Dr Alan Barclay
A healthy low GI diet is achievable
There’s pretty compelling evidence from population health studies and clinical trials around the world that as part of an overall healthy, balanced diet, we should aim for an average dietary GI of around 45 for longterm health and wellbeing. It’s not as hard as it sounds when you take the ‘this for that’ option, that is you simply substitute healthy low GI carbs for high GI ones when shopping, cooking and eating out:
While this is in principle relatively simple, finding those healthy low GI alternatives has not always been that easy. This is why one of the primary objectives of the Glycemic Index Foundation has been to work with food industry in Australia and around the world to develop healthy low GI alternatives for popular everyday foods thus making healthy low GI choices, easy choices for everybody.
Our first step was to identify the top five sources of glycemic carbohydrate in the Australian diet (and the pattern is very similar in North America). They are: Breads, Breakfast cereals, Potatoes, Sugars and sugar-based products and Rice and pasta. Giving people healthy low GI alternatives for these foods will make it relatively easy for anyone to achieve an average dietary GI of 45 (this is a good 10 points below the ‘low’ GI diets achieved in the European Diogenes study and the UK’s RISCK study).
Breads: Healthy low GI breads are now relatively common in Australia, with popular brands like Burgen found on most supermarket shelves. New additions include popular tortillas like Mission Foods White Corn Tortillas (GI = 52) which can be used as wraps or in Mexican cooking.
Breakfast cereals: This category is harder. Currently when people ask us about low GI breakfast cereals we tend to suggest traditional porridge oats or natural mueslis such as Morning Sun mueslis (GI=49). The reason healthy low GI ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are harder to find on the supermarket shelves is partly because modern processing techniques (rolling and flaking) make their starch rapidly digested and absorbed. Don’t be disheartened, the challenge is not insurmountable. We are currently talking to a major breakfast cereal company (as we did with the potato growers) with the aim of working with them to help them lower the GI of all of their popular ready-to-eat cereals.
Potatoes: The Carisma potato is the first success story of an ongoing collaboration between the GI Foundation, University of Sydney and the Australian potato industry. Large scale production of this low GI (55) general purpose potato is the first step to providing shoppers with a full range of low GI potatoes that they can use for specific purposes such as potato salads, mashing, roasting, baking, etc.
Sugar: Logicane, the first low GI (50) cane sugar was launched in Australia in 2009, and is helping to lower the GI of popular sugary foods that are popular contributors to our daily glycemic load.
Rice & pasta: There are an increasing number of low GI rices being produced and tested including Moolgiri (GI54) and Saffola Arise (GI54). And despite popular perception, regular pasta made from hard durum wheat has a low GI. For example, the GI of Vetta’s range is 49. Like potato, keep those portions moderate to reap the glycemic rewards of these popular, inexpensive starchy staples.
What next? The GI Foundation looks forward to working collaboratively with food industry in 2011, to continue to make healthy low GI choices easy choices. And by the ‘food industry’ we mean food manufacturers around the world. If you are a GI News reader in the UK or US, you may say: “we don’t have the healthy low GI choices you do.” We have to say we have knocked on doors around the world to encourage food manufacturers to a) have their products GI tested and b) join the Symbol program to make is easier for shoppers to identify those low GI foods. To date we haven’t had much success internationally – they say there’s not enough demand. We need you to show them they are wrong. What should you do? Create DEMAND. Contact the customer service department of the manufacturers of your favourite breads and breakfast cereals for starters and ask them about the GI of their products.
For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037