Low glycemic diet – have you heard of such a thing? If you’re currently on the quest for fabulous skin – glycemic index is a must know. It sounds strange, it’s the kind of word spellcheck was invented for and it looks just a wee-bit complicated.
Trust me my friend – following a low glycemic diet is none of these things.
Let’s boot complicated.
Let’s shun strange.
Let’s… keep spell-check ‘eh.
A low glycemic diet is a fabulous approach to healthy eating for great skin. It can help to treat an oily/combination skin type, it can help calm acne, it can manage skin sensitivity, it can help avoid pimples, it can even delay fine lines and wrinkles.
A must know list ‘eh.
By the end of this article you will be a low glycemic diet pro – promise.
What Is a Low Glycemic diet?
A low glycemic diet is very simply a diet that follows something called the glycemic index. Think of it like a food ruler. Every food positioned on this ruler has a number between 0-100. The closer the food is to zero, the lower its glycemic value, the closer a food is to 100, the higher its glycemic value.
But what does glycemic mean? How can you use the glycemic index food ruler?
Do not worry my friend, this is very simple…
Glycemic is just a fancy way of saying blood-sugar… which is sometimes also called glucose – the same ingredient fast-action energy drinks like Lucozade contain.
Blood-sugar gives you energy and your body makes this energy from the food you eat.
Food in -> digestion activated -> blood glucose (and *cough* the other stuff) out.
Why Follow a Low Glycemic Diet?
Here comes food magic. Have you ever gotten a head rush after devouring a double… who are we kidding… an entire packet of double chocolate chip cookies? Have you ever experienced elastic-band feeling hunger pains precisely 1.5 hours after breakfast? How about post-lunch-slump, do you feel tired and lethargic after eating your pre-packed lunch?
All of these feelings are signs your diet contains a significant amount of high glycemic foods.
Apart from getting rid of these attention grabbing emotions, following a low glycemic diet has a huge amount of health benefits – we’re talking heart health, joint health and skin health.
Which is why you’re here ‘eh. To figure out how following a low glycemic diet can make miracles for your skin.
Let’s take a look…
- Acne, spots and pimples – inflammatory lesions caused in-part by an excess of sebum… and an excess of sebum is linked to 2 hormones, insulin and insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) – both of which are triggered in huge amounts by high glycemic foods.
- Oily/combination skin type – past your teenage years but still suffer with skin oiliness? High glycemic foods cause an increased release of sebum making hormones.
- Skin sensitivity – skin types prone to sensitivity react to stress by inflaming themselves… and high glycemic foods cause inflammation.
- Fine lines and wrinkles – have you heard of glycation? It’s the reason why people with diabetes have skin that looks much older than their years. Glycation is a reaction caused by high blood sugar, a reaction which hardens and cross-links important skin proteins such as collagen and elastin.
Truth be told, following a low glycemic diet will not just help you find great skin, it will also help you find great health, because when your skin glows on the outside, it’s a sure-fire sign your body is also glowing on the inside.
Examples of Low GI Foods
Following a low glycemic diet is really simple, there’s no fussy carb counting, no strict protein-carb nutrient balance to follow, no daily calories allowance either. A low glycemic diet has only one rule, eat more foods with a low GI. Eat few foods with a high GI.
Now to get started you need to know what ranks as a low GI food and what ranks as a high GI food. Let me get you those measurements dear friend;
- Low GI foods rank between 0-55
- Medium GI foods 56-69
- High GI foods 70-100
Let’s start with a few examples;
Foods with low glycemic index include;
- Beans (haricots, kidney beans, butter beans, black beans, pinto beans…)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Fresh apples
- Full fat milk (although for great skin, this is a food I’d recommend trialling an elimination of, for these other reasons)
- Brown rice
- Oat bran
High glycemic foods include foods like;
- White bread
- White potatoes
- Baked sweet potatoe/Yam
- Instant porridge
- White rice
- Energy drinks e.g. Lucozade, Gatorade
- French baguette
See these glycemic index charts for a complete list of low and high GI foods; Published in the journal of Diabetes Care 2008 – GI of over 2, 400 foods – part 1, part 2, the Diogenes GI Database (with downloadable glycemic index food list) – with lists for UK, Spanish, Greek, German, Dutch, Danish and Czech foods and a pre-split, easy scan list of low, medium and high GI foods per food group from the Low GI Health team.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 12 June 2017
Now you might of noticed a few foods that you thought of as healthy but actually rate as high on the glycemic index – strange ‘eh. Although most processed foods are high GI foods, not all natural foods are low GI foods. #MindBoggle
Low Glycemic Fruits
Fruits are living creatures, the older they are, aka the riper they are, the more highly they rate on the glycemic index. An un-ripe banana has a much lower GI than a very ripe banana – have you tasted both? Can you notice the difference?
Low glycemic fruits include;
Whereas, medium to high glycemic fruits include;
The key takeaway; Although processed foods are generally high glycemic foods, some fruits are also high glycemic foods – while there are fewer, when following a low glycemic diet, it’s important to know which fruits to avoid or eat only a little of.
Low Glycemic Vegetables
While we’re on healthy food group street, the same rings true for vegetables. There are lovely low glycemic vegetables and there are unhelpfully high glycemic vegetables. High glycemic vegetables will be broken down extremely quickly into blood sugar, causing high swings in your insulin hormones. Low glycemic vegetables will channel, a slowly but surely mental attitude, being broken down carefully and released as blood sugar gradually.
Examples of low glycemic vegetables include;
- Green beans
- Raw carrots
Whereas, medium to high glycemic vegetables include;
- Cooked carrots
The key takeaway; Did you clock carrots twice? Once as a low glycemic food and once as a medium-high glycemic food? Raw carrots are a go on a low glycemic diet, however cooked carrots change carrot chemistry… and this is true for many other foods. When you cook food, you break it down which makes it easier and quicker for your body to digest, sometimes cooking also creates more sugar e.g. browned ‘caramelised’ onions. Foods that taste sweeter after cooking, have usually got a higher GI than when eaten in their raw form.
Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load
If you’ve gotten clued up on all of the above, you my friend are already a low glycemic diet pro. On your quest to see the difference this makes to your skin, you’re likely to stumble across another glycemic phrase – glycemic load.
This can be super helpful when trying to decide if what your eating is ‘overall’ a low glycemic diet pick.
Imagine running yourself a yummily warn bath. You have the hot tap at maximum and the cold tap at half. The bath fills to the three-quarter mark and you slacken off both taps, dip your toes in an add a little more cold to take off that temperature edge. You get in and 10 minutes later, the hot taps back on for a top-up.
Getting the perfect temperature takes skill.
Crafting a low GI diet is similar. Following a low GI diet does not mean you can only eat low GI foods – there’s still cold water in a warm bath ‘eh.
What matters is the amount of medium to high glycemic foods you eat… and this is where glycemic load can be very helpful.
Glycemic load takes into account the amount of carbohydrates in foods per serving i.e. the amount of nutrients that will get broken down quickly into blood sugar.
This my friend is all about quantity – and you can work out the glycemic load of any food by using this calculation;
(Carbohydrate content (g) X Glycemic Index)/100 = A food’s glycemic load
Now the other thing to know is low, medium and high glycemic loads have a different measuring ruler than glycemic index. It’s like the difference between centimeters and inches.
- Low glycemic load foods rate 0 to 10
- Medium glycemic load foods – 11 to 19
- High glycemic load foods – 20 and over
The key takeaway: When you’re following a low glycemic diet, you can use your glycemic load savvy to understand how to treat yourself within the rules of a low glycemic diet. Plus a few treats never hurt anyone, it’s better to allow yourself than to deny and spend your entire evening thinking about chocolate!
Low Glycemic Diet for Great Skin
When your body is healthy on the inside, it glows on the outside. Skincare can help alleviate the symptoms of poor inner health, however if you don’t confront the cause, you’ll never see long-term improvement. You’re also likely to eventually feel, like the skincare you’ve chosen, isn’t helping.
Which is why the best approach to skincare is a careful combination of skincare products, diet and lifestyle. Of which diet has a huge impact.
A poor diet full of fried foods and processed foods e.g. high glycemic index foods will make you feel tired, down and energy-less. It will cause inflammation in your body, cause your heart stress (yes – that doesn’t just come from boys!) and often lead to bad skin.
A great diet full of low GI foods and healthy fats will give you energy, keep you fuller for longer and have you behaving like a spring chicken of age… It will also control your insulin release, resist hormonal swings and pave the way for great skin.
Which looks like skin that is less oily, skin that has smaller pores, skin that is less sensitive and skin that resists fine lines and wrinkles for longer. Not bad ‘eh.
What does your diet look like? Are you conscious of high and low glycemic foods? Wondering if your breakfast choices are an OK on the low glycemic diet? Ask me your questions in the comments below, looking forward to chatting…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.