Taking care with what you eat is essential if you have diabetes.

The secret to the diabetic diet is not so much the quantity but the type of carbohydrate. Traditionally sugar was excluded from diabetic diets because it was thought to be the worst type of carbohydrate. This assumption was simply not correct.

Research began looking at all types of food and the release of sugar in the blood. The following was reported:

  • Potato increased blood sugar in the same way as table sugar.
  • Ice cream didn't increase the blood sugar

These findings let to the GI factor of foods. All foods have different GI values. The lower the GI value the slower glucose is released into the bloodstream.

Lowering the GI value of your diet is not as hard as it seems, because just about every carbohydrate food that you eat has an equivalent food with a low GI value.

Keeping the right foods in your kitchen when you have diabetes is an important part of keeping up with your diabetes management. We at Yes2Life provides some tips on how to keep your kitchen healthier with diabetes.

  • Plant healthy snacks within sight.
  • Keep a big fruit bowl on your kitchen table.
  • Keep water in the refrigerator.
  • Keep only whole grain, high fiber cereals, breads, pasta and brown rice around.

In addition, try to make healthy foods more appealing. For example, have nuts, low-fat muesli and fruits readily available to add some variety to yogurt; mix cocoa powder or sugar-free chocolate syrup with low-fat milk; and mix and match a colorful container full of fresh vegetables. Another good idea is to prepare leftovers, such as homemade soups. It helps to keep you from getting take-out when you don't have time to cook.

Fresh, cut-up vegetables, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, celery and carrots, are great snack choices mixed with light dips or low-fat mayonnaise.

Frozen vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli and cauliflower, are great ingredients to add to meals if you don't have a lot of time and still want to eat healthy.

Fresh fruits:

Apples, pears, oranges and berries are great high fiber, rich in vitamin snacks.

Frozen berries and other fruits are great ingredients for blending a smoothie or for adding to Frozen yogurt. They're also great choices to curve your sweet tooth.

Low-fat yogurt, milk and cheese:

These choices are good sources of protein and calcium. Whether eaten as part of a meal or as a snack, they are low-calorie, nutrient-dense food choices.

Low-fat peanut butter or other nut butters and soft margarines.

Nut butters are full of healthy fats and are very satisfying.

Soft margarines are usually added with cholesterol lowering benefits and are great substitutions for butter.

  • Cookies, pastries, candies, sugar-coated cereals
  • High-fat lunch and deli meats
  • Fried foods, chips, cream-based foods
  • Full Cream dairy products
  • Regular juices and sodas

These are all kilojoule-dense foods that provide no health benefits, promote weight gain and can contribute to poor oral health when you have diabetes. When more of these items are stocked in your kitchen, you tend to eat them more often. The "out of sight, out of mind" method will help you stay away from temptation.

  • Choose leaner cuts of meats
  • Eat fish twice a week. Good choices are salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
  • Limit processed food like hot dogs, ham, and deli meat.
  • Limit red meat to three times a week.
  • Buy extra lean ground beef or use ground turkey or chicken.
  • Eat a large amount of vegetables. Half your plate should be veggies at every meal.
  • Use cooking spray or small amounts of olive or canola oil instead of butter.
  • Grill, bake or stir fry instead of frying.
  • Steam vegetables in water or low sodium stock
  • Remove the skin before cooking chicken and turkey.
  • Trim any visible fat off of meat before cooking.
  • Use herbs and spices to season rather than salt.
  • Refrigerate soups, stews and gravy. Skim the fat off the surface before serving.
  • Rinse canned vegetables before cooking. Be careful of cross contamination. Don't use the same plate or container for raw and cooked food. Throw out anything left out for two hours or more.
  • Try low fat cheeses, skim or low-fat milk, and low-fat and non-fat yogurt.
  • Use low fat yoghurt when making cream sauces.
  • Cook with an egg substitute.
  • Use small amounts of trans fat-free margarine. Read more on Reading labels
High G.I. Food Low G.I. Alternative
Bread, whole meal or white Bread containing a lot of whole grains
Processed breakfast cereal Unrefined cereal such as oats and Sultana Bran
Plain biscuits and crackers Biscuits made with dried fruit and whole grains such as oats
Cakes and muffins Look for those made with fruit, oats, whole grains
Tropical fruits such as bananas Apples and stone fruits (peach/apricot)
Potato Substitute occasionally with pasta or legumes
Rice Try Basmati rice

So, making this type of change in the everyday diet does not mean that the diet has to be restrictive or impossible to eat. Many of your favourite recipes can be modified to lower their G.I. value. The first step is to become familiar with the G.I. value of a range of foods.

Take a critical look at your meals and consider how you could reduce the G.I. value. Perhaps you could try Sultana Bran for breakfast instead of corn flakes or Rice Crispies. At lunch time you could ask for a sandwich made from a bread based on whole grains instead of refined flour. For your evening meal, why not have pasta instead of potato and add some other low G.I. ingredients like legumes, sweet corn or peas. Changing one ingredient in a recipe can be enough to lower the G.I. value of the final dish.

In place of: Low G.I alternative
Bread (smooth textured) Substitute about 50% of the flour with whole or cracked grains. Good commercial brands, containing large amounts of whole grains, are available
Flour In baked goods, reduce the amount of flour, partially substituting with oat bran. rice bran, or rolled oats even whole wheat flower
Rice Try Basmati rice, or pearled barley, quick-cooking wheat, buckwheat, bulgur, couscous, instant noodles
Potato Sweet potato, Basmati rice, pasta, sweet corn
Sugar Try apple juice or dried fruit to sweeten. Honey also has a slightly lower G.I.
Bananas, mango, paw-paw, pineapple, melon and other tropical fruits have higher G.I. value Try apples, cherries, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, and other temperate-climate fruits more often or combine with a higher G.I. fruit to get an intermediate G.I. effect

In recipes for: Low G.I alternative
Soup Add lentils, barley, split peas, haricot beans and pasta - make minestrone!
Casseroles Try substituting kidney beans, beans or lentils for a portion of the meat
Rissoles or meat loaf Add cooked lentils, canned beans or rolled oats in combination with the minced meat

This glossary describes some of the key foods that can form part of your diet.

Food G.I values Guidelines
Apples 38 Easy-to-incorporate into the diet as a low G.I. food - average apple will add 3 grams of fibre to your diet. They are also high in pectin, which lowers their G.I. factor.
Apple juice 40 The main sugar in apples is fructose (6.5 %) which itself has a low G.I. The high concentration of fructose is known to slow the rate of stomach emptying, hence slowing the absorption and lowering G.I.
Apricots Fresh: 57
Canned: 64
Dried: 31
Apricots are an excellent source of ß-carotene and dried apricots in particular are high in potassium. Like apples, they are high in fructose (5.1 %), which lowers their G.I.
Barley 25 'Pearled' barley, which has had the outer brown layers removed, is most commonly used. It is high in soluble fibre, which probably contributes to its low G.I. Available in supermarkets.
Basmati rice 58 Has a low G.I. attributable to the type of starch it contains (high amylose starch). Available in supermarkets. Try to find the brown Basmati Rice.
Breakfast Cereals The high degree of cooking and processing of commercial breakfast cereals tend to make the starch in them more rapidly digestible, giving a higher G.I.Less processed cereals (muesli, rolled oats, maize, maltabella ) tend to have lower G.I. values.Sultana Bran and All Bran, although processed, are not made from millet starch but large flakes of raw bran.
Buckwheat 54 Buckwheat is available from health food stores and some supermarkets. It can be cooked as porridge or steamed and served with vegetables, in place of rice. It can also be ground and used as flour for making pancakes and pasta. Buckwheat in this form is likely to have a higher G.I. than when whole.
Bulgar 48 Is made by roughly grinding previously cooked and dried wheat. Most commonly recognised as a main ingredient in tabbouli. The intact physical form of the wheat contributes to its low G.I.
Cherries 22 The G.I. for cherries is based on European cherries. Australian cherries, which are 6,1 % glucose and 4.2 % fructose may have a higher G.I. value.
Custard 43 Made with milk, so provides calcium, protein and B vitamins plus a little sugar, vanilla flavouring and a starch thickener (Mazina)
Fruit loaf 47 Available in wholemeal and white varieties but choose the heavy types. Also Date, carrot or banana bread
Grapefruit 25 The low G.I. factor of grapefruit may be due to their high acid content, which slows absorption from the stomach.
Grapes 46 An equal mix of fructose and glucose and a high acid content are characteristics of fruits with a low G.I. Grapes are a good example.
Ice cream 61 Most dairy products have very low G.I. factors. When we eat dairy foods a hard protein curd forms in the stomach and slows down its emptying. This has the effect of slowing down absorption and lowering the G.I. factor.
Kiwi 52 Kiwifruit contain equal proportions of glucose and fructose giving a reasonably low G.I. They are also a wonderful source of vitamin C with one kiwifruit meeting the total recommended daily intake.
Legumes 14-56 Also known as pulses. These include dried peas, beans and lentils, mostly with a G.I. factor of 50 or less.Canned varieties have a slightly higher G.I. than their home-cooked counterpart due to the higher temperature during processing.Soya beans have one of the lowest G.I. values, possibly due to their higher protein and fat content. The viscous fibre in legumes reduces physical availability of starch to digestive enzymes.
Cow's Milk 27 Lactose, the sugar occurring naturally in milk, is a disaccharide, which must be digested into its component sugars before absorption.
Soy Milk 43 100 ml Soy milk contains 4.5 gram carbohydrates, 3.5 gram fat and 3.5 gram protein.
Try to use 100% soy milk in combination with cow milk in your recipes.
Oat Bran and Oats 55 Unprocessed oat bran is available in the cereal section of supermarkets, usually loosely packed in plastic bags. Its carbohydrate content is lower than that of oats and it is higher in fibre, particularly soluble fibre, which is probably responsible for its low G.I.
A soft, bland product, it is useful as a partial substitution for flour in baked goods to lower the G.I.
Oranges 44 Well known as a good source of vitamin C, most of the sugar content of oranges is sucrose. This, and their high acid content, probably accounts for their low G.I.
Pasta 32-64 Pasta is made from hard wheat semolina with a high protein content, which gives a strong dough. Protein starch interactions and minimal disruption to the starch granules during processing contribute to the low G.I. There is some evidence that thicker pasta has a lower G.I. than thin types.
Peach Fresh: 42
Canned: 30
Most of the sugar in peaches is sucrose (4,7 %). Other aspects like their acid and fibre content account for their low G.I.
Peanut 14 A low carbohydrate but high fat food, being 50% fat and 25% protein, which is one reason for the low G.I. value.
Pear Fresh:38
Another fruit with a high fructose (6.7%) content, accounting for the low G.I.
Peas 48 Peas are high in fibre and also higher in protein than other vegetables. Protein-starch interactions may contribute to their lower G.I. They also average 3.5% sucrose giving them a sweet flavour
Pineapple Juice 46 Mainly sucrose (7.9%).
Pita Bread 57 Unleavened flat bread was found to have a slightly lower G.I. than regular bread in a Canadian study. Sold in supermarkets in packets of flat rounds.
Plums 39 The G.I. for plums comes from a European study. Plums contain a fairly equal mixture of glucose, fructose and sucrose. This may account for the low G.I.
Popcorn 55 A surprisingly low G.I. for a processed product. The type of starch or changes to its structure in the popping and cooling of the popcorn may be the cause of the lower G.I. Popcorn is a high fibre snack food.
Porridge 42-66 Published G.I. factors range from a low 42 up to 66 for 'one minute oats'. The additional cutting of rolled oats to produce quick cooking oats probably increases the rate of digestion causing a higher G.I.
Potato 56-83 In potatoes the amylose (slowly digested starch) varies with variety. The branching of amylopectin increases as potatoes mature, thus potatoes harvested from August onwards have more highly branched amylopectin and are likely to be more digestible, giving a higher G.I., while new potatoes may have a lower G.I.
Boiled potatoes eaten hot are more digestible than boiled potatoes eaten cold. Reheating increases digestibility a little. The lowest G.I. potatoes are likely to be those from the early part of the harvest (new potatoes) and those eaten cold, e.g. as part of cold potato salad.
Quick Cooking Wheat 54 Whole wheat grains, which have been physically treated to allow, short cooking times. It is most often used as a substitute for rice. The whole grain structure also acts as a barrier and so reduces its digestibility and hence lowers the G.I.
Rice Bran 19 Rich in fibre (25% by weight) and oil (20% by weight), rice bran has an extremely low G.I.
Spaghetti 41 While both fresh and dried pastas have a low G.I., this is not the case for canned spaghetti. Canned spaghetti is generally made from flour rather than high protein semolina and is very well cooked - two factors which are likely to give it a high G.I.
Sultanas 56 Sultanas are less acidic than grapes and this may account for their slightly higher G.I. since increased acidity is associated with lower G.I. factors.
Sweet Corn 55 Fresh, frozen or canned varieties would be suitable to use. Corn on the cob has a lower G.I. than corn chips or cornflakes. The intact whole kernel makes enzymatic attack more difficult.
Sweet Potato 54 Belonging to a different plant family to regular potato, sweet potatoes are mainly available either white or yellow/orange in colour. The 'sweetness' comes from a high sucrose content. Sweet potato is high in fibre. It has a lower G.I. than ordinary varieties.
Yoghurt 33 A concentrated milk product soured by the use of specific bacteria.
All varieties have a low G.I., including those containing sugar. Artificially sweetened brands both have a lower G.I. factor contain fewer kilojoules.

Mopanie Worm, Dried - 10g Fibre

Oats Rolled, Raw - 10g Fibre

Peace, dried roll - 10g Fibre

Grinadilla, Raw - 11g Fibre

Fig, candied - 11g Fibre

Nuts Pistachio - 11g Fibre

Almond, dried - 11g Fibre

Oat Bran, Raw - 11g Fibre

Almond, unsalted - 11g Fibre

Apricot, Dried Roll - 11g Fibre

Rye Crispbread, (Ryevita) - 12g Fibre

Fruit Roll, Dried - 12g Fibre

Popcorn, Plain - 12g Fibre

Cereals, weet-bix - 12g Fibre

Tomato, Sun Dried - 12g Fibre

Flour, Whole Wheat - 13g Fibre

Wheat Germ - 13g Fibre

Chestnut, Roasted - 13g Fibre

Soy bean Flour - 14g Fibre

Chick Peas, Dried, raw - 15g Fibre

Lentils, split, Raw - 16g Fibre

Peas Split, Raw - 17g Fibre

Cereals, Pronutro, Plain - 18g Fibre

Guava, Roll, Dried - 18g Fibre

All Bran Flakes - 19g Fibre

Beans, White Kidney, Dried, Raw - 19g Fibre

Beans, Sugar, Dried, Raw - 19g Fibre

Lentils, whole, Raw - 21g Fibre

Cereals, Pronutro, Whole Wheat - 22g Fibre

Beans, Haricot, Dried, Raw - 25g Fibre

Linseed - 30g Fibre

Cereals, Hi Bulk - 35g Fibre

Bran, Wheat - 42g Fibre

Lentils, split, cooked - 55g Fibre

Glycaemic index and glycaemic load offer information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food's glycaemic index or glycaemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Here you'll find a list of the glycaemic index and glycaemic load for more than 100 common foods.

FOOD Glycaemic index (glucose = 100) Serving size (grams) Glycaemic load per serving
Banana cake, made with sugar 47 60 14
Banana cake, made without sugar 55 60 12
Sponge cake, plain 46 63 17
Vanilla cake made from packet mix with vanilla frosting 42 111 24
Apple, made with sugar 44 60 13
Apple, made without sugar 48 60 9
Bagel, white, frozen 72 70 25
Baguette, white, plain 95 30 15
Hamburger bun 61 30 9
Pumpernickel bread 56 30 7
50% cracked wheat kernel bread 58 38 12
White wheat flour bread 71 30 10
Whole wheat bread, average 71 30 9
Pita bread, white 68 30 10
Corn tortilla 52 50 12
Wheat tortilla 30 50 8
Coca Cola®, average 63 250 mL 16
Fanta®, orange soft drink 68 250 mL 23
Lucozade®, original (sparkling glucose drink) 95±10 250 mL 40
Apple juice, unsweetened, average 44 250 mL 30
Cranberry juice cocktail (Ocean Spray®) 68 250 mL 24
Gatorade 78 250 mL 12
Orange juice, unsweetened 50 250 mL 12
Tomato juice, canned 38 250 mL 4
All-Bran™, average 55 30 12
Coco Pops™, average 77 30 20
Cornflakes™, average 93 30 23
Cream of Wheat™ (Nabisco) 66 250 17
Cream of Wheat™, Instant (Nabisco) 74 250 22
Grapenuts™, average 75 30 16
Muesli, average 66 30 16
Oatmeal, average 55 250 13
Instant oatmeal, average 83 250 30
Puffed wheat, average 80 30 17
Raisin Bran™ (Kellogg's) 61 30 12
Special K™ (Kellogg's) 69 30 14
Pearled barley, average 28 150 12
Sweet corn on the cob, average 60 150 20
Couscous, average 65 150 9
Quinoa 53 150 13
White rice, average 89 150 43
Quick cooking white basmati 67 150 28
Brown rice, average 50 150 16
Whole wheat kernels, average 30 50 11
Bulgur, average 48 150 12
Vanilla wafers 77 25 14
Shortbread 64 25 10
Rice cakes, average 82 25 17
Rye crisps, average 64 25 11
Soda crackers 74 25 12
Ice cream, regular 57 50 6
Ice cream, premium 38 50 3
Milk, full fat 41 250mL 5
Milk, skim 32 250mL 4
Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit, average 33 200 11
Apple, average 39 120 6
Banana, ripe 62 120 16
Dates, dried 42 60 18
Grapefruit 25 120 3
Grapes, average 59 120 11
Orange, average 40 102 4
Peach, average 42 120 5
Peach, canned in light syrup 40 120 5
Pear, average 38 120 4
Pear, canned in pear juice 43 120 5
Prunes, pitted 29 60 10
Raisins 64 60 28
Watermelon 72 120 4
Baked beans, average 40 150 6
Blackeye peas, average 33 150 10
Black beans 30 150 7
Chickpeas, average 10 150 3
Chickpeas, canned in brine 38 150 9
Navy beans, average 31 150 9
Kidney beans, average 29 150 7
Lentils, average 29 150 5
Soy beans, average 15 150 1
Cashews, salted 27 50 3
Peanuts, average 7 50 0
Fettucini, average 32 180 15
Macaroni, average 47 180 23
Spaghetti, white, boiled, average 46 180 22
Spaghetti, white, boiled 20 min, average 58 180 26
Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled, average 42 180 17
Corn chips, plain, salted, average 42 50 11
Microwave popcorn, plain, average 55 20 6
Potato chips, average 51 50 12
Pretzels, oven-baked 83 30 16
Green peas, average 51 80 4
Carrots, average 35 80 2
Parsnips 52 80 4
Baked russet potato, average 111 150 33
Boiled white potato, average 82 150 21
Instant mashed potato, average 87 150 17
Sweet potato, average 70 150 22
Yam, average 54 150 20
Hummus (chickpea salad dip) 6 30 0
Chicken nuggets, frozen, reheated in microwave oven 5 min 46 100 7
Pizza, plain baked dough, served with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce 80 100 22
Pizza, Super Supreme (Pizza Hut) 36 100 9
Honey, average 61 25 12

An earlier version of this table appeared here: "International tables of glycaemic index and glycaemic load values: 2002," by Kaye Foster-Powell, Susanna H.A. Holt, and Janette C. Brand-Miller in the July 2002 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 62, pages 5-56.