Understanding glycemic index

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What is the Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic Index (GI) is the scientifically proven way of ranking carbohydrates, like breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, milk and yoghurt according to how they affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Most people don’t eat too much carbohydrate. In fact, most people just eat the wrong kind of carbohydrates. And that’s where GI comes in.

Not all carbohydrates are created equal

Carbohydrates with a low GI (55 or less) will make your blood glucose rise slowly and fall gently over a longer time. Carbohydrates with a high GI (70 or more) are digested and absorbed quickly causing your blood glucose levels to spike and then crash.

Research has shown that we eat too many high GI foods and not enough low GI foods. The bottom line is that the average GI of our diet is often too high, putting us at risk of developing significant health problems.

Why is the GI of foods important?

The scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy low GI diet is overwhelming. In Australia, more than 2 out of 3 men, 1 in 2 women, and 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese.

Lowering the GI of your diet will help prevent and manage overweight and obesity, which are the major underlying causes of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

How can the GI benefit me?

It’s all about balance. In order to achieve any of these health benefits, it is important that low GI carbohydrates are a significant part of a healthy balanced diet. This means swapping high GI foods for low GI choices in the same food group or category at main meals and for snacks. The foods you choose should also be lower in saturated fat, moderate in sodium and higher in fibre. Serve size is also important, as eating too much of any kind of food, even healthy choices, may make you put on weight.

Eat slowly and enjoy your food. Think before you eat. Only eat when you are hungry, not stressed, upset or bored.

Also, include in your daily routine 30 minutes of planned exercise like walking, swimming, or riding a bike, plus 30 minutes of “incidental” activity like using the stairs instead of the lift.

What if I have diabetes?

Healthy eating is important for everyone, including people living with diabetes. Enjoying healthy foods and being active will help manage your blood glucose levels (BGLs) and your body weight. In fact healthy eating for people with diabetes is similar to recommendations for everyone. There is no need to prepare separate meals or buy special foods.

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