Sugar: The Good, The Bad And The Low-GI
Like we need another thing to worry about when it comes to our diets, right? Low-fat this, high carb that, paleo, LCHF, and now keto. Keto, really?! And yet despite this, with 63% of Australian adults now classified as obese, it seems the harder we work to fix our collective problem, the worse it gets.
In the blog today we’re going to take a look at the Low-GI Diet. What is it? Who’s it good for (or not)? And what to consider if you are looking to reduce your carbohydrate intake, especially at breakfast time.
Not all carbs are created equal
Carbohydrates are naturally occurring substances containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. We need carbohydrates for energy, and they are naturally occurring in many common ‘healthy foods’ like fruit and vegetables, starchy foods like bread and pasta, and dairy products.
Unfortunately, however, highly processed foods like white sugar in all its myriad disguises (think cakes, biscuits, chocolate, that muffin you had with your coffee on the way to work this morning) also contain…you guessed it. Carbohydrates.
Once you eat any carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into simple sugars, like glucose, which are then converted into energy. And you need energy, right? Right. Just not the skyrocket energy ‘turbo-boost’ you’re delivered when you eat a food that has a high GI.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) made easy – really easy
Created in the 80s (the birth decade of the fad diet, right?) by a Canadian professor, the Glycaemic Index (GI) ranks foods according to the effect they have on the body’s blood sugar (glucose) levels once ingested.
Foods which have a low GI are broken down slowly by the body and so cause minimal disruption to blood sugars. Foods which have a high GI contain carbohydrates which are very quickly broken down, which then causes pronounced peaks and troughs in blood sugar.
The GI ranks most foods on a scale of 1-100, and it’s unfortunately no surprise that some of the most popular household foods rank really highly on this scale.
Low GI: 55 or less – think wholegrain bread, legumes, traditional oats, full cream dairy, and most fruit and vegetables.
Medium GI: 56–69 – think wholemeal bread, brown rice, dried fruit, and home-made cakes and biscuits.
High GI: 70 or more – think white bread, white rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes, lollies, soft drinks, and virtually every processed cereal on the shelves of your local supermarket.
Is Low-GI better for me?
Yes and no. While it was originally designed as a dietary guide for diabetes patients, a Low-GI diet has many health benefits and can be fairly easily integrated into regular family life.
Low-GI foods are great because they leave you feeling fuller, longer. Avoiding spikes in blood sugar can aid concentration and endurance – whether it’s for sports or just getting through the day. Low-GI diets have been shown to improve cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and even reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The trap many people fall into with dietary guidelines, though, is to forget about (or just ignore) portion control. Too much of anything isn’t great for you – even if it is Low-GI. If you are watching your weight, for example, there’s little point swapping hot chips for sweet potato wedges if you then chow down on a kilo of them as a reward.
Where to from here?
Even if you are looking to improve your diet, whether it’s specifically for weight loss, or more generally to bring about some positive changes to your health and well-being, try making a few simple substitutions for Low-GI foods and see how you feel.
Try swapping… white bread for wholegrain bread
Try swapping… white rice for cous cous
Try swapping… processed breakfast cereals for unrefined, natural muesli (we know a good one, wink wink). Think Moozly and know that we’ve got your body’s best interests at heart
Be sensible and follow your instinct. Follow your gut and your body – and family – will thank you for it.