Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Good Carb Cookbook: Secrets of Eating Low on the Glycemic Index

The Good Carb Cookbook: Secrets of Eating Low on the Glycemic Index

4.0 27
by Sandra Woodruff

See All Formats & Editions

A complete guide and cookbook to selecting and using the best carbohydrates to lose weight, maintain blood sugar levels, and improve overall health.


Not all carbs are created equal. In fact, the latest dietary research shows that different carbohydrates have varying effects on the body, depending on the rate at which they raise blood sugar levels--also


A complete guide and cookbook to selecting and using the best carbohydrates to lose weight, maintain blood sugar levels, and improve overall health.


Not all carbs are created equal. In fact, the latest dietary research shows that different carbohydrates have varying effects on the body, depending on the rate at which they raise blood sugar levels--also known as a food's glycemic index (GI). Choosing a balance of foods that are low on the GI will speed weight loss and control diabetes, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease.


In The Good Carb Cookbook, Sandra Woodruff demystifies the carbohydrate confusion by explaining the real differences among carbohydrates (baked potatoes are high on the index, while sweet potatoes are low), and shares her secrets for eating low on the index. The book includes an invaluable table with hundreds of common foods and their glycemic index rating; more than two hundred recipes to get people cooking and eating low on the index; and tips to modify high-glycemic family favorites with low-glycemic ingredients, lose weight, maintain blood sugar, and achieve optimal health.

Editorial Reviews

In The Good Carb Cookbook, nutritionist Sandra Woodruff shares the secrets of eating low on the glycemic index with this collection of more than 200 delicious, kitchen cook friendly recipes incorporating the finest carbohydrate choices to control hunger while aiding weight loss, maintaining blood sugar levels, and improving overall health. From Spring Vegetable Omelet; Southwestern Pinto Bean Soup; Orzo Shrimp Salad; and Zucchini & Mushroom Saute; to Broccoli-Macaroni Bake; Grilled Ginger Fish; Fabulous Fruit Trifle; and Frosted Grapes, The Good Carb Cookbook is a welcome and special diet friendly addition to any personal or family cookbook collection.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Part I The Secrets of the Glycemic Index

1. All Carbohydrates Are Not Created Equal

If you're confused about carbohydrates, you're not alone. Over the past several years, opinions about the role of carbohydrates in a healthy diet have ranged from "eat more for optimal health" to "nothing could be worse for your health." The truth about carbohydrates, however, lies somewhere in between. The fact is the type of carbohydrates that we eat is one of the foremost predictors of health. As you will see, a diet high in the wrong kinds of carbohydrates can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many of the other health problems that are so pervasive today. On the other hand, a diet that includes the right carbohydrates can help prevent these same diseases and put you on the road to excellent health.

    Over the past couple of decades, the medical establishment has paid little attention to the impact of carbohydrates on health and wellness. But a growing body of evidence has made this a topic that can no longer be ignored. The fact is there are good and bad carbohydrates, and making the right choices is crucial to your pursuit of a healthy body weight and optimal health.

    What makes some carbohydrate-containing foods better choices than others? One of the most important factors is the rate at which they raise blood sugar levels-or their glycemic index. This chapter will introduce you to this revolutionary way of looking at carbohydrates and show you why all carbs are not created equal. The following chapters will helpyou apply the glycemic index to your everyday life and create simple and satisfying meals that will enhance your health for years to come.

A Brief History of Carbohydrates

To truly understand how carbohydrates affect our health, it's important to look at how the carbohydrates we eat have changed over time. Throughout most of history, the only carbohydrate foods that were available were the wild roots, tubers, fruits, vegetables, and nuts that people foraged for. These foods were loaded with fiber and nutrients, and they were slowly digested and absorbed to provide a slow-release, sustained form of energy.

    With the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, people learned to cultivate grains such as wheat, rice, corn, oats, and barley. These foods, which quickly became mainstays in the human diet, were consumed in their natural unprocessed forms. Whole, cracked, or coarsely ground grains were made into porridges or baked into hearty whole-grain breads. These foods, too, were high in fiber and nutrients.

    While the introduction of cereal grains substantially changed the human diet, the past 200 years have had an even greater impact on the types of carbohydrates available in the food supply-starting with the invention of high-speed grain mills in the early 1800s. Using this technology, millers learned to remove the fibrous bran and nutritious germ from grains and to make finely ground flour from just the starchy endosperm portion of the grain. People eagerly adopted this new flour, which had a very long storage life and made softer and lighter breads, cakes, and pastries. Unfortunately, this new white flour was also virtually devoid of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in whole grains. And its superfine texture makes it quickly digested and absorbed in the body, causing a rapid release of glucose and insulin into the blood. The past fifty years have brought the most dramatic changes of all to our food supply. For instance:

    Products made from quickly digested white flours-such as breads, bagels, crackers, pretzels, and baking mixes-have become staples in most people's diets.

    New technologies for processing grains-such as explosion puffing, extruding, and flaking-have been developed. Products made using these technologies, including breakfast cereals, snack foods, and a wide variety of "instant" and "quick-cooking" foods, are also rapidly digested, causing a fast rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. Like white-flour products, these foods make up a large part of many people's diets.

    Consumption of refined sugars is at an all-time high.

    The serving sizes of refined-carbohydrate foods like muffins, bagels, candy bars, and sodas have grown to enormous proportions.

    This deluge of quickly digested nutrient-poor carbohydrates represents much of what's wrong with today's diets. Currently, about 85 percent of all grain products eaten by Americans are refined. And together, refined grains and sugars compose close to 40 percent of all calories eaten! What can you do to bring your diet back into balance? Learning about the glycemic index is a great place to start.

What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of foods based on their potential to raise blood sugar levels. The higher the GI of a food, the faster the resultant rise in blood sugar after eating it. And the higher the GI, the higher the body's insulin response tends to be. Why is this important? High levels of blood sugar and insulin in the body have been linked to many of the health problems that are so common today.

    The glycemic index has been the subject of scientific research for over twenty years. It was originally developed as a dietary strategy to help people with diabetes gain better control over their blood sugar levels. Today the GI is widely accepted in Canada, Australia, and much of Europe, and its use has expanded to include roles in treating obesity, cardiovascular disease, and various other health problems. Health professionals in the United States have been slow to adopt this revolutionary way of classifying carbohydrates. However, this is rapidly changing as mounting evidence on the benefits of the GI make this a topic that can no longer be ignored. The health effects of high- versus low-GI foods are summarized below:

High-GI Foods

    Are quickly digested, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.

    Provide short bursts of energy that may be quickly followed by hunger and a roller-coaster pattern of overeating.

    Promote excess insulin secretion, which may increase the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer and may contribute to a variety of other health problems.

Low-GI Foods

    Are slowly digested, allowing for a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin.

    Provide a slow-release form of energy that sustains you between meals and promotes a healthy body weight.

    Protect the body from the harmful effects of too much insulin.

    You might look at this comparison and deduce that you should eliminate entirely foods that have a high glycemic index and eat only low-GI foods. Fortunately, going to extremes is not necessary. And as you will discover, just because a food has a low GI does not necessarily mean it is a healthful choice. However, replacing some of the high-GI carbohydrates in your diet with healthful lower-GI carbohydrates should be a primary strategy for anyone who wants to achieve a healthy body weight and maximize his or her health.

Ranking Foods on the Glycemic Index

Determining the GI of a food is a fairly complicated process (see the inset "How Do Researchers Determine the GI of a Food?" on page 11 for details), so the GI of every food is not known. However, researchers have tested a variety of common foods, some of which are shown on page 9. A more extensive listing of the GI values of foods can be found in the appendix. These tables list the glycemic indexes of foods when compared to pure glucose, which has a GI of 100. When comparing foods, the following scale will help you put the GI in perspective:

Very low G1 = 39 or lower
Low GI = 40 to 54
Moderate GI = 55 to 69
High GI = 70 or higher

    A look at Table 1.1 may surprise you. Many foods that are often thought of as "health foods"-rice cakes and baked potatoes, for instance-have very high indexes, while "junk foods" like potato chips and chocolate have relatively low indexes. Is there any rhyme or reason to the glycemic index? Yes. The GI of a food is influenced by a variety of factors, including the degree to which the food is processed; how long the food is cooked; the kind of starch, sugar, or fiber the food contains; and the food's acidity. In general, anything that speeds the rate at which a food is digested and absorbed will increase the GI of a food. The section "Factors That Affect the Glycemic Index of a Food" on page 13 provides more details about what factors can raise or lower the GI of a food.

    Of course, the glycemic index cannot be the only factor that determines which foods you should eat. As you can see from looking at Table 1.1, just because a food has a low GI does not necessarily mean it is good for you. It's important to consider all the nutritional qualities of a food when planning your diet. This book will help you make the best choices based on this philosophy.

    While the GI should not be the only criterion used for choosing foods, some generalities can be drawn from Table 1.1 that can help guide you in choosing foods:

Foods That Raise The Glycemic Index Of Your Diet

Breakfast cereals
Processed snack foods like chips, crackers, and pretzels

Foods That Lower The Glycemic Index Of Your Diet

Minimally processed whole grains
Dairy products

    Realize that some variation exists within these lists. For instance, not all kinds of bread and potatoes have a high GI. The remaining chapters of this book will help you make these distinctions and help you to plan varied and satisfying meals and snacks.

    What effect do sweets have on the glycemic index of your diet? Many candies, cakes, cookies, and sodas have a moderate GI. However, these foods are very concentrated sources of carbohydrate, and the workload they place on the pancreas is considerable. Since sweets are often high in calories and low in nutritive value, they should be eaten with your total carbohydrate and nutrition goals in mind.

Perspective on Portions

How do portion sizes affect the glycemic index? The more carbohydrate you eat in a meal, the more insulin your pancreas must secrete to process the carbohydrate. For instance, eating a 4-ounce bagel will cause twice the insulin response as eating a 2-ounce bagel. Choosing low-GI foods will minimize the amount of insulin that you secrete when you eat carbohydrates, but portions are still important. Chapter 2 will give you an idea of how much carbohydrate is right for you.

Glycemic Index Versus Glycemic Load

Recognizing that both the GI of the carbohydrate-containing food and the amount of carbohydrate eaten affect blood insulin levels, researchers have coined the term glycemic load to describe these two factors considered together. Glycemic load is a better indicator of total insulin demand and the workload of the pancreas than just glycemic index by itself. This term is becoming more popular in the scientific literature, so when you see it, just realize that it reflects both the type and the amount of dietary carbohydrate.

Factors That Affect the Glycemic Index of a Food

Table 1.1, which lists the glycemic index of a variety of common foods, reinforces the statement that all carbohydrates are not created equal. However, at first glance, the glycemic index may not seem to make much sense. Why do two starchy foods like pasta and potatoes have such different indexes? And why does fruit have a lower GI than bread? Differences in cooking and processing methods; the chemical structure of the starches, sugars, and fibers in foods; and the presence of fat, protein, or acid can all markedly affect the GI of a food. Knowing more about how these factors affect the digestibility of foods will help you make sense of the GI.

Milling, Grinding, And Processing Of Grains

    Modern food-processing techniques, such as grinding, pulverizing, puffing, extruding, and otherwise destroying the natural intact form of whole grains, make whole grains easier to digest and absorb. This is why most breads, breakfast cereals, snack chips, and crackers have such a high glycemic index. This is also why thinly cut instant oats have a higher GI than thicker cut old-fashioned oats.


    During cooking and baking, the starches in foods like grains, pasta, breads, and muffins absorb water. This causes the starch granules to swell and rupture, a process known as gelatinization. Gelatinized starch is readily attacked by digestive enzymes and very quickly digested and absorbed. Bread has a high GI partly because the starch in the finely ground flour used to make bread is easily gelatinized. And soft, overcooked pasta has a higher GI than firm, al dente pasta because the overcooked pasta absorbed more water during cooking.

    Many of the processing methods used to make extruded, flaked, or puffed cereals and snack foods involve steam-cooking at very high temperatures and pressures. This fully gelatinizes the starch in these foods and contributes to their high glycemic indexes.

The Type Of Starch Present

    Starch is a storage form of glucose found in plant foods. Because starch is composed of hundreds or thousands of glucose molecules that are strung together in chains, it is often referred to as complex carbohydrate. Scientists have long believed that because starch has a complex structure, it is more slowly digested than simple sugars. However, the glycemic index has proven this notion to be false.

    There are two main kinds of starch present in plant foods-amylose and amylopectin. When these starches are digested, their glucose molecules are liberated and absorbed, causing a rise in blood sugar. However, because of the differences in their chemical structures, these two starches have very different effects on blood sugar.

    Amylopectin's structure resembles the branches of a tree and so it is easily attacked by digestive enzymes. Starchy foods that contain a high proportion of amylopectin-like baking potatoes and sticky short-grain rice-are quickly digested and produce rapid rises in blood sugar levels. Amylose, on the other hand, consists of a long, straight chain of tightly packed glucose molecules that resists digestion. Foods high in amylose-such as new potatoes and basmati rice-are absorbed more slowly and have lower glycemic indexes.

The Type Of Sugar Present

    Many people are surprised to learn that with the exception of glucose (GI = 100), most sugars have low to moderate glycemic indexes. Fructose, the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, is very slowly absorbed, giving it a GI of only 23. Lactose, the sugar naturally present in milk and dairy products, has a GI of 46. This is one reason why most fruits and dairy products have such low glycemic indexes. Sucrose (white table sugar), a combination of equal parts fructose and glucose, has a GI of 65. The fact that sucrose is part fructose is one reason why many sweets have a moderate GI.


    The naturally occurring acids in fruits, as well as the acids in fermented foods like yogurt, buttermilk, and sourdough bread, slow the rate of digestion and contribute to the low GI of these foods. Likewise, adding just 4 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice to a meal can lower the GI of the meal by about 30 percent. For this reason, using vinegar and lemon juice to flavor foods can be a powerful way to lower the GI of your diet.

Meet the Author

Sandra Woodruff, M.S., R.D., is the author of nine books, including The Good Carb Cookbook and The Best-Kept Secrets of Healthy Cooking. A registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition and food science, she is a nutritional consultant to numerous medical groups. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Good Carb Cookbook: Secrets of Eating Low on the Glycemic Index 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
kobrien More than 1 year ago
I have had this cookbook for five years and it is the book that I always go back to. I have a healthy eating lifestyle but am not a "dieter" and this is the perfect cookbook for me and my family. The recipes are easy to follow, quick and delicious. Some of my favorite recipes are the classic meatloaf, salmon cakes, dijon chicken, sonoma chicken and mediterranean green beans. At first I wished the recipes had photos like some of my other cookbooks, but the recipes are easy enough to follow that they are simply not needed. Great for beginners as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This cookbook is good carb rather than low carb so it might have limited application for those on the Atkins diet, especially the Induction phase. But for the rest of us there's lots of healthy recipes, tips on cooking, grocery shopping and dining out, and a good explanation of insulin's role in the body and the concepts of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. The author stresses throughout the book the health benefits of consuming less-refined carbs. By choosing carbohydrates closer to their natural forms (as in whole grains, fruits and vegetables) one may avoid the insulin spikes and carb crashes associated with the typical American white flour/sugar diet. Some of the recent books that utilize this moderate-carb approach include SOUTH BEACH, SUGARBUSTERS, SOMERSIZE, SCHWARZBEIN PRINCIPLE and the GLYCEMIC REVOLUTION series. The GOOD CARB COOKBOOK can be a useful adjunct to all of them. I use recipes from this book and the SUGARBUSTERS Quick and Easy Cookbook. Woodruff, the author of several other cookbooks, covers her bases here by making most recipes low-fat as well. There is some use of sugar, honey, fruit juice and the like, so if you want to limit them you could subsitute non-caloric sweeteners, such as NutraSweet for cold foods and Splenda for the cooked dishes. Or you could just cut out the sugar altogether as I did in making the Sourdough French Toast, which with the cinnamon made no difference in the taste, IMO. Some of the ingredients listed are a bit esoteric and a few of the recipes may be too fussy for everyday cooking. But in general this is a well-rounded cookbook, not a fad diet but a healthy lifestyle...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is ok but you can't read the charts on the nook, I would not recommend this book to any that wants to download to their nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In trying to approach a more healthy lifestyle, I wanted to limit carbs and found out that there are bad carbs & good carbs and I did not have a clue which was which. This book presented the explanation in a clear and easy to understand format. I learned so much! I've only tried a couple of recipes and found them to be great. I loved them and even my picky husband loved them. I look forward to making more of the recipes.
Grandma-Dar More than 1 year ago
After changing our lifestyle to low glycemic food preparation, this book was very helpful in explaining low glycemic index, reasons for changing from one food choice to another and providing recipes that, for the most part, were simple to follow and prepare. Some of the food items have been a little difficult to find, but health food stores most times can suggest a substitute. I use this book for reference and recipes at least three times per week.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've had this cookbook for about two years and it is my absolute favorite. The recipes are easy to make, very tasty, and allow me to live within the restrictions of my diet. However, even when I wasn't on a diet, I loved this cookbook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I use this book almost daily! It has helped me in so many ways. The recipes are simple and so far every one I have made are really good. This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in healthy cooking!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great cookbook for people interested in maintaining weight loss or losing weight. The soup recipes, especially, are quick and tasty with common ingredients you probably have in your pantry or refrigerator. The only down side is the muffin recipes and pizza dough. I didn't have satisfactory results with those. Woodruff is a dietician, so she omits salt in her recipes. Add salt and enjoy! One of my favorite and most useful cookbooks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are tons of 'low carb' cookbooks... but none of them seem to pay attention to the amount of bad fats. This book helps you use the 'good carbs' and 'good fats'. Perfect companion for the South Beach Diet. These foods and recipes fill you up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have made the homemade muesli cereal, parsley new potatoes, green beans with almonds and chicken and pork receipes. My family loves them. We also learned alot about the Glycemic index and how it affects your hunger. The food satisfies your appetite.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I came across this book by accident. I was looking for something for my diabetic mother and came across this book. I've been on a high protein low carb diet and have been successful in keeping the weight off but I wanted to eat better carbs. I never heard of the glycemic index until reading this book. I feel like the scales have fallen off my eyes and I can see what good eating should consist of. I never thought about sugar levels in my blood. The information is easy to read and understand. The recipes are wonderful and they taste great. So far I have only cooked the Tomato Basil soup, Baked Spaghetti Flourentine, and the Morning Sunshine smoothie. Most if not all of the food recieptes are low on the index scale and not high in fat. I had planned on giving this book to my mom, but forget that! I'll buy her another one. hehe awesome book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It can be tough sticking to a low carb diet and books like this one make it a lot easier to do. You can quickly locate delicious recipes to plan your next meal that will help you lose weight. I also highly recommend you check out 'The Power of Positive Habits' which shows you how to lose weight automatically via lifestyle changes! A great combination.
klomeli More than 1 year ago
I found the book informative and helpful with understanding what foods are low glycemic/low carb. I am surprised that a Registered Dietician would create recipes that are laden with sodium and cholesterol. It is not uncommon to see a single serving of salad with 800 mg of sodium. That is stunning. Sandra relies heavily on water and bouillon granules. A person can easily substitute low salt/no salt broths or stock and get better flavor. In a society that jumps on every bandwagon in an attempt to lose weight, a Registered Dietician should be more conscientious about creating healthy meals, not just low glycemic. If you lose 50lbs from eating low carb, but have a heart attack or stroke because your blood pressure and cholesterol are sky high, you have just lost all benefits to losing the weight. If you are well versed enough in cooking, you should be able to make substitutions and create healthier meals out of these recipes. I give it a 3 stars because of the above mentioned. Otherwise, the book is helpful and there are a few (not many) good recipes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually purchased this book right before I found out that I have Gestational Diabetes. I brought it with me to my consult with a nutritionist and she agreed it was a great choice. I originally purchased it because I was trying to eat healthier, and it turns out that I rely on it everyday to keep my blood sugars stable. The recipes are easy and delicious, and I have no problem sticking to my diabetic diet. A must for people who want to be educated about the smart use of good carbs in their diet!
Guest More than 1 year ago
ITs about time that we learned the difference between the good carbs & the bad one's. Sandra explains in simple terms the differences and easy ways to implement them in your daily eating plan. This is not a diet book, its a book about well balanced eating and getting back to the good grains, fiber and un-processed foods that our bodies so badly need to function properly!! Get this book!