About nine percent of the world’s adult population, including 30 million Americans, have diabetes, while another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes or high blood glucose (sugar) levels. About 15 percent of diabetics and pre-diabetics actually have a normal body weight and many are unaware of their high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar can cause a host of symptoms, including excessive thirst, headaches, blurred vision, decreased vision or eye damage, cuts, abrasions, and skin infections that heal slowly, extremity nerve damage, intestinal issues like chronic constipation or diarrhea, and damage to blood vessels and kidneys. With so many people dealing with elevated blood glucose levels today, many are looking to change their diet and lower their blood sugar to prevent these ill effects.
Eating lower glycemic foods can help reduce or prevent high blood sugar. But should you use the glycemic index or the glycemic load as a reference? There’s a big difference between them, and knowing which one to use can be confusing. Let’s take a quick look at the differences before we savor some delicious low-glycemic breakfast ideas.
In simple terms, the glycemic index indicates how quickly a carbohydrate is digested and converted into sugar in your blood, as compared to straight glucose. High-glycemic index foods will raise your blood sugar more, and more rapidly, than low glycemic index foods.
However, this index doesn’t take into account the amount of carbohydrate in a food. It also assumes that you’ll be eating that food alone, not in combination with other foods that might contain fats, protein, and fiber, which take longer to digest than a pure carbohydrate food like table sugar. Your blood sugar won’t spike or rise as quickly when you eat fats, protein, and fiber in combination with carbohydrates.
Also, the glycemic index doesn’t use a uniform serving size, so some items are based on unrealistic portions compared to what you would normally eat. The glycemic index for carrots for example is a based on a 1.5 pound serving. When’s the last time you ate 1.5 pounds of carrots in one sitting? However, you do need to watch out for juicing carrots, just like fruit juices. Without the pulp and fiber to slow blood sugar spikes, carrot and other fruit juices have a very high glycemic load.
A low-glycemic index food rates below 55, a medium glycemic index food rates between 55 and 70, and a high glycemic index food rates above 70. Pure glucose rates a 100 on the glycemic index.
The glycemic load, on the other hand, measures the amount of carbohydrate in a particular serving of food. The glycemic load measures a reasonable serving size. For example, 1 cup of watermelon instead of 5 cups.
A low glycemic load food rates 10 or less, a medium glycemic load food rates 11 to 19, and a high glycemic load food is anything over 20.
Because the two measurement systems differ, it’s possible for a food to be low on the glycemic index and have a high glycemic load. The glycemic load is a more accurate indication of what will happen to your blood sugar when you eat that food.
To take a closer look at which foods have high or low ratings, refer to this glycemic index and glycemic load chart from Harvard University for a list of 100 common foods.
Now that you know what a low glycemic load is, here are some delicious low-glycemic breakfast ideas to help you start your day the low blood sugar way.
Eggs and black beans provide plenty of protein while the avocado and olive oil add some healthy fat to this zesty breakfast. The spinach ensures you get a serving of greens and the grapefruit gives you a serving of low glycemic load fruit.
- 4 eggs
- 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 ripe avocado, chopped
- Fresh salsa, to taste (ensure no sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican seasoning spice (with spices like cumin, cayenne pepper, dried onion, garlic powder, and chili powder. Watch out for pre-mixed blends with sugar)
- Olive oil for sautéing
- 1 grapefruit, cut in half
Beat eggs adding in Mexican seasoning spice.
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat and sauté onions until translucent. Pour in eggs, cook for 1 minute while stirring.
Add black beans and tomatoes, and continue stirring until eggs are almost done.
Add in spinach and cook till eggs are cooked to your desire.
Divide onto two plates and top with fresh salsa and chopped avocados.
Serve with grapefruit halves.
Cashew Coconut Green Smoothie
Cashews and pea protein powder are both low in glycemic load and high in protein. The kale and arugula give you a couple of servings of veggies for the day while the coconut milk adds some healthy fat to help this smoothie stick to your ribs all morning. Cinnamon is a natural blood-sugar stabilizer as well.
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons pea protein powder
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup kale
- 1/2 cup dry roasted cashews
- Water or ice to reach desired consistency and temperature
Place ingredients in order in blender or Vitamix and blend until smooth.
Nut & Seed “Cereal” With Pears
This hearty nut and seed breakfast with yogurt gives you plenty of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while the low glycemic load pears give you a serving of fruit, and the cinnamon helps to stabilize blood sugar.
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons almond meal
- 2 tablespoons hazelnut meal
- 2 tablespoons flax meal
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup plain yogurt (ensure no sugar)
- 1 pear, sliced
Mix the nuts, meals, and seeds with the cinnamon and vanilla.
Divide into two bowls. Top with yogurt and pear slices.