Slow-carb diets swap “bad carbs” for “good carbs”
based on the glycemic index (GI), a system of ranking carbohydrates—low,
medium, and high—based on their tendency to spike your blood sugar.
Foods with a GI index of 55 or below are low, those with a score between
55 and 70 are medium, and those over 70 are high. The higher the index,
the greater the kick.
The index was originally developed to help people with diabetes. It has
become increasingly popular as a weight-loss regimen because nutritionists
made the connection between changes in your blood sugar level and how
hungry you are, says
Brenda Manfredi, MD, a family medicine physician with
Annadel Medical Group in Windsor. “Managing blood sugar is a useful addition to daily
exercise in regulating your weight, because the more your blood sugar
drops, the quicker you become hungry again,” Dr. Manfredi says.
There are two reasons why low-GI carbs, or “slow carbs,” can
help you lose weight, says Dr. Manfredi. “Because they take longer
to digest than high-GI carbs, slow carbs have a less intense impact on
your blood sugar, and they keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.”
Vegetables sit on the low end of the GI scale, fruits tend to be low or
medium, and breads and starches sit near the top. For example, celery
boasts a GI of 0, a half cup of raisins has a GI of 64, and a baked potato
weighs in at 85. But there is a huge variation in between, and the index
varies based on how food is processed. It can be easy for a GI dieter
to become preoccupied with number crunching. Dr. Manfredi says, “Many
people have a hard time sticking to a diet when they have to pay attention
to a lot of rules, and comparing indexes can be time-consuming.”
Dr. Manfredi recommends these simple steps for low-GI success:
Use GI to make smart offsets. Find creative ways to pair higher GI foods with lower GI foods for a more
balanced dish. Breakfast cereal, which is high-GI, can be topped with
strawberries instead of sugar. Try including fats and proteins when you
eat something sugary. Dr. Manfredi suggests snacking on a few slices of
cheese with some grapes or having some peanut butter-stuffed celery sticks
with an apple. “The fruit contains fiber, and the cheese and peanut
butter add fats; fiber and fats both slow digestion,” Dr. Manfredi says.
Switch to more unprocessed foods. Pick whole grains over refined grains, and give the boot to refined sugars.
A useful image to keep in mind is granularity. “The bigger the food
particles, the slower they will be digested, and the slower the sugar
will be absorbed into the blood,” says Dr. Manfredi. The more processed
the food is, the finer its ‘grains,’ and the quicker it is
absorbed. “Think of steel-cut oats or wheat-berry bread. You can
see the bulk, so you know it will take more time for your system to break
down the carbs.” White sugar, on the other hand, enters the bloodstream
Don’t get bogged down in the numbers. Dr. Manfredi reiterates that the key to getting the most out of any diet
is to think about the big picture. “Low-GI eating is a guide for
choosing food. Think of it as a tool in your toolbox, like counting calories.
Just because a food has a low glycemic index doesn’t mean it’s
okay to fill up on it.” For example, two ounces of potato chips
ranks low, with a GI index of 54, but they’re full of salt and fat.
“Focus on being conscious of how your blood sugar level influences
your hunger and work to choose the foods that don’t lead to hunger
spikes,” Dr. Manfredi says.
To learn more about Annadel Medical Group, click
here. To learn more about Dr. Manfredi, click
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.