Creating a gluten-free eating plan with foods that have a low glycemic index, or GI, can be a balancing act. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats that causes a severe autoimmune reaction in people with celiac disease. The starchy vegetables and grains that replace foods with gluten may have a high GI value, meaning that they can raise your blood sugar quickly after you eat them. Whether you have celiac disease or are eating gluten-free foods for other dietary reasons, you can keep your blood sugar stable by emphasizing low-GI gluten substitutes and increasing your intake of foods that are naturally gluten-free.
The glycemic index evaluates the effects of foods on your blood glucose levels. Foods that rank high on a scale of one to 100 raise your blood sugar rapidly, while foods that rank in the middle or at the lower end of the scale will have a less dramatic effect. Breads, cereals and desserts that contain refined wheat flour have a higher GI than the complex carbohydrates in vegetables, fruits, dried beans and minimally processed grains. Eating large quantities of high-GI foods can lead to chronically elevated blood glucose and insulin levels, which increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Grains and Starches
If you have a gluten intolerance, you can find a broad spectrum of familiar and exotic grains and starchy vegetables to replace wheat, rye and barley in your diet. Rice, millet, teff, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, potato and corn flour offer substitutes for wheat, rye and barley flour in breads, cereals and desserts. However, some of these foods may have a higher GI than their wheat-based equivalents, according to the Glycemic Index Foundation.
Legume flours, including flours made from soybeans and chickpeas, have a lower GI than potato or corn flours. Quinoa, basmati rice and sweet corn have moderate GI values. Pasta and bread made from buckwheat, quinoa or rice flour can satisfy your carbohydrate craving without spiking your blood sugar. To decrease the GI of rice or corn cereals and breads, add psyllium husks or buckwheat. Husks and hulls slow digestion and decrease a food’s impact on your blood sugar.
Many naturally gluten-free foods have low GI values, notes the Glycemic Index Foundation. Leafy vegetables, many fruits, and lean proteins such as chicken, fish and tofu will not affect your blood sugar significantly and all are gluten-free. These nutrient-rich foods also help replace the vitamins and minerals that you may be missing when you eliminate enriched wheat products from your diet, according to the American Dietetic Association.
You don’t have to give up your favorite high-GI, gluten-free foods, just eat them in moderation and balance them with proteins, unsaturated fats and low-GI complex carbohydrates, says the Glycemic Index Foundation. Work with your health care provider to design a gluten-free eating plan that will keep your blood glucose levels within a healthy range.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.