dinner. 

16. Raw dates

Dates are naturally sweet and are packed with fiber. They have a GI of 42 and can be used in smoothies or on its own for dessert. 

17. Salmon 

With no carbohydrates, this protein won’t raise your blood sugar levels and is rich in omega-3. To retain its nutrients, opt to bake instead of frying. 

18. Eggs 

From scrambled to over easy, eggs are a pure protein source which means they have a GI of zero. 

19. Avocado 

With no GI value, this fruit will keep you full and your blood sugar levels stable as it’s rich in healthy fats.  

20. Olive oil

With a GI of zero, this healthy fat contains no carbs, is good for your heart health, and can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. 

The Bottom Line

Carbohydrates shouldn’t be feared, especially when following a low GI diet as they help you lose weight without depriving yourself of essential nutrients.

Feeling inspired to add more low glycemic carbs into your diet? Download Well + Easy’s FREE Low Glycemic Starter Kit and feel better in your body, naturally.