1 August 2008

Food for Thought

The lowdown on low GI eating
Prof Jennie Brand-Miller talks to GI News with the release of the fourth edition of her book, The Low GI Handbook (previously published as The New Glucose Revolution). We asked her to describe what she feels is the key to a low GI diet.

Jennie Brand-Miller

‘I find that it’s the word “low” that seems to throw people. Eating the low GI way is not putting yourself on a low carb diet. If anything, it’s a “slow” carb diet. It’s about choosing the right carbs to fuel your body and power your life.

I like to use the analogy of a car – if you don't put gas in your car, it won't go. And, if you put the wrong gas in your car, it won't perform at its best and it may even break down. It’s the same with your body – carbohydrate is your fuel – it’s what makes you go because it gives you energy.

We don’t specify how many carbs you should be eating (that’s your call) – but we do say wherever you can opt for the low GI ones. Why? Well, low GI foods are the “slow” carbs and high GI foods are the “fast” carbs.

Slow is better than fast for you and me most of the time. This is because fast carbs stress your body because they release too much blood glucose (energy) too quickly and your body has to really work overtime producing insulin to reduce the glucose levels. This not only stresses the organs (leading to disease), it also depletes your energy levels, which makes you feel hungry – possibly leading to snacking, snacking, snacking and becoming overweight.

Slow carbs, on the other hand, release energy over a longer period of time and sustain it at the level you need to perform at your peak. You may also lose weight eating this way, and keep it off – reducing your risk of “breaking down” with disease.

As for the health benefits, well, a low GI diet is proven to reduce the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. And best of all you’ll lose some weight and keep it off.

But while I am a firm believer in the idea that NOT all carbs (just like fats or proteins) are created equal, I would be the first to say that you should not use the GI in isolation. So a low GI claim on chocolate would be inappropriate. A low GI claim on cola would be inappropriate. But it is appropriate on foods that are nutritious in their own right, as well as being low GI.

So, what’s the key to eating a low GI diet? It’s simply choosing “slow carbs” to fuel your body like pasta, legumes, fruit, lower GI starchy vegetables and dairy products. Of course you also need to eat plenty of vegetables and lean protein and exercise. The GI isn’t a magic bullet!’


Listen to the podcast interview with Prof Jennie Brand-Miller recorded in June 2008.

Play the Podcast above or download here


Unknown said...

It is interesting to note that most of the foods that are recommended as good low and mid GI foods suitable for those with diabetes are the ones that have traditionally the highest cost to the consumer. When you have diabetes and are living on or below the poverty line and only relying on government benefits it is impossible to find the money to buy these much more expensive choices that you recommend.

When are we going to see more of the generric foods tested and certified so that we can have choices that are a much more reasonable price choice for the many type 2 diabetics that are either pensioners or live on government benefits.

Anonymous said...

Our family has been on a low GI diet for years now. We are a family of four and live on quite a strict budget. Contrary to Bruce's comments I think that low GI extends our food budget.

We don't eat as much as we need less food to feel satisfied. I use a lot of beans (use dried beans for best value). We eat oats or muesli, lean meats, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the GI symbol is helpful, it is only an indicator and foods can still be low GI without the symbol.

GI Group said...

We are often asked about cost-effective low GI foods. It essentially means making a move back to the inexpensive, healthy, filling staples of our forebears. This includes traditional rolled oats for breakfast porridge with milk, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, cereal grains like pearl barley, pasta or the lower GI rices like basmati and of course fresh vegetables in season when they are at their best and the prices are better too. Check out Low GI Eating Made Easy (ask at your local library) as it includes the top 100 low GI foods, all generic. Or check out the free database at www.glycemicindex.com.

Many people report to us that they find it extends the family budget and saves on packaging too!

Anonymous said...

In answer to Anon.

meat is not something that i can afford when you live on a really strict budget and with the cost of food continuint to rise and at an ever increasing rate I do not agree completely with what you have said especially with lean meat. I can not remember the last time I had a piece of lean beef or lamb as they are just far to expensive a choice.

I do how ever agree that the fact that eatly less volume and still being full I have been eating less and still eating well over the last couple of months.

One further comment I would like to make is that in the cities there is a much better range of food to choose from that in many small country town supermarkets ans so we are much more limited even when it comes to fresh veg.

One point on fresh verses frozen veg. Frozen veg are actually fresher than the so called fresh veg as they are normaly frozen within a couple of hours of being picked and those veggies that are harvested in summer are also harvested in the cool of the night and in the early morning so that they retain much of their nutritional value.

Unknown said...

I am a wellness consultant in India & corporate speaker.
I use the GI & GL concept very widely.It has great value & promise.
with best wishes
author of the Book Slim & Fit for Life

hermin said...

i agree that food availability is another big issue that prevents us from getting enough nutrition. unfortunately, the type of food that is quite often lacking is fresh produce.

to get over this problem, we can opt for frozen fruit and vegs (as you suggest). although at first they lose some vitamins through blanching, the nutrient loss over the next 12 months or so is not much. in terms of folate and vit C, frozen fruit & vegs can be better than the "fresh produce" that has sat in the shelf (or fridge) for a few days.

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