A low-glycemic diet can help you control your weight by minimizing spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels. This is particularly important if you have type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing it. Low-glycemic diets have also been linked to reduced risks for cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.
Eight principles of low-glycemic eating
- Eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables, beans, and fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and berries. Even tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes, and papayas tend to have a lower glycemic index than typical desserts.
- Eat grains in the least-processed state possible: "unbroken," such as whole-kernel bread, brown rice, and whole barley, millet, and wheat berries; or traditionally processed, such as stone-ground bread, steel-cut oats, and natural granola or muesli breakfast cereals.
- Limit white potatoes and refined-grain products, such as white breads and white pasta, to small side dishes.
- Limit concentrated sweets—including high-calorie foods with a low glycemic index, such as ice cream—to occasional treats. Reduce fruit juice to no more than one-half cup a day. Completely eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Eat a healthful type of protein, such as beans, fish, or skinless chicken, at most meals.
- Choose foods with healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and avocados, but stick to moderate amounts. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Completely eliminate partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in fast food and many packaged foods.
- Have three meals and one or two snacks each day, and don't skip breakfast.
- Eat slowly and stop when full.
Adapted from Ending the Food Fight, by David Ludwig with Suzanne Rostler (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).
For more information on the essentials for a healthy diet and managing type 2 diabetes, buy Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, a Special Health Report from 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 or update 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.