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Diabetes Health Center

Step 1 of 6
Action Set
Diabetes: Eating Low-Glycemic Foods

Eating low-glycemic foods is one tool to help keep your diabetes under control. The glycemic index is a rating system for foods that contain carbohydrate. It helps you know how quickly a food with carbohydrate raises blood sugar, so you can focus on eating foods that raise blood sugar slowly.

  • Foods that raise blood sugar slowly have a low glycemic index. Most of the carbohydrate-rich foods that you eat with this plan should be low or medium on the glycemic index.
  • Eating low-glycemic foods is most helpful when used along with another eating plan for diabetes, such as carbohydrate counting or the plate format. Counting carbs helps you know how much carbohydrate you're eating. The amount of carbohydrate you eat is more important than the glycemic index of foods in helping you control your blood sugar. The plate format helps you control portions and choose from a variety of foods.
  • The glycemic index of a food can change depending on the variety of the food (for example, red potato or white potato), its ripeness, how it is prepared (for example, juiced, mashed, or ground), how it is cooked, and how long it is stored.
  • People respond differently to the glycemic content of foods. And because many things affect the glycemic index, the only way to know for sure how a food affects your blood sugar is to check your blood sugar before and after you eat that food.
  • High-glycemic foods are rarely eaten by themselves, so the glycemic index might not be helpful unless you're eating a food by itself. Eating foods together changes their glycemic index.
  • Look at the overall nutrition in foods—and not just their glycemic index—when you plan meals. Some low-glycemic foods, such as ice cream, are high in saturated fat and should be eaten only now and then. And some high-glycemic foods, such as potatoes, have nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
  • Eating low-glycemic foods along with high-glycemic foods also can help keep your blood sugar from rising quickly.

 How do you follow a low-glycemic eating plan?

Up Next in This Action Set:


  1. Atkinson FS, et al. (2008). International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 31(12): 2281–2283.

  2. American Diabetes Association (2013). The Glycemic Index of Foods. Available online:

Other Works Consulted

  • American Diabetes Association (2013). Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 36(11): 3821–3842. DOI: 10.2337/dc13-2042. Accessed December 5, 2013.

  • American Diabetes Association (2013). The Glycemic Index of Foods. Available online:

  • Atkinson FS, et al. (2008). International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 31(12): 2281–2283.

  • Franz MJ (2012). Medical nutrition therapy for diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia of nondiabetic origin. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 675–710. St Louis: Saunders.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator

Current as ofJune 4, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: /2, 14 1
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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