What is a low GI diet?
The low glycemic index diet, also known as the low GI diet and the South Beach diet is an eating regimen that focuses on consuming a large variety of foods that are on the low glycemic index list and few foods on the high glycemic index.
Eating foods with a low glycemic index take longer for the body to breakdown and digest, hence providing greater satiety so you eat less food which is where the attractiveness of the diet comes in, for those looking to lose weight.
What does low GI mean?
All of the foods listed on the glycemic index contain carbohydrates, whilst they may contain the same amount of carbohydrates gram to gram the carbohydrates that break down quickly (and release glucose into the blood almost instantly) are high GI and those that breakdown carbs slowly are low GI.
What are the different 'levels' on the glycemic index?
Each carbohydrate-containing food is given a number on the glycemic index, this represents the time taken to digest each food. Carbohydrate-containing foods are compared with glucose or white bread as a reference food, which is given a GI score of 100.
The glycemic index range is as follows:
Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56-69
High GI = 70 or more
For the full list of foods listed on the glycemic index check out The University of Sydney’s website.
In Australia and New Zealand, Food Standards Australia New Zealand allows companies to make claims regarding the nutrient content food. The use of the GI symbol, G – Glycemic index tested, indicates the legitimate GI rating of packaged food products in supermarkets. The system works as it ranks food products based on the speed at which they break down from carbohydrate to sugar in the bloodstream. Although, it is important to remember that this labelling is not compulsory for food companies to follow so some will make unsubstantiated claims.
Do dietitians recommend a low GI diet?
Chloe McLeod, an accredited sports dietitian and co-founder of Health and Performance Collective is all on board with a diet consisting of low GI foods. “A diet rich in small, frequent amount of low GI foods is optimal for sustained energy release and controlled blood sugar levels.”
It turns out she isn’t the only one, there is significant evidence that demonstrated the benefits of eating low GI foods over high GI foods for not only weight loss but also numerous lifestyle-related diseases.
“One thing to be mindful of with carbohydrate-based foods is that the quality and quantity are both equally important,” Chloe explains. “If you are eating a large number of low GI foods this can contribute a large glycemic load. The ideal mix is small, frequent amounts of low GI food.”
Are there downsides to a low GI diet?
Whilst low GI foods are a better option to high GI foods “consuming large amounts of low GI foods, contributes to a large glycemic load which can be counterproductive.”
Quality and quantity are important when it comes to the discussion around carbohydrate-based foods for the majority of people.
Are high gi foods inherently bad?
Foods with a high glycemic index aren’t necessarily “bad,” although as Chloe mentioned they should be eaten in small quantities. For example, eating one slice of white bread every so often won’t lead to an instant increase in weight although eating a piece of wholemeal bread which is low GI is a better option.
How would one put a low gi diet into practice? Is this recommended?
If you are looking into following a low GI, Chloe recommends a few ways to get started.
- Get educated. Visiting the glycemic index foundation website and increase knowledge on low GI foods.
- Conscious buying. When purchasing items with a food label you can look out for the glycemic index foundation GI symbol (low GI certified)
- Speak to the pros. See an accredited practicing dietitian or accredited sports dietitian for personalised advice.
How should a diabetic approach a low gi diet differently?
Chloe recommends that diabetics “consume small, consistent amounts of low GI food to best balance their blood sugar levels.”
For someone with type 1 or 2 diabetes please seek professional dietary advice from an accredited practicing dietitian who specializes in the area to help ensure they are eating for their individual needs.