A low glycemic index diet is a fabulous choice when considering a lifestyle change to clean eating. But what is it all about?
Carbohydrates are complicated things and often the topic of much diet debate, are they good and essential for our wellbeing or the root of all evil and to be avoided? It appears the important factor when talking carbs is the type rather than the amount and this quality over quantity theory is the foundation of low GI foods.
This eating plan is an incredibly moderate diet with a great deal of supporting research advocating its ability to facilitate sustainable weight loss and assist in treating and preventing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, while also reducing insulin levels and insulin resistance.
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0
to 100, measuring the effect of a food on blood-glucose levels for up to two
hours after eating. Developed originally to assist diabetics control blood
sugar levels, this index provides a transparent easily recognisable classification
of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs.
High GI foods cause a rapid rise and decline in blood sugars (also known as spikes), whereas low GI carbs by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption have a more gradual and longer lasting effect, producing gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods that take longer to absorb also leave us feeling satisfied for longer, which can eliminate cravings and troublesome snacking.
Carbohydrates are often referred to as simple or complex with the difference being in their molecular structure. Simple carbs have one or two sugar molecules (monosaccharide or disaccharides) and are easily digested meaning they are absorbed into the blood stream rapidly. These include; glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, lactose and maltose, traditionally found in table (added) sugars, white flour products, fruit juices, milk and alcohol.
Complex carbohydrates consist of primarily polysaccharides; multiple molecules that take longer to digest resulting in a slower release of glucose into the blood stream. Rich in fibre and nutrients, complex carbs are the low GI foods recommended. Some good examples are; pasta, rolled oats, muesli or cereals with whole grains, Wholegrain breads or sour dough breads, legumes, green peas, sweet potato, new potatoes, milk, yoghurt and long grain or basmati rice.
Any healthy diet should include a wide variety of fresh
foods including fruit and whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, beans, lentils,
lean cuts of meat, fish, skinless poultry, healthy fats found in nuts, seeds,
avocadoes and vegetables oils.
Milling and grinding or processing always raises the glycemic index of foods which is why wholegrain breads are more complex and have a lower GI than white. Similarly whole fruits are better than juices and why whole oats are great, oatmeal not so much and oat milk ends up on the high end of the scale.
When following a low glycemic index diet, the only numbers you really want to see on foods are the weight and price. As a rule, whole foods closest to their natural state are ‘better’ carbohydrates to consume compared to anything that has been refined or processed. Adhering to a low GI diet is relatively straight forward, carries little health risks and can be incorporated into any ideological or religious dietary guidelines.
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