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Los Angeles Longevity & Functional Medicine Doctor

Dr. Allan Kurtz

Board Certified Internal Medicine
Fellowship in Functional Medicine

Heart Attack and Stroke
Prevention Center of Southern California

Health Tips Blog

Mediterranean Low Glycemic Load Diet

By: California Center of Longevity & Functional Medicine on April 14, 2016

Welcome to the Mediterranean-style Low Glycemic Load Diet

Eating Guidelines

Mediterranean-style Low Glycemic Load DietRationale
Not all foods have the same impact on our blood sugar and insulin.  The glycemic index or GI is a way to measure the difference in the effect of carbohydrate-containing foods by their impact on blood glucose levels.  The goal is to select foods that are low in GI so that only small fluctuations are produced in blood glucose and insulin levels.  The diet presented to you in this booklet provides you with a list of allowable foods that are low in GI (with one category classified as “moderate”).  Additionally, the concept of glycemic load (GL) takes into account the quantity of food consumed.  Overall, it is most important to know that eating foods that are low in GI or portions low in GL helps to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day.  When your blood sugar is stabilized, you will have less hunger and cravings, along with better health results overall.
The following concepts are important to understand:
  1. Mediterranean-style Low Glycemic Load DietNuts must be limited to 1 scant handful or Tbsp. nut butter.  When you first start this program consider this category as optional.  Some people know that they tend to over eat nuts and find it difficult to stop at a handful or 2 Tbsp. of nut butter.  If you would find these limitations challenging, feel free to omit this category until your cravings are under control.  However, long term, it is a good idea to incorporate about ½ to 1 oz. of nuts in your eating regimen since they contain healthy fats and protein.  A number of studies have shown that eating nuts on a daily basis leads to decreased risk for heart disease.
  2. At least 1 serving of legumes per day is important, but additional amounts are encouraged.  Green peas and hummus are delicious legumes for those who are not used to this vegetable protein.  Garbanzos (chick peas) and kidney beans may also be used to enhance your salads.
  3. It is necessary to eat at least 3-4 more servings of veggies, in category 1 (low GI). 1 or 2 servings of category 2 (moderate GI) veggies are also encouraged.  These are the only category of “moderate GI” foods on this program.  They are included because they contain important healthful plant compounds.  Please avoid Russet-type (Idaho) potatoes and corn in particular, as they are high in GI.
  4. Initially, fruit is unlimited, and you may use them to stave off the hunger and cravings that you may have at the start of this program.  Those cravings should disappear before a week is up.  After this period passes, be judicious about fruit.  Longer-term, 2-3 servings per day are probably best.  Note that bananas, a common fruit favorite, are not on the list of allowable fruits due to their high GI.
  5. Dairy foods are optional, but if you choose to eat them, aim for low-fat sources.  Note that yogurt is often sweetened with added sugars.  We ask that you choose low-fat, plain yogurts.  While cheeses are officially considered dairy products most are not included in the dairy category due to their low carbohydrate content.  You will find certain lower fat cheeses in the concentrated protein category, except for nonfat feta cheese which also has no fat.  This is considered to be a dairy product.  You will also see that soy and almond milk beverages are also included in this category since they are a “dairy-like” food containing carbohydrate, fat and protein.  Be sure to use a brand of soy or almond milk that has no added sugar.
  6. It is critical that you limit grains to 1 serving daily.  In fact, it may be wise to avoid all grains for the first week or two, if you feel that these are trigger foods (“stimulate you to eat”) for you.  The lowest GI grains to use are barley, or low carbohydrate tortillas that are available in most grocery stores.
  7. Protein is also important to stave off hunger; be sure to eat enough of these foods.  Eggs have been avoided by many in the past, but are healthy and satisfying protein food.  Animal proteins that are low in saturated fat are good choices, as is tofu.
  8. Many people fear eating fat, however there are some fats that our body requires since we cannot make them (“essential fats” like omega-3s).  Have at least 4 servings of oils, including olives and avocado.
  9. Mediterranean-style Low Glycemic Load DietAVOID all sugars in these forms: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup (solids), sucrose, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt, dextrose, glucose, molasses, sorbitol, evaporated cane juice, honey, and brown sugar.  Sugar is added to many prepared foods so you must read all labels, especially for such foods as spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, prepared meals, and canned soups and vegetables.
  10. Alternative sweeteners such as agave nectar or stevia have a very low glycemic index.  These sweeteners place less stress on the body’s glucose/insulin balancing mechanism; and are acceptable in small amounts.
  11. Use of artificial sweeteners is not allowed.  This is incudes NutraSweet ® (Aspartame), Splenda® (Sucralose), Acesulfame-K (Ace-K, Sweet One, Sunnett), and Sweet N’ Low ®. Artificial sweeteners usually encourage our taste buds to desire more sweet tasting foods, with a consequence of overeating.  Additionally, there is an ongoing debate as to whether their long-term ingestion is healthy.
  12. A modest amount of caffeinated coffee or tea (1-2 cups/day) and wine (1 drink daily) will not disrupt your program.  However, for the latter you should take into account that extra calories consumed.  We do not encourage wine intake if you do not already drink.
  13. Increase daily water intake.
** As with any diet or modification to your health and wellness plan, please consult with your medical professional before beginning this Mediterranean-style Low Glycemic Load Diet.