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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Energy That Lasts: Understanding the Glycemic Index

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Eating right not only means eating well and exercising, it also means choosing the best foods to benefit your body. With the right fuel you will have so much energy you won’t know what to do with it!

Snacks are important to bridge your energy from meal to meal. But the wrong snack can leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive—or even hungrier after eating it.  The secret? Look for things that are low on the glycemic index. 

The glycemic index (GI) is basically how quickly your blood sugar goes up and then drops in response to eating a food. High GI foods may make you feel good for about 20-30 minutes, but then you may experience a crash in energy. Low GI foods provide a longer lasting, more even energy level. High GI foods are usually processed, high in carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fiber, but there are many foods included in this group that may surprise you! Below is a list of foods that are low, moderate, and high on the glycemic index scale.

Low Glycemic Foods

Many fruits: Especially if they have skin or seeds (berries, apple, pear, cherries, peaches, etc.).

All nuts:  They have protein, fiber, and fat.  All low GI properties.

Meat or protein foods:  Yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, and all meets are low GI.

Moderate Glycemic Foods

Certain fruits:  Bananas, grapes, kiwi, mango, raisins

Chocolate:  The fat in chocolate brings the GI down to a moderate level instead of high.

Whole grains:  The fiber delays how quickly blood sugar rises.

High Glycemic Foods

White foods:  White rice, white bread, white potatoes.

Pretzels, rice cakes, low- or no-fiber crackers and cereals.

Candy, cakes, donuts, and cookies.

Just because there are foods on the medium or high glycemic list doesn’t mean you have to avoid them completely. Simply opt for a higher fiber version of the food (choose whole grain) or pair it with something fibrous or high in protein to balance out the carbohydrate level.

With the right combo of food at the right time, you can have boundless energy to do everything you want to fit into your day!

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Tags: Cooking Healthy , Protein , Sports Nutrition

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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