We often hear about the importance of cutting out sugar, or the need to watch our calorie intake but rarely do we hear about the importance of a low GI diet for long term weight control. The glycaemic index is one of those concepts that many of us know a little about but also one that can be a little confusing when it comes to understanding how you can make it work for you in your daily diet.
Put most simply the glycaemic index (GI) of a food refers to how slowly or quickly the carbohydrate containing food releases glucose into the bloodstream. Foods that contain carbohydrates include bread, legumes, rice, breakfast cereal, grains, pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables and sugars such as honey, jam, juice and sugar itself can all be measured for their GI and given a ranking out of 100. Generally speaking wholegrains, legumes, stone fruit, root vegetables and pasta have a low GI compared to refined grains and cereals, processed sugars and snack foods. While individual foods have a GI, what we consume our carbohydrates with, as well as the way they are cooked also affects the overall GI of the meal. For example eating a white bread sandwich with honey would have a much higher GI than a white bread sandwich that is filled with chicken and salad.
The GI of the staple foods that we eat, along with the overall glycaemic load of the meals we consume is important for several reasons. Each and every time we consume carbohydrate rich foods, we will have a subsequent rise in blood glucose levels followed by release of the hormone insulin which has the role of taking glucose out of the blood stream and into the muscles to be used as energy. Low GI foods result in a more gradual release of the hormone insulin which is better for weight control long term, as high levels of insulin can result in weight gain over time as insulin acts to block fat being broken down to be used as energy. On the other hand, high GI foods and / or meals that have a high glycaemic load result in relatively high amounts of insulin being secreted which is linked to cell damage and weight gain over time. The higher the carbohydrate content of a meal, the higher the glycaemic load (GL) of that meal and the higher the GI of the carbohydrates in the meal, the higher the glycaemic load again.
While the impact of diets with a high glycaemic load are not experienced on a daily basis, over time high GL diets are linked to slow, insidious weight gain as well as small degrees of cellular damage. For this reason, for all of us, controlling both our total carbohydrate intake, and ensuring that our daily food staples including bread, grains and cereals are low GI is a crucial step in protecting the health of our cells and preventing excessive weight gain long term.
As a general rule of thumb, choose wholegrain carbohydrate options that contain <20g total carbohydrates per serve and always look for low GI bread, breakfast cereal and cereal grains. Long term, your body will thank you for it.
Helga’s have just announced that the popular Helga’s Lower Carb 5 Seeds and Soy & Toasted Sesame breads are both Low GI.
I am currently a brand ambassador for Helga’s Lower Carb range. All thoughts included in this piece are my own.