There are many foods that give you a brief sugar rush before you come crashing down. In fact, it’s probably the case with more foods than you think! Luckily, the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) exist to help us navigate this tricky terrain of keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Let’s find out how certain fruits with low GI and GL can help you to regulate your blood glucose.
- The glycemic index (GI) denotes the rate at which carbohydrates play an effect on our blood glucose levels,
- The lower the GI score of a food item, the slower the blood sugar rise, while foods with a higher GI score are broken down faster by the body resulting in a faster rise,
- There are plenty of fruits that help regulate blood sugar levels which can be consumed as a whole or made into a smoothie to reap the benefits.
What Is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) tells us how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods will affect our blood glucose level when eaten on their own.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), GI scores are categorized into low, moderate and high, as follows:
Low GI: ≤ 55 / Low GL ≤ 10
Moderate GI: 56 -69 / Moderate GL: 11-19
High GI: ≥ 70 / High GL ≥ 20
The lower the GI score of a food item, the slower your blood sugar will rise after consuming it, which helps the body to better manage post-meal changes. By contrast, if a food has a high GI score, then it is rapidly digested and metabolized, causing considerable fluctuations in blood glucose levels.
High GI foods—which are broken down quickly by the body—can include sugary foods and white carbs among a number of other things. As an example, pure sugar has a GI score of 100, white rice has a GI score of 64 and peanuts have a low score of just 14, meaning that the latter is more helpful in regulating blood glucose levels.
There are a number of factors that can determine a food’s GI score, including the type of sugar it carries and its ripeness among a host of other factors.
Another useful scale of measurement is the glycemic load (GL), which takes into account the GI plus the grams of carbohydrates in a particular food. A glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium and 10 or under is low.
Research reveals that a low GI diet may result in weight loss, reduce blood sugar levels and lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Diets higher in GI have also been correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Here are a few low GI fruits that are known to regulate your blood glucose.
Nine fruits with a low GI & GL score
Grapefruit’s GI score is particularly low at just 25, with its GL score of 3 also quite low, so it is especially good for you if you’re trying to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels. In order to take full advantage of grapefruit’s low GI, you need to eat it without any added sugar, even if it’s a little tart.
Before adding grapefruit to your diet, it’s best to check with your doctor how it may interact with any prescription medication that you are on.
Studies have shown that strawberries may be beneficial to blood sugar management by enhancing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose clearance from one’s blood.
Their GI score is towards the higher end of the low scores at 41, but they’re still great for blood glucose management. Their GL score is also very low, coming in at 3, highlighting their many benefits! Strawberries are also rich in vitamin C, even more so than oranges, so they’re essentially bursting with goodness!
Cherries are absolute winners when it comes to having a low GI score, at just 20, with a low GL score of 6.
As cherries are often not in season, you can also snack on canned tart cherries, which tend to have a GI of around 41. Just make sure they’re not packed with sugar, as that cancels out their low GI benefit.
Another berry that makes the list is the rich, red raspberry. A 2019 study suggested that eating two cups of raspberries alongside a high carb meal was helpful in reducing post-meal insulin and blood sugar.
They’re also packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Eat them by themselves or chuck them into a smoothie to get your day started the right way. Fibre aids digestion controls blood sugar and lowers cholesterol. While apples, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries and blackberries are high in fibre, raspberries come out on top with the highest volume of soluble fibre (8 gm per cup).
With a GI of 42, peaches are one of the best fruits when it comes to helping you regulate your blood glucose. Their GL score is also very low at just 5 points. It is worth noting that in order to benefit from the low GI of a peach, you have to eat the fruit whole; canned peaches or peach juice will not have the same effect because according to the Harvard School of Public Health, in these other forms its GI rises to 52.
Peaches are also bursting with vitamins, counting ten different ones including vitamins A and C, as well as packing in iron and potassium.
Grapes do sit at the higher end of the low GI scale, but that doesn’t mean you should discount them. Their GI score is 53, making them entirely safe for people trying to regulate their blood glucose levels. Besides, their GL score is only 5.
A study of 187,000 people found that a higher intake of particular fruits, including grapes, was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Grapes are also full of fibre, as with many fruits that have edible skin. Furthermore, they contain vitamin B6, which supports brain function and regulates mood hormones.
Despite the fact that oranges are sweet, studies suggest that they don’t affect blood sugar levels as much as some other sweet fruits like overly ripe bananas and watermelons.
Eating whole citrus fruits such as oranges is thought to improve insulin sensitivity. Additionally, they reduce your HbA1c, which is your average blood glucose level over the last two to three months, thus also protecting you against the development of diabetes.
Apples are a popular fruit the world over, and with good reason, given that they have a GI score of just 39 and a GL score of 5.
They contain soluble fibre and plant compounds, including gallic acid, chlorogenic acid and quercetin, all of which may contribute to reduced blood glucose, in turn helping to protect against diabetes.
In fact, a preliminary study of eighteen women found that eating an apple half an hour before consuming a carbohydrate-heavy rice-based meal contributed to a significant reduction in post-meal blood glucose levels when compared to eating rice without an apple preceding it. They are also immensely beneficial for gut health.
The next fruit to make our low GI score list is plums, at 40, with a GL score of a mere 2!
However, it’s important to keep in mind that prunes (dried plums) have a higher GI score, so if you’re planning on snacking on those, then make sure to do so in moderation. This is because dried fruits have all their water removed, making their carbohydrate content higher and increasing their GI score. Their GL score is still low, at just 9.
The glycemic index (GI) tells us how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods will affect our blood glucose level when eaten on their own. Keeping that in mind, there are plenty of fruits that you can enjoy when you are trying to regulate your blood sugar. From apples to strawberries, plums to oranges, you’re sure to find a fruit that is to your taste on this list.
Just remember, if a fruit is too tart for you, don’t add extra sugar to it since that will increase its GI score, thus lessening its advantageous effects on your health. Also, if you’re opting for the dried version of a fruit, make sure to do so in moderation, as dried fruits have a higher GI score due to their higher carbohydrate content.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.