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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I tell which foods are low GI?

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  • The Glycemic Index Foundation (GIF) is a not-for-profit company supported by The University of Sydney and JDRF (Australia). GIF is committed to providing Australians with … View Profile

    The GI Symbol Program is your trusted guide for healthier food choices. Foods that carry the certified low GI Symbol have not only had their GI tested by an accredited laboratory but also meet very strict nutrient criteria, which include specified limits for carbohydrate, energy (kilojoules), total and saturated fat, sodium and where appropriate fibre and calcium.

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    Ashleigh is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD, AN) and registered with the Dietitian's Association of Australia with experience in both clinical and private practice. Ashleigh's … View Profile

    The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

    The easiest way to find all round healthy food choices is to look for the GI symbol. They make you feel fuller for a longer time and help control appetite. Here is a short list of low GI foods which are recommended to include in a healthy balanced diet:

    • Legumes (kidney beans, baked beans, chickpeas)
    • Sweet potato
    • Low-fat dairy products (milk, yoghurt)
    • Many whole fruits (including apples and oranges, which are affordable year round)
    • Wholemeal Pasta (excepting ‘quick cook’ varieties)
    • Wholegrain breads
    • Wholegrain cereals (oats: one of the reigning champions of low-GI living)

  • Dr Kevin Yong

    GP (General Practitioner)

    I have a special interest in healthy living. I am the creator of eatmovechill.com - a blog about making healthy change. I write about the … View Profile

    Foods that are natural and unprocessed by humans are generally lower GI than processed foods.  

    Fruit, Veg, meat, legumes, grains, nuts are generally better than bread, pasta, biscuits. 

    Go Low HI (low human intervention) and you'll be on the right track. 

  • Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    The GI of a food is affected by many different factors including:

    • The type of sugar - eg fructose, glucose, lactose and maltose all have different GI values
    • The type of starch - eg. the proportion of amylose to amylopectin and the gelatinisation of the starch. The more amylose a food contains, the less easily the starch is gelatinised (due to the structure of the glucose molecules) and the slower its rate of digestion will be. For example, Basmati rice and legumes have a higher proportion of amylose and therefore have a lower GI. Wheat flour and short grain rice have a higher proportion of amylopectin, which is more easily digested, and therefore have a higher GI.
    • The type of fibre - soluble fibres are more slowly digested than insoluble fibres. Foods high in soluble fibre include apples, oats, and legumes.
    • How a food is prepared - processing, cooking, pureeing and grinding all increase the GI of a food
    • The presence of fat or protein slows down the rate of stomach emptying and therefore slows down starch digestion, as do acids in food (eg, vinegar and lemon juice)

    Unfortunately it is difficult to predict the GI of a food due to the variety of factors above – it really must be tested. However we now know the GI of many common foods and new foods are being tested all the time.

    Lower GI foods include traditional rolled oats, barley, freekeh, quinoa, cracked wheat, dense wholegrain breads, legumes, corn, pasta (but not most gluten-free varieties), basmati and doongara rice, many fruits including apples, pears, berries, citrus fruit, peaches and nectarines, and dairy foods like milk and yoghurt.      

    Higher GI foods include white and wholemeal bread, puffed/flaked cereals and crackers, most varieties of rice and potato, and most gluten-free breads and pastas.

    Sydney University do most of the GI testing in Australia and maintain a database of foods which have been tested that can be found at http://glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php. As Asheligh and the GI Foundation have noted above, the GI sympol can help with identifiying low GI foods when shopping. There is also a Low GI Shoppers Guide which you can find on their website http://glycemicindex.com/publicationsList.php

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