If you lived through the fad diet trends of the 90s and 2000s, it’s probably hard-wired in your subconscious mind that carbs = bad and weight loss is only achieved through eating as little as possible.
For decades, these great lies have been sold to us by the diet industry, and, for decades, they have damaged our relationships with ourselves and with food.
But what if there was a way that we could reach our health goals without restrictive eating or cutting out any food groups? As a nutrition and fitness professional, I’m here to tell you it is possible. And—get this—backed by research. For many women, this looks like following a low glycemic diet.
A low glycemic diet involves eating more natural and unprocessed foods so your blood sugar doesn’t spike and cause health issues. It’s as simple as that.
So, let’s get into all you need to know about a low-glycemic diet and what it can mean for women’s health.
What is a low glycemic diet?
While the low glycemic diet was initially designed to help people living with diabetes, it’s really a great option for anyone wanting to support their blood sugar levels, lower their risk for cancer and heart disease, and support their overall health.
The core idea is to choose foods that won’t spike your blood sugar and cause you to crash later. These are known as low glycemic index (GI) foods and include fruits, leafy vegetables, legumes, dairy products, whole grain pasta, sourdough bread, and more.
The importance of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates— one of the main nutrients found in foods like bread, grains, rice, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and more— are a key factor in low glycemic diets. When your body breaks down the sugars and starches in carbohydrates, they turn into glucose. This is one of your body’s main sources of energy.
Some foods will break down and absorb into your bloodstream quicker than others. This can cause a sudden uptick and subsequent blood sugar drop.
A low glycemic diet aims to avoid these foods and, instead, opt for carbohydrates that will slowly and less dramatically impact your blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index
To determine which foods we need to prioritize, we need the glycemic index (GI). It is a measuring system that ranks foods according to their effect on blood sugar levels on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 representing pure glucose.
The three main categories for GI ratings are:
Low GI foods: 55 or less
Medium GI foods: 56-69
High GI foods: 70 or more
Ideally, you would opt for low-GI foods because your body will break them down more slowly, avoiding any sudden changes in your blood sugar. This can yield excellent results in the short term and lead to several health benefits throughout your life.
Benefits of low glycemic diet for women
There are several reasons why a person who doesn’t have diabetes would want to eat a low GI diet. For women, there are added benefits that can support us through all phases of life— especially in menopause.
More energy, without restrictive eating – No need to kiss carbs goodbye. You’ll feel fuller and more energetic, focusing on foods that nourish your body.
Help with menopause and insomnia – There is evidence that women who eat a high GI diet are more likely to experience more negative menopausal symptoms and insomnia.
Can help you lose weight – While there is no quick fix for healthy, sustainable weight loss, a low-glycemic diet can support you in achieving a healthy body weight over time.
Lower risk of disease – By regulating your blood sugar levels, low glycemic diets have been linked to decreased risk of diabetes, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of cancers like endometrial, colorectal, and breast cancer.
The science speaks for itself, but the thing that makes the low glycemic diet most effective is how simple it is to sustain over a long period.
Unlike other diets that call for cutting out entire food groups, limiting calories, and, more often than not, ruining our relationships with food, the low glycemic diet is more about making subtle changes.
Whereas fad diets are quick fixes that leave you hungry, depleted, and not any better than when you started, the low glycemic diet is a holistic approach to supporting your health.
Low GI foods
Remember when we said the low glycemic diet wouldn’t require you to cut out any food groups? Here are some examples of delicious and diverse low-GI foods.
Greens (spinach, kale, collards, beet)
Zucchini and crookneck squash
Whole wheat kernels
Whole grain pasta
Skim, low-fat, and whole milk
Cheese (cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, brie, feta, blue, goat, etc.)
Soy milk and yogurt
Beans and legumes
Beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.)
On our 0-100 glycemic index, meats and fish are a zero. This is because they do not contain carbohydrates and therefore do not create glucose in our bodies.
If you eat meat and fish, it’s important to prioritize them as a part of your diet to get sufficient protein — a nutrient that many women do not get enough of! You can also find protein in beans, legumes, dairy, protein powders, and meat alternatives.
High-GI foods to avoid
High-GI foods are typically processed and full of sugars and are not very nutritious for your body. Remember: You don’t need to say goodbye to these foods forever. You’ll just want to avoid making them a significant part of your diet.
Cakes, doughnuts, croissants, cookies, and other sweets
Other key health principles
So you know what foods you should avoid and those you should try to eat more of, but is there anything else you should know about a low-glycemic diet?
The less processed the food, the better. Try to eat as fresh and raw as possible.
Limit the amount of starchy, refined grain, and sugary foods.
Ensure you get enough meat, fish, or other protein-packed foods at every meal.
Your body needs fats. Good sources of healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish.
Drink plenty of water, eat slowly, and follow your hunger cues.
Prioritize movement and exercise (whatever that looks like for you)
The bottom line
Our blood sugar levels play a significant role in our overall health. They affect our energy levels, sleep quality, weight, cholesterol, risk of cancer and other diseases, and so much more. For women of all ages, but particularly those going through menopause, eating low-GI foods such as whole grains, leafy veggies, fruits, and other unprocessed foods, can also help with menopausal symptoms and insomnia.
Unlike other diets, the low-glycemic diet doesn’t require restrictive eating or cutting out food groups but focuses on non-processed, nutrient-dense foods.
Start your health journey today
Hey, I’m Luan from Sculpt & Glo Fitness. On top of teaching group fitness classes and personal training, I help everyday women see nutrition as an asset to their health and happiness rather than something to restrict.
My mission is to help teens, busy women, working moms, cancer survivors, and more gain confidence and find their glo wherever they are on their fitness and health journeys (including the very beginning!) I will meet you where you are in life through customized training and education.
I believe fitness is not a chore, it’s a choice! If you’re ready to take the leap, I’d love to help you realize your health goals.
If you have more questions about starting your fitness journey, schedule a free consultation call.