Low glycemic load foods

Glycemic Index and Diabetes

Glycemic Index and Diabetes

The glycemic index, or GI, measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread.

A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.

Meal planning with the GI involves choosing foods that have a low or medium GI. If eating a food with a high GI, you can combine it with low GI foods to help balance the meal.

Examples of carbohydrate-containing foods with a low GI include dried beans and legumes (like kidney beans and lentils), all non-starchy vegetables, some starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, most fruit, and many whole grain breads and cereals (like barley, whole wheat bread, rye bread, and all-bran cereal).

Meats and fats don’t have a GI because they do not contain carbohydrate.

Below are examples of foods based on their GI.

Low GI foods (55 or less)

  • 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
  • Pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar
  • Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils
  • Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots

Medium GI (56-69)

  • Whole wheat, rye and pita bread
  • Quick oats
  • Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous

High GI (70 or more)

  • White bread or bagel
  • Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
  • Shortgrain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
  • Russet potato, pumpkin
  • Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers
  • melons and pineapple

What affects the GI of a food?

Fat and fiber tend to lower the GI of a food. As a general rule, the more cooked or processed a food, the higher the GI; however, this is not always true.

Below are a few specific examples of other factors that can affect the GI of a food:

  • Ripeness and storage time — the more ripe a fruit or vegetable is, the higher the GI
  • Processing — juice has a higher GI than whole fruit; mashed potato has a higher GI than a whole baked potato, stone ground whole wheat bread has a lower GI than whole wheat bread.
  • Cooking method — how long a food is cooked (al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta)
  • Variety — converted long-grain white rice has a lower GI than brown rice but short-grain white rice has a higher GI than brown rice.

Other considerations

The GI value represents the type of carbohydrate in a food but says nothing about the amount of carbohydrate typically eaten. Portion sizes are still relevant for managing blood glucose and for losing or maintaining weight.

The GI of a food is different when eaten alone than it is when combined with other foods. When eating a high GI food, you can combine it with other low GI foods to balance out the effect on blood glucose levels.

Many nutritious foods have a higher GI than foods with little nutritional value. For example, oatmeal has a higher GI than chocolate. Use of the GI needs to be balanced with basic nutrition principles of variety for healthful foods and moderation of foods with few nutrients.

GI or carbohydrate counting?

There is no one diet or meal plan that works for everyone with diabetes. The important thing is to follow a meal plan that is tailored to personal preferences and lifestyle and helps achieve goals for blood glucose, cholesteroland triglycerides levels, blood pressure, and weight management.

Research shows that both the amount and the type of carbohydrate in food affect blood glucose levels. Studies also show that the total amount of carbohydrate in food, in general, is a stronger predictor of blood glucose response than the GI.

Based on the research, for most people with diabetes, the first tool for managing blood glucose is some type of carbohydrate counting.

Because the type of carbohydrate can affect blood glucose, using the GI may be helpful in “fine-tuning” blood glucose management. In other words, combined with carbohydrate counting, it may provide an additional benefit for achieving blood glucose goals for individuals who can and want to put extra effort into monitoring their food choices.

The glycemic index, simply put, is a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise.

The measure ranks food on a scale of zero to 100. Foods with a high glycemic index, or GI, are quickly digested and absorbed, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. These foods that rank high on the GI scale are often — but not always — high in processed carbohydrates and sugars. Pretzels, for example, have a glycemic index of 83.

Meanwhile, foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed at a slower rate, and subsequently, cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. These are typically rich in fiber, protein and/or fat. Examples of these include apples with a glycemic index of 28, Greek-style yogurt at 11 and peanuts at seven. Keep in mind that a low GI doesn’t mean a food is high in nutrients. You still need to choose healthy foods from all five food groups.

Glycemic Index: An Imperfect System, but Useful Tool

A food’s GI ranking only applies when a food is consumed on an empty stomach without any other type of food. As anyone who’s ever eaten food knows, this isn’t always how we eat.

Pair a high GI food with a lean steak or a piece of salmon, a side of broccoli and a salad with vinaigrette, and the protein, fiber and fat all will serve to lower the glycemic index of the meal.

In addition, the glycemic index doesn’t take into account how much we’re actually consuming. The GI value of a food is determined by giving people a serving of the food that contains 50 grams of carbohydrate minus the fiber, then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours.

A serving of 50 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting may be reasonable for a food such as rice, which has 53 grams of carbs per cup. But for beets, a GI ranking of 64 is a little misleading since beets have just 13 grams of carbs per cup; we would need to consume nearly 4 cups of beets in order to cause that spike in blood sugar levels.

An Alternative to Glycemic Index

Glycemic load, or GL, is a formula that corrects for potentially misleading GI by combining portion size and GI into one number. The carbohydrate content of the actual serving is multiplied by the food’s GI, then that number is divided by 100. So for a cup of beets, the GL would be: 13 times 64 = 832 divided by 100 = a GL of 8.3.

As a frame of reference, a GL higher than 20 is considered high, between 11 and 19 is considered moderate, and 10 or less is considered low.

The bottom line: Even though the glycemic index isn’t a perfect system, it can be a useful tool to identify lower-glycemic foods that often are more nutrient-dense, as well as what foods are higher in refined carbohydrates.

Has your doctor recently recommended a low glycemic diet to help treat a condition you’re dealing with, such as high cholesterol or diabetes? Or maybe you’re hoping to reduce your intake of sugar, processed grains and other “high glycemic foods” in order to reach a healthier weight?

No matter what your reason is for wanting to eat a better diet overall — whether it’s for heart health, fat loss, more stabilized moods or reduced cravings, for example — a low glycemic index diet is likely to be beneficial in a number of ways, some you might not even expect.

Perhaps most importantly, reducing your intake of high glycemic foods (think sugary cereals, rolls, desserts or sweetened drinks) can definitely open up more room in your diet for the types of foods you really need in order to get all of the essential nutrients you require.

Choosing unprocessed foods that have a low glycemic load — including plenty of veggies, healthy fats and lean proteins — also helps you feel more energized throughout the day and makes it much less likely you’ll overeat due to cravings for more carbs, moodiness and blood sugar swings. It’sThose are just some of the reasons to follow a low glycemic diet.

What Is a Low Glycemic Diet?

The glycemic index is a tool that’s used to indicate how a particular food affects blood sugar (or glucose) levels. The definition of the glycemic index (GI) is “a measure of the blood glucose-raising potential of the carbohydrate content of a food compared to a reference food (generally pure glucose, or sugar).”

Foods are assigned a glycemic index/glycemic load number that can be compared to pure glucose, which serves as the benchmark for all other foods. Pure glucose has a glycemic index number of 100, indicating that it’s very rapidly broken down into glucose once eaten and then either sent to cells to be used for energy, saved in the muscles as glycogen for later use or stored inside fat cells when there’s a surplus.

All foods containing glucose, fructose or sucrose (various forms of carbohydrates or sugars) can be classified as high GI, moderate GI or low GI. (1) The glycemic index values of all foods range from 0–100:

  • High GI = 70 to 100
  • Medium GI = 50 to 70
  • Low GI = below 50

Whenever we eat any type of carbohydrate, whether it’s pure table sugar or a cup of fresh vegetables, the molecules in the food are broken down as they’re absorbed, which impacts blood glucose levels and insulin release. All carbohydrates cause release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas, which has the job of picking up and sending glucose that’s present in the blood throughout the body to be used or stored away. (2)

How drastically and quickly a carbohydrate causes this process to happen depends on how quickly its glucose is broken down; some carbs that are low on the glycemic index (like veggies and 100 percent whole grains, for example) cause a smaller and more gradual rise in blood glucose, while carbs that have a high glycemic score (like soda and white rice) cause rapid glucose absorption and high insulin release. Carbohydrates of all kinds are the main dietary source of glucose, but not all carbs are created equal. For example, good choices include brown or wild rice, sweet potatoes, sprouted ancient grains, legumes, and beans, while poor choices include soda and ice cream.

Choosing low glycemic foods can help prevent persistently high insulin levels, which are associated with health problems like type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

Finally, it’s important to understand that a glycemic index score is a bit different than a glycemic load (GL) score. GL takes into account the GI score of a particular carbohydrate but also considers how the carbs in the food affect blood sugar levels when eaten in average portions (not just in 100-gram servings). Many of the fruits and vegetables that are high on the glycemic index scale come in low on the glycemic load scale. Overall, a food’s glycemic load score may be a better predictor of whether or not when eaten in moderate amounts as part of a whole meal it’s generally a healthy choice or not. Here’s the range of GL scores to consider when making choices about the carbs in your diet:

  • High GL = 20 +
  • Medium GL = 11 to 19
  • Low GL = 10 or less

How a low glycemic diet compares to low-carb diet:

  • In many ways, a low glycemic diet can also be called a “slow carb diet.” There are many low-carb foods that also qualify as low glycemic foods because of their ability to prevent a strong release of insulin and blood sugar fluctuations after eating.
  • For example, low-carb foods like fish, meat, oils and fats have a GI score of zero since they contain no sugar/starch/carbs, and therefore in general they don’t significantly impact blood glucose or insulin levels.

Top 9 Low Glycemic Diet Foods and Food Groups

A low glycemic diet includes lots of foods that are considered “complex carbs” but fewer that are “simple carbs.”

  • Simple carbohydrates: These consist of foods that contain one or two simple sugars. Foods that are simple carbs include those with added/table sugar, desserts, processed grains, candy, jam, soda, etc. However, not all simple carbohydrates are unhealthy; fruits like apples, strawberries, peaches and others are also “simple carbs” but can still be part of a balanced diet.
  • Complex carbohydrates: These are foods that consist of long chains of simple sugars. Foods such as beans, legumes, many veggies, oatmeal, bran, wheat germ and more are examples of complex carbohydrates. (3)

Based on factors like nutrient density, some of the least processed low glycemic foods you can eat include: (4)

  1. Non-Starchy Vegetables — Most veggies are very low GI, with GL values between about 1–7. Try to include these with every meal, especially all types of lettuce and leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, onion, green beans, artichokes, peppers, and others.
  2. Nuts and Seeds — Nuts and seeds range somewhat considerably in GL scores, from about 1–17 per serving (cashews have the highest). Look for chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts, which are some of the best choices.
  3. Beans and Legumes — Beans and legumes have GL values between about 2–13 per serving (soybeans have the lowest, while chickpeas are a bit higher). Ideally have these in small amounts (about 1/2 cup at once) for help with digestion after they’ve been soaked and sprouted, which helps with nutrient absorption.
  4. Yogurt and Other Fermented Dairy — Dairy products range in GL scores between about 1–5, with higher-fat types lower in carbs and therefore lower GI. Plain, unsweetened yogurt, raw whole milk and traditionally made cheeses are best (choose organic and raw when possible).
  5. 100 Percent Whole/Ancient Grains — Depending on the kind, these range between a GL of about 10–17. Choose minimally processed whole grains, such as steel-cut oats, brown rice, wild rice, sprouted grain breads, granola and muesli, and whole-wheat pasta. Moderate serving of healthy complex carbs equate to about 1/2 cup uncooked or 1 cup or less cooked at a time.
  6. Fresh Fruit — Most fruits have GL values between about 4–14. Fruit can be still be eaten when the rest of your diet is balanced, including stone fruits, apples, berries, cherries and citrus fruits. Fresh fruit is a better choice over fruit juices. Many people can tolerate having about 1–3 servings of fresh fruit daily, especially when they’re active.
  7. Healthy Fats — All pure fats/oils have a zero GI and GL of zero since they contain no carbs. Good sources include virgin coconut oil, MCT oil, and extra virgin olive oil (all of which are also approved in a keto diet), along with sources that have slightly more carbs but are still good options like nuts and seeds (like almonds, chia, hemp and flax), and avocado.
  8. Quality Protein — Animal proteins are also a zero GI/GL food group, containing very little or zero carbs. Choose wild fish, such as salmon, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef or lamb, raw dairy products (including yogurt, kefir or raw cheeses), cage-free eggs, and pasture-raised poultry.
  9. Acidic Foods — Acidic foods seem to help lower the GI of certain foods. Experts recommend trying vinegar-based dressings on salads, apple cider vinegar taken with a smoothie or water, fermented yogurt with cereal, and lemon juice on vegetables.

The following foods are considered “high-GI food,” which you therefore should try reducing or avoiding:

  • Refined grains and flours, including products made with white wheat flour, packaged grain products like most bread, processed breakfast cereals, cookies, cakes, etc.
  • Sweetened beverages, such as soda and bottled juices
  • Table sugar, honey, molasses, etc. A small amount of real, raw honey can be a good option, but in this case less is usually more.
  • Dried fruits, such as raisins, craisins and dates (OK in small amounts, just watch your portion sizes!)
  • Starchy root vegetables, such as white potatoes, winter squash, etc. These are actually healthy options, but again portion control and pairing them with lower-GI foods is key.
  • Also avoid too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Empty calories, including packaged goods that are highly processed and salty
  • Lots of added sugar in condiments, sauces, etc.
  • Fast food and fried foods

Principles of a Low Glycemic Diet

As you can see, the types of carbs included in your diet typically have a big impact on how you feel after eating the food, including how satisfied or full you are, how quickly you get hungry again or experience cravings for more, and how much of a lift in energy the food tends to provide for you. The goal of eating a low glycemic diet is to consume more foods that only have a mild, more prolonged impact on blood sugar since they’re broken down slower and provide more sustained energy.

Here are several key principles and tips to keep in mind when reducing the glycemic load of your diet:

  • Eat carbs that require zero or very little “processing” — One of the biggest factors when it comes to determining a food’s glycemic load/index score is whether it’s eaten in its original state (such as veggies that are raw or mildly cooked) versus whether it’s been processed (like bread, soda and cereal). The more that a food is refined, the quicker its sugar/starch molecules will impact blood sugar. For example, the smaller a starch granule is, the easier and quicker it is for the digestive system to convert it to glucose.
  • Get more fiber — Fiber in “whole foods” acts as a protective barrier when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar, slowing down digestion, and protecting sugar and starch molecules from rapid absorption due to enzyme release. The more refined a food is, the less fiber it’s likely to contain. For example, processed grains and sugar supply very little fiber, if any. On the other hand, fresh veggies, fruit, and soaked/sprouted beans or legumes provides lots. Here are some of the best high-fiber foods: artichokes, green leafy vegetables, avocado, cruciferous veggies, chia and flax, and sweet potatoes. (5)
  • Make your grains 100 percent unprocessed and ideally soaked/sprouted — Make a habit of reading ingredient labels whenever you eat something that comes in a package or box, such as bread, pasta, cereal or wraps. Look for the words “100 percent whole grain” as the very first ingredient, and check for any indication that sugar has been added, keeping in mind that added sugar can go by dozens of different names. Try to eat foods with just one or very little ingredients, which means they’re more likely to contain natural fiber and less likely to spike blood sugar.
  • Get more starch from root veggies — Some people respond poorly to eating grains, especially wheat, which contains the protein called gluten that can be hard to fully digest. You can get plenty of healthy carbohydrates, fiber and antioxidants too from eating root veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, turnips and winter squash.
  • Combine carbs with protein and fat — How you combine different foods is very important when it comes to digestion and blood sugar management. Pairing low GI carbs with a healthy source of fat and protein (such as olive or coconut oil, eggs, and fish, for example) can be helpful for managing blood sugar levels, energy and hunger. Try to include a source of each with each main meal and at least some protein or healthy fat with snacks.

Precautions When Eating a Low Glycemic Diet

If a low glycemic diet seems overwhelming or restrictive, remember that your diet doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Keep things simple by using common sense and choosing source of carbs that are the least processed and contain the fewest added ingredients. Sources of carbohydrates like fruits, ancient whole grains, sweet potatoes, beans, etc., don’t need to be removed from your diet — it’s all about balance and eating real foods!

Follow my recommendation to eat plenty (and a variety of) real foods and avoid fake foods, then you won’t have to pay too much attention to calculating GI scores, calories, grams, etc. Eat foods the way they’re found in nature, listen to your body, and pay attention to your own “biofeedback” and individual symptoms to know what’s best for you.

Final Thoughts on Eating a Low Glycemic Diet

  • Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) values represent the impact that one average serving size of a carbohydrate food has on your blood sugar levels. Many feel that GL is a more accurate representation compared to GI for determining which carbohydrates are healthy and therefore should be part of a low glycemic diet.
  • A low glycemic diet (or low GL diet) has benefits including helping normalize blood sugar, prevent insulin resistance, prevent fatigue, and keep you fuller and energized for longer.
  • To start eating a low glycemic diet, follow these tips and recommendations: Get more fiber from veggies, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds; pair foods with higher GL values with proteins and healthy fats; consume 100 percent whole/unprocessed grains; reduce your intake of flour and white refined grains; eat smaller amounts of starchy foods like potatoes, rice and bread; and reduce or avoid sugary foods like cookies, cakes, juices, candy and soft drinks.

Glycemic index for 60+ foods

Measuring carbohydrate effects can help glucose management

Updated: January 6, 2020Published: February, 2015

The glycemic index is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels. Foods low on the glycemic index (GI) scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the glycemic index release glucose rapidly. Low GI foods tend to foster weight loss, while foods high on the GI scale help with energy recovery after exercise, or to offset hypo- (or insufficient) glycemia. Long-distance runners would tend to favor foods high on the glycemic index, while people with pre- or full-blown diabetes would need to concentrate on low GI foods. Why? People with type 1 diabetes can’t produce sufficient quantities of insulin and those with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin. With both types of diabetes, faster glucose release from high GI foods leads to spikes in blood sugar levels. The slow and steady release of glucose in low-glycemic foods helps maintain good glucose control.

To help you understand how the foods you are eating might impact your blood glucose level, here is an abbreviated chart of the glycemic index for more than 60 common foods. A more complete glycemic index chart can be found in the link below.

FOOD Glycemic index (glucose = 100)
White wheat bread* 75 ± 2
Whole wheat/whole meal bread 74 ± 2
Specialty grain bread 53 ± 2
Unleavened wheat bread 70 ± 5
Wheat roti 62 ± 3
Chapatti 52 ± 4
Corn tortilla 46 ± 4
White rice, boiled* 73 ± 4
Brown rice, boiled 68 ± 4
Barley 28 ± 2
Sweet corn 52 ± 5
Spaghetti, white 49 ± 2
Spaghetti, whole meal 48 ± 5
Rice noodles† 53 ± 7
Udon noodles 55 ± 7
Couscous† 65 ± 4
Cornflakes 81 ± 6
Wheat flake biscuits 69 ± 2
Porridge, rolled oats 55 ± 2
Instant oat porridge 79 ± 3
Rice porridge/congee 78 ± 9
Millet porridge 67 ± 5
Muesli 57 ± 2
Apple, raw† 36 ± 2
Orange, raw† 43 ± 3
Banana, raw† 51 ± 3
Pineapple, raw 59 ± 8
Mango, raw† 51 ± 5
Watermelon, raw 76 ± 4
Dates, raw 42 ± 4
Peaches, canned† 43 ± 5
Strawberry jam/jelly 49 ± 3
Apple juice 41 ± 2
Orange juice 50 ± 2
Potato, boiled 78 ± 4
Potato, instant mash 87 ± 3
Potato, french fries 63 ± 5
Carrots, boiled 39 ± 4
Sweet potato, boiled 63 ± 6
Pumpkin, boiled 64 ± 7
Plantain/green banana 55 ± 6
Taro, boiled 53 ± 2
Vegetable soup 48 ± 5
Milk, full fat 39 ± 3
Milk, skim 37 ± 4
Ice cream 51 ± 3
Yogurt, fruit 41 ± 2
Soy milk 34 ± 4
Rice milk 86 ± 7
Chickpeas 28 ± 9
Kidney beans 24 ± 4
Lentils 32 ± 5
Soya beans 16 ± 1
Chocolate 40 ± 3
Popcorn 65 ± 5
Potato crisps 56 ± 3
Soft drink/soda 59 ± 3
Rice crackers/crisps 87 ± 2
Fructose 15 ± 4
Sucrose 65 ± 4
Glucose 103 ± 3
Honey 61 ± 3

Data are means ± SEM.

* Low-GI varieties were also identified.

† Average of all available data.

The complete list of the glycemic index and glycemic load for more than 1,000 foods can be found in the article “International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008” by Fiona S. Atkinson, Kaye Foster-Powell, and Jennie C. Brand-Miller in the December 2008 issue of Diabetes Care, Vol. 31, number 12, pages 2281-2283.

To get the lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load, read more about it here.

American Diabetes Association, 2008. Copyright and all rights reserved. This chart has been used with the permission of American Diabetes Association.

image: © Amarosy | Dreamstime.com

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Low-glycemic-load foods may reduce inflammation in overweight adults

Among overweight and obese adults, a diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and other high-fiber foods, significantly reduces markers of inflammation associated with chronic disease, according to a new study by Hutchinson Center researchers. Such a low-glycemic-load diet, which does not cause blood-glucose levels to spike, also increases a hormone that helps regulate the metabolism of fat and sugar. .
The controlled, randomized feeding study, which involved 80 healthy Seattle-area men and women—half of normal weight and half overweight or obese—found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet reduced a biomarker of inflammation called C-reactive protein by about 22 percent.
“This finding is important and clinically useful since C-reactive protein is associated with an increased risk for many cancers as well as cardiovascular disease,” said lead author Dr. Marian Neuhouser of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division. “Lowering inflammatory factors is important for reducing a broad range of health risks. Showing that a low-glycemic-load diet can improve health is important for the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese.”
Neuhouser and Dr. Johanna Lampe, co-principal investigators of the Carbohydrates and Related Biomarkers (CARB) Study, also found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet modestly increased blood levels of a protein hormone called adiponectin by about 5 percent. This hormone plays a key role in protecting against several cancers, including breast cancer, as well as metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hardening of the arteries.
Glycemic load defined
“Glycemic load” refers to how the intake of carbohydrates, adjusted for total grams of carbohydrate, affects blood-sugar levels. Lentils or pinto beans have a glycemic load that is approximately three times lower than instant mashed potatoes, for example, and therefore won’t cause blood-sugar levels to rise as quickly.
Study participants completed two 28-day feeding periods in random order—one featuring high-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which typically are low-fiber, highly processed carbs such as white sugar, fruit in canned syrup and white flour; and the other featuring low-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which are typically higher in fiber, such as whole-grain breads and cereals. The diets were identical in carbohydrate content, calories and macronutrients. The Center’s Human Nutrition Laboratory in PHS provided all food for the study, and participants maintained weight and physical activity throughout.
“Because the two diets differed only by glycemic load, we can infer that the changes we observed in important biomarkers were due to diet alone,” Neuhouser said.
Carb ‘quality matters’
“The bottom line is that when it comes to reducing markers of chronic-disease risk, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Quality matters,” she said. “There are easy dietary changes people can make. Whenever possible, choose carbohydrates that are less likely to cause rapid spikes in blood glucose.” These types of low-glycemic-load carbs include whole grains; legumes such as kidney beans, soy beans, pinto beans and lentils; milk; and fruits such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and pears. Neuhouser also recommends avoiding high-glycemic-load carbohydrates that quickly raise blood glucose. These include highly processed foods that are full of white sugar and white flour, and sugar-sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals.
Lampe was the senior author of the paper. Yvonne Schwarz, Kara Breymeyer and Drs. Chin-Yun Wang and Xiaoling Song, all of PHS, also contributed.
The National Cancer Institute’s Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer Initiative (TREC), a nationwide research consortium that aims to better understand the link between obesity and cancer, funded the study. The Hutchinson Center houses the initiative’s coordinating center.

Green Beans

The crispy and nutritious green bean, also referred to as string bean, snap bean, and famous in French cooking as “haricot vert” (which means “green bean”), is a versatile vegetable that is incorporated into many cuisines around the world.

There are hundreds of varieties of green beans, all of which are cultivated as the unripe fruit of the bean plant Phaseolus Vulgaris. Green beans themselves are distinguished from “dry beans,” which come from the same plant, by the fact that they are harvested before reaching maturity, and are consumed within their pods.

Cultivars of green beans are grouped into two categories: “bush” beans and “pole” beans. Bush beans grow on their own without support, and “pole” beans require a pole or support to grow. Certain varieties have now been selected and hybridized as both bush and pole beans. Some common cultivars of bush beans include Tendergreen, Provider, Contender and Blue Lake(derived from the original pole bean), while some common cultivars of pole beans include McCaslin, Derby, Blue Lake, and Kentucky Wonder.

There has been a lot of hybridization between green bean species as well, some done to ease industrial harvesting and marketing, and doing away with natural components of green beans such as the “string,” which is fiber.

Green beans are endemic to Peru, where they have been consumed for several thousand years. From there, they spread to indigenous cultures all around South and Central America. Spanish explorers introduced green beans to Europe in the 16th century, where they gained tremendous popularity in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Italian and French.

Green beans are high in several vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; they are great sources of vitamins A, C, K, iron, chlorophyll, fiber and folic acid, to name but a few. Some suggested benefits of consuming green beans include promoting fertility (due to iron especially), anticancer properties (due to chlorophyll and other antioxidant phytonutrients), and promoting bone health (vitamin K). They are also low in glycemic index and glycemic load and considered a great food for both preventing and managing diabetes.

Green beans gained commercial popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, when techniques to can and process green beans became viable (principally the “Blue Lake” pole bean variety). While the mass-canning of foods such as green beans in the United States removed some of the phytonutrients and phenolic compounds from the whole green bean, and added sodium, it did encourage its increased cultivation (especially in California), and now it is not uncommon to find locally grown green beans around the United States and at neighborhood farmers markets.

Glycemic Index of Green Beans: 32 = low.

Resources and Further Reading

Some health benefits and nutrition content of green bean:

A Review “Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds”:

Diets and foods that increase fertility:

Bean Nutrition Facts

Bean Nutrition .. Very low in calories, very low in fat, high in dietary fiber and protein… It would be fair to call beans the near perfect type of food.

Interesting Bean Facts:

• Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants.

• Brazil, India and China are the biggest producers of dry bean. China, Indonesia and Turkey are the biggest producers of green bean.

• They are inexpensive and delicious, possibly the biggest bargain in the supermarkets, considering their health and longevity benefits.

• Beans contain 22 percent protein. Beef contains only 18 percent and eggs 13 percent protein.

• There are all kinds of beans available for different tastes unless you really dislike them.

• Chinese long beans may be up to 18 inches long.

• Newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck in Nicaragua.

• Boiled beans mixed with zinc phosphide are used as a means of cheap rodenticide-rat poison in Aruba.

Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits:

Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

•Low glycemic index and high fiber content help stabilize blood glucose levels, making them a great choice for diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia sufferers.

• Low GI value also means beans provide steady and slow-burning energy.

• They can also help increase your energy by replenishing your iron stores. Unlike red meat, beans are low in fat and calories.

• Beans have more fiber and protein than any other vegetable.

• A cup of beans provides almost half of the recommended daily intake for fiber.

• Thiamin- B vitamin in beans is critical for brain cell – cognitive function, skin health, nerves and digestive system.

• Manganese is an essential element in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses.

• Potassium helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

• Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth.

• Weight loss: if you’d like to reduce your calorie “price” by 10%, add an extra 14 grams of fiber. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories per day, and add 28 grams of fiber to your meals, those calories will only “count” as 1600.

• Beans have 2-3% fat content: they raise your leptin-a protein hormone- levels and reduce appetite, while causing your metabolism to work harder and faster.

Bean Glycemic Index:

Low GI foods act as a constant supply of energy. Beans are low in glycemic index value, they provide energy over a longer period of time by releasing sugars into your blood stream slowly and steadily.

High GI simple sugar acts like a drug on the human system and many of us experienced that feeling of being sugar-high. Sugar is addictive, it is even compared to heroin by some scientists. High GI foods cause a spike in your blood glucose levels followed by a crash soon after, causing your appetite to return, making snacks irresistible.

Legumes- beans, lentils and peas are one of the lowest GI foods you can find.

Return from Bean Nutrition Facts to Glycemic Index home page
Or take me back to Low Glycemic Foods page from Bean Nutrition Facts

Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. PMID:15220.

L. Kaplan, “Legumes in the History of Human Nutrition” The World of Soy, 2008:27ff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Bean Nutrition .

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php? tname=foodspice&dbid=2.

Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York 1996, Bean Nutrition Facts .

A good guide to good carbs: The glycemic index

Choosing low glycemic foods can curb blood sugar spikes and lower risk of diabetes

If you have diabetes, you know all too well that when you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar goes up. The total amount of carbs you consume at a meal or in a snack mostly determines what your blood sugar will do. But the food itself also plays a role. A serving of white rice has almost the same effect as eating pure table sugar — a quick, high spike in blood sugar. A serving of lentils has a slower, smaller effect.

Picking good sources of carbs can help you control your blood sugar and your weight. Eating healthier carbohydrates can help prevent a host of chronic conditions, especially diabetes, but it can also ward off heart disease and various cancers.

One way to choose foods is with the glycemic index (GI). This tool measures how much a food boosts blood sugar.

The glycemic index rates the effect of a specific amount of a food on blood sugar compared with the same amount of pure glucose. A food with a glycemic index of 28 boosts blood sugar only 28% as much as pure glucose. One with a GI of 95 acts like pure glucose.

Glycemic index chart

High glycemic foods result in a quick spike in insulin and blood sugar (also known as blood glucose). Low glycemic foods have a slower, smaller effect.

Choose low glycemic foods

Using the glycemic index is easy: choose foods in the low GI category instead of those in the high GI category (see below), and go easy on those in between.

  • Low glycemic index (GI of 55 or less): Most fruits and vegetables, beans, minimally processed grains, pasta, low-fat dairy foods, and nuts.
  • Moderate glycemic index (GI 56 to 69): White and sweet potatoes, corn, white rice, couscous, breakfast cereals such as Cream of Wheat and Mini Wheats.
  • High glycemic index (GI of 70 or higher): White bread, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, cakes, doughnuts, croissants, most packaged breakfast cereals.

Swaps for lowering glycemic index

Instead of this high-glycemic index food

Eat this lower-glycemic index food

White rice

Brown rice or converted rice

Instant oatmeal

Steel-cut oats


Bran flakes

Baked potato

Pasta, bulgur

White bread

Whole-grain bread


Peas or leafy greens

For more on healthy diet essentials plus information on managing (and avoiding) Type 2 diabetes, buy Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes by Harvard Medical School.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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