Starting a new diet is always tough, but following a low-GI diet may be easier than you think. You don’t have to immediately learn the whole glycaemic index — there are Web sites and books to help you there. You just have to pay attention to what you eat and how much you eat, which is a healthy way to go in any case.
GI is a scientific way of looking at how the carbohydrates in foods affect blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Scientists know that all carbohydrates raise blood sugar, but the GI takes this understanding one step further by figuring out how much a specific food raises blood sugar.
When you use the glycaemic index to plan your meals and snacks, you’re following a glycemic index diet. It’s not a “diet” in the sense that there are specific meal plans you need to follow, lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid, and other types of rules that are all too familiar to people who’ve tried various weight-loss diet plans. Instead, the GI gives you a method for selecting foods that meet your specific needs and desires.
The GI meals are simple. Your body tells you it’s hungry and wants food. You must think of nutrition which is all about balance. Your meal needs to include protein (chicken, fish, lean red meat, soy products, eggs, nuts/seeds), vegetables, and starch (potato, pasta, rice, bread) to keep your body happy. If you throw in a glass of milk and some fruit on the side, your body will be even happier. Finally, you add in the glycaemic index for a complete picture. Because the glycemic index applies solely to foods that contain carbohydrates, it applies only to the vegetable, starch, milk, and fruit portions of your meal. Theoretically you already have an understanding of these foods’ nutritional values. The GI completes the picture by telling you how these foods will impact your blood sugar, which affects everything from your energy level to your food cravings. You can use the glycaemic index to make gradual, lasting changes in your diet. You don’t have to know the actual glycaemic number of a food to follow an overall low-GI diet. Simply choose foods with a low or medium glycemic ranking, and you can be confident that you’re making smart choices.
Many foods have already been tested for their glycemic index, and that information is readily available at the Web site of the Glycaemic Index Foundation, the official database compiled by Australian researchers.
Start with small steps
Making just one or two changes in the foods you choose each day, switching from a higher-glycemic food to a lower-glycemic one, for example, can lead to big differences over time. The first step is to focus on simple changes that are easy to incorporate into your usual eating habits, such as the following:
Include one low-GI food with every meal and snack.
Eat smaller portions of high-GI. By cutting your portion of a high-glycaemic food such as instant mashed potatoes in half, you decrease that food’s impact on the overall glycaemic load of your meal.
Swap out a high-glycaemic food for one that’s low- to moderate-GI. Instead of eating a smaller portion of instant mashed potatoes, you could try boiled new potatoes.
Take your time adjusting to these changes in order to give yourself a better chance of sticking with them. Set a goal to include a low-glycaemic food at just one meal the first week. The second week, include a low-glycaemic food at a second meal. By the time one month has passed, you’ll find incorporating low-GI foods is a habit, not a chore. You’ll also notice improved health and mood benefits.
As long as you start with small, reasonable changes in the foods you routinely eat, you’ll gradually consume more low-GI foods and fewer high-glycaemic foods over time. The end result will be an overall moderate- to low-GI eating pattern.
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