The lowdown on low GI

What does low GI really mean? Lyndi Cohen, dietitian and SunRice health and wellness ambassador.

Contrary to popular belief, carbs are a really important part of our diet, which shouldn’t be cut out. Not only do carbs keep meals balanced, without them, you’re also missing out on a whole food group and all the nutrients that go along with it. Yes, it’s possible to choose healthier sources of carbohydrates, such as low GI carbs, so why not pick all the right ones and reap all the nutritional benefits?

What’s low GI and why is it a healthier choice of carb?

The Glycemic Index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels - the lower the glycemic index of a food, the steadier the release of energy. Eating high GI carbs produces a faster, higher rise in blood sugar levels, which can also be followed by plummeting lows.

Why should I choose low GI?

You’ll often hear dietitians and nutritionists recommend incorporating low GI carbohydrates as your source of carbs in your diet. The reason being, low GI carbs can help give you a sustained release of energy – which is good news if you’re trying to be as productive as possible and get the most out of your days.

Also, according to research, a low GI diet is ideal for performance endurance. Studies show that eating low GI foods prior to exercise helps keep you performing for a longer period of time – great for all the fitness fans.

What foods are low GI and how can you identify them?

To put it simply, low GI foods have a Glycemic Index of 55 or less – these foods include beans and legumes, sweet potato, corn, fresh fruit and wholegrain bread. One of my favourite low GI foods is SunRice Low GI White Rice - it gives you the freedom to eat white rice and it’s also naturally gluten-free.

High GI foods have a Glycemic Index of 70 or more – look to minimise foods that are high GI. Some common examples include lollies, candy or sweets, soft drinks (soda), cakes, cookies and pastries, fruit juice, and cordial.

A simple way to identify low GI foods when doing your grocery shopping is to look for the low GI symbol from the Glycemic Index Foundation on the front of the packaging.

How do I swap to low GI foods?

If you’re keen to swap to a low GI diet, my advice would be to simply make small switches with the food you eat. For some of your main meals, replace couscous with low GI rice as your carb of choice and when you’re craving something sweet, opt for fresh fruit with plain Greek yoghurt, over baked goods or lollies. Another great tip is to select a handful of nuts over a bag of potato chips or processed foods.

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