Confused by GI? You’re not the only one. However, with its wide-ranging effects on blood sugar, energy levels and weight loss too, it’s a topic that’s well worth investigating further.
With the spotlight on the way we eat shining brighter than ever before, choosing between the recent tide of new diets hitting our shores can be an overwhelming task. It appears the safest way to make the most well-informed decision is to go back to basics and find out how our diet and nutrition choices affect us on a deeper level. Forget the fads, we need a diet that’s not just effective, but also sustainable too.
Therefore when it came to finding out more about high and low GI foods, we thought it best to ask nutritional therapist and Get The Gloss Expert Henrietta Norton to separate the fact from the fiction and for her top low GI diet tips and swaps for keeping us fuller for longer. Here’s what we found out...
GTG: What exactly is the difference between low GI and high GI?
HN: The glycemic index (GI) is the measurement by which foods are assessed for the amount of glucose they provide and how quickly it impacts on blood sugar. High GI foods are those foods that cause an immediate and significant rise in our blood sugar. Low GI are those foods that cause a moderate rise in our blood sugar over a longer period of time. The latter being the most supportive for our health.
GTG: Are low GI foods the healthier choice?
HN: Foods that cause a rapid surge in blood glucose followed by a sudden drop (as with many high GI foods) have been linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and the development of some cancers. On an everyday basis this fluctuation can also wreak havoc with our energy levels, causing those afternoon slumps and affect our hormonal stability and our sleep patterns.
GTG: What kinds of foods are classed as low GI?
HN: Low GI foods are those foods that contain insoluble fibre such as fruits and vegetables (with the exception of potatoes). Other low GI foods include all fresh, unprocessed fish and meat, tempeh, tofu, soya beans, flaxseeds and sesame seeds.
GTG: Which foods are classed as high GI and are best avoided according to the GI system?
HN: Potatoes and any unrefined grains would classify as foods to avoid if using the GI system. Pineapple, bananas, sweet potatoes, corn, leeks, beetroot, kiwifruit, cantaloupe and watermelon, apricots and figs have a higher GI than most low GI foods but are still not classified as high GI.
GTG: Are all high GI foods bad for us?
HN: Many of the higher GI foods such as figs, apricots and even new potatoes have both health benefits and weight supporting properties if eaten in the right balance with other foods. Adding some protein to a carbohydrate food slows the speed at which the glucose is released into the blood stream. I liken adding protein to your food to adding a caravan to the back a car - it slows the whole lot down! Chopping some figs into a bowl of Greek yoghurt and sprinkling on some seeds, or filling your baked potato with shredded chicken and avocado is, to me, a whole lot more nutritious than some sausages and a bowl of ice cream which would be classified as low GI!
GTG: Will eating more low GI foods help me lose weight?
HN: Using the GI scale to choose your food will, by default, reduce your consumption of refined and processed foods. This is a good thing not only for your weight but your health in general. However, using this to dictate your food choices may also rule out some foods that do bring health benefits. For example, foods indicated as acceptable to eat are ice cream and sausages but beetroot and leeks are not. From this point of view I find this approach too simplistic and misleading.
GTG: What are your top 5 high to low GI food swaps?
1. Swap sausages for grilled lamb burgers.
2. Ice cream for Greek yoghurt blended with frozen berries and a handful of organic dried apricots.
3. Milk chocolate for cocoa dusted almonds.
4. Hot chocolate for warmed almond milk with cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. Mashed potato for mashed celeriac with olive oil.