Here are answers to some questions that you may have…
Lowering the GI of your diet will help prevent and manage overweight and obesity, which are the major underlying causes of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
For people who have diabetes, low GI diets have been proven to improve blood glucose management and to reduce the risk of complications.
Carbohydrates take two forms namely starches (such as potatoes, cereals, bread, and pasta) and sugars such as table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose), and fruit sugar (fructose).
All carbohydrates are eventually broken down by the body into glucose, which is:
– A universal fuel for most organs and tissues in our bodies
– The only fuel source for our brain, red blood cells and a growing foetus, and
– The main source of energy for our muscles during strenuous exercise
Unfortunately most of the carbohydrates we eat tend to be highly processed and high GI. They break – down quickly during digestion and cause blood glucose to rise fast and high for a short time. It’s like a roller-coaster ride on your insides – you spike then crash.
Low GI carbohydrates – those that are slowly digested and absorbed – cause a much lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore, insulin levels.
This will help sustain energy levels longer, improving mental and physical performance and helping weight loss and the risk of developing lifestyle related diseases.
There are many others too – for example, dextrin, maltose and maltodextrins!
All sugars are not the same. Many foods naturally high in sugars are very nutritious like fruit, milk and yoghurt. Unfortunately food labels don’t help you distinguish between the slowly absorbed and the rapidly absorbed sugars or tell you whether the sugars are naturally occurring or added.
Refined starches are invisible, they are not listed in the Nutrition Information/Nutrition Facts Panel on foods, and the names for added refined starches are often unpronounceable like acetylated distarch phosphate, or food additive code number 1414… if you prefer.
So why are they not good for our health? Refined starches contain essentially the same amount of Calories (kJs), total carbohydrate and fibre as refined sugars, and unless fortified, are just as devoid of vitamins and minerals. They also have a high GI. In a nutshell, refined starches are as detrimental to our health as refined sugars.
When choosing foods for a healthy diet, you should avoid foods containing highly refined starches (e.g. white bread) as well as highly refined sugars (e.g. table sugar).
Highly processed carbohydrate foods (‘convenience’ foods) tend to have high GI values because processing makes the sugars or starches more easily digestible and consequently they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. For example, finely milled white flour breads have a high GI compared to traditional wholegrain breads.
A simple way to tell if a food is low GI is to look for the GI Symbol on the supermarket shelves or do a search on our website for those products that carry the symbol. Scientists have tested the GI value of these products to ensure they are low GI. You will find a comprehensive list of foods tested using real people and real food on the products page.
The crux of it is to be smart with your carbohydrate choices. Replace highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sugary treats and crispy puffed cereals with less processed carbohydrates such as grainy bread, pasta, legumes, fruit and vegetables. You don’t need to cut out any foods or food groups. Click here for some swap ideas or download our Low GI Shopping List.
A low GI diet is not a popular diet but a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term and is backed by over 30 years of scientific evidence showcasing the benefits (see below) of adopting a low GI ‘diet’.
Making low GI choices is not a dramatic change. It’s simply means swapping at least one high GI food for a low GI food at every meal.
The GI Symbol is a powerful tool for quickly and reliably making healthier food choices when grocery shopping. It’s your guarantee that the GI value stated near the nutrition information label is accurate and that the food meets strict nutritional criteria. Look out for the Symbol in store.
However, if a food makes a low GI claim but does not carry the GI symbol, be very cautious. A recent Australian survey found that many low GI claims are either false or inaccurate, and even when they are not false or inaccurate, they are often made on products that are not ideal nutritionally (i.e. they contain too many kilojoules, saturated fat and/or salt) so don’t meet the stringent requirements of the GI Symbol Program.
Where a low GI claim is made on a food which doesn’t carry the low GI Symbol we encourage you to ring the manufacturer to ask if the food has been GI tested and where. If the food has been tested in Australia you should find the tested GI value on the Sydney University GI Research Service website www.glycemicindex.com.