Low-Glycemic Foods List Guide

Reviewed on 9/4/2020

What is a glycemic index?

It is better to eat foods that have a low gycemic index to support health.
It is better to eat foods that have a low gycemic index to support health.

Glycemic index (GI) is a numeric value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they can increase your blood glucose levels. It is a rating system for carbohydrate-containing foods. Foods having a low GI are the ones that tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. By contrast, foods that fall high on the GI scale release glucose rapidly.

Foods with a low GI help to facilitate weight loss and promote satiety. People who have or are at a risk of diabetes should eat foods with a low GI. This is because they tend to have low amounts of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or a high degree of resistance to insulin (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is the hormone that keeps the blood glucose levels under check. In its absence, blood sugars may increase when a person eats high-glycemic foods. Low-glycemic foods release sugar gradually and thus will prevent an abrupt increase in blood sugar.

High-glycemic foods help with energy recovery after exercise. High-glycemic foods also aid recovery from low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia).

GI is assigned with reference to pure glucose that is arbitrarily given a GI of 100. Thus, if a food has a GI of 30, it means it will boost blood glucose by only 30% compared with pure glucose.

What value constitutes a low glycemic index?

Low glycemic index (GI) refers to a GI value of 55 or less. Low-GI foods include most fruits and vegetables, whole or minimally processed grains, beans, pasta, low-fat dairy products and nuts.

Foods with a GI of 56 to 69 come under the category of moderate-GI foods. They include potatoes, white rice, corn, couscous and breakfast cereals such as Mini-Wheats and Cream of Wheat.

High GI means a GI of 70 or more. Foods with high GI include white bread, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, rice cakes, most crackers, bagels, croissants and most packaged breakfast cereals.

Which are the low-glycemic foods?

Some of the common low-glycemic foods are as follows

Most vegetables

  • Green peas
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Leafy greens such as spinach, collards, kale, and beet
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Bok choy
  • Artichokes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers including bell peppers and jalapeno
  • Zucchini 
  • Crookneck squash
  • Snow peas
  • Mushrooms

Certain fruits

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Plum
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Dried apricots
  • Unripe banana
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Grapefruit
  • Cranberries
  • Blueberries

Whole or minimally processed grains

  • Barley
  • Whole wheat 
  • Oat bran and rice bran cereals
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Whole-grain pumpernickel bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Wheat tortilla

Dairy and dairy-substitute products

  • Plain yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk 
  • Soy milk and yogurt


  • Nuts and nut butters 
  • Seeds such as pumpkin, chia, sunflower and flax seeds
  • Poultry such as chicken and turkey
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Meat such as beef and pork
  • Oils such as extra virgin olive oil and canola oil
  • Fats such as lard, shortening and butter
  • Mayonnaise


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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