Switching to low glycaemic eating could help you feel fuller for longer, calmer, more lively and even drop a few pounds. Best of all, you don’t even have to ditch the carbs.

You may have heard the term low glycaemic (low GI) eating and thought it sounds a bit complicated or not particularly appetising. However, once you get beyond the scientific jargon this is not so much a diet but a new way of looking at food that could change the way you eat…forever.

Slow and steady

The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a way of measuring how long foods containing carbohydrates take to cause a rise in blood sugar after eating. High GI foods (GI score above 70) such as biscuits, soft-drinks and white-bread cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels which then drops quickly. Whereas low GI foods (GI score below 55) such as oats create a slow and steady release of energy.

Glycaemic Load (GL) looks at both the GI of the individual food as well as the quantity of carbohydrates it contains. For example, watermelon is high GI but as it contains a lot of fibre and water it has a low GL. GL is therefore a more accurate measure of a food’s impact on blood sugar levels in the body.

Low glycaemic diets could be restrictive if followed too closely. We mostly eat combinations of ingredients, like bread and butter. However, GI/GL only takes the carbohydrates into account therefore it is important to consider the overall nutritional content of meals and not just GI. Chocolate and sweet potatoes are both medium GL however sweet potatoes also contain healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Mood, midriff and microbiome  

A low GI lunch can give a stead release of energy which is less likely to trigger mid-afternoon fatigue and a desperate urge for a coffee and handful of cake.

Some studies have found that people who eat higher GI foods are more prone to anger, low mood, anxiety and depression than those who eat lower GI foods.

It makes sense therefore that feeling fuller for longer could help you cut back on snacks and overeating. Simply swapping white bread for wholegrain bread was found to reduce the likelihood of developing obesity in one study.

Many low GI wholegrains and fruit and vegetables are high in fibre which can nurture a happy gut and may alleviate constipation.

Practitioners may also recommend low GI eating for people who want to improve their blood sugar levels.

Tasty Tips

Switching to a low GI way of eating can be tasty and quick with these tips:

  • Sprinkle nuts, seeds, coconut flakes and berries on cereals, porridge and puddings.
  • Choose snacks which also contain protein or fat, such as humous and carrots, cheese and apple, peanut butter on wholegrain toast and nutty energy balls.
  • Reduce the quantity of carbohydrates, such as open sandwiches or adding vegetables and nuts to pasta.
  • Cook and cool potatoes or rice before eating as this lowers their GL.
  • Experiment with pulses, puree butter beans instead of mash and add chickpeas to stew.
  • Look for the sugar content on food packaging traffic lights – if it is medium to high then the food is likely to be high GL.
  • Try different low GI versions of your usual carbohydrates to discover your favourites:

Bread: Brown, wholemeal, multigrain, rye, seeded, oatmeal and sourdough.

Potatoes: Sweet and new potatoes.

Pasta and noodles: Wholemeal, spelt, buckwheat, filled pasta, cook until al dente.

Grains: Quinoa, buckwheat, pearl barley.

Cereal: Porridge, muesli with nuts and seeds, add oats to cereal.

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