Low GI Diets

The ‘low GI’ diet is based upon the Glycaemic Index: this is a system which ranks carbohydrate-based foods according to their effect on blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels whereas foods with a low GI will cause a minor fluctuation.

GI stands for Glycaemic Index. It is an index that can be used to manage your weight. The basic idea is that the GI will be used to see the effect food has on the sugar levels in your blood. This method has gained a lot of popularity in the recent years.

When you use the GI approach, you are minimizing the chances of acquiring diseases related to the heart, diabetes, and cancer. Using the GI method, you are also effectively controlling your weight. More research may have to be done in order to make these claims more grounded and solid.

The Glycaemic Index or the GI ranks food according to how they influence the sugar levels in the blood or the amount of glucose that is present in your blood. This system was developed by scientists in 1981 in order to find out the effect carbohydrate rich foods have on the blood sugar levels. The findings of the research showed that it was not merely the sugar content of the food that influenced the levels of sugar in the blood. It was much more complex than that. The research paved way for the GI and through this, foods have been categorized in terms of how they effect the glucose levels in the blood.


Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. They can be made up of single molecules like glucose. They can be made up of two molecules like sucrose. They can be made up of multiple molecules or chains like starch. In order to get energy to function, the body has to break down the carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose. When glucose is made, it can already be absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system.

How do you use the GI?

The GI will range from zero to one hundred. When the GI is high then the food turns into sugar quickly thus causing the blood sugar to rise rapidly. When the GI is low then the food turns into sugar slowly and causes gradual changes in blood sugar.

Most of the GI lists used today will classify food into three categories and they are

  • high GI from seventy to one hundred
  • moderate to medium GI is from fifty five to sixty nine
  • low GI which is below fifty five

How will the GI help you control your weight?

When you consume carbohydrates, there is normally a rise in blood glucose after fifteen to forty five minutes. It returns to fasting levels after about two to three hours. When food has a high GI, the sugar will be absorbed by the blood quickly which will cause a fast and quick increase in the sugar levels in your blood. This will be followed by a sudden drop of blood sugar levels. One the other hand, when you consume foods with a low GI, the sugar will be slowly released into the blood. This will result in a slow and steady release of energy. The idea of the GI approach is that when the sugar is released more steadily, the energy supply is more stable, thus, resulting in prolonged energy levels and decreased snacking. Overall, you will be eating lesser calories and maintaining a healthier weight.

What are the factors that affect the GI of foods?

Anything that will affect the rate at which carbohydrates are turned into glucose and pumped into the bloodstream will alter the GI of the food. These things can be identified as follows

  • the size of the carbohydrate - the simpler carbohydrates are absorbed by the body quicker than complex carbohydrates. Short chain carbohydrates like sucrose will have an increased impact on GI as compared to starchy carbohydrates
  • the manner in which foods are processed - porridge that is made from naturally raw rolled outs will have a lower GI compared to instant porridge
  • the structure of the carbohydrate - the starchy carbohydrates like pasta and bread will have the same size but bread will have a higher GI because of its structure
  • the manner in which foods are cooked - boiled potatoes have lower GI values than mashed potatoes
  • the ripeness of a fruit or a vegetable - ripe bananas have higher GI values than bananas that are not yet ripe
  • the length that the food stays in your mouth - the GI is higher when you break down the food more in your mouth and then swallow it

What are some of the problems that can be encountered with the GI approach in weight management?

When you eat foods that have a low GI, it does not mean that you are following a balanced diet and that you are eating healthily. There are foods that have low GI but have high fat content. Fat and proteins slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. Some foods that have a low GI may have high salt and low vitamin and mineral content as well. For instance, a sponge cake has low GI but it is not nutritious. Ice cream has a low GI but it is not necessarily nutritious. On the other hand, watermelon and parsnips have high GI values but are very nutritious. In order to compensate for these exceptions, a GI diet plan will have nutritious foods that have a low GI. Foods on the list will include vegetables and nuts.

Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that when you use the GI approach, you should think about the overall value of the meal and not just the individual foods that you eat. For instance, when you eat white bread which is food with a high GI and baked beans which is food with a low GI then you will end up with a meal that has a medium GI. You can combine foods with different GI’s and then end up with a meal with an average GI.

What are some of the other health benefits that can be derived from the GI approach?

For those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a diet with a low GI will certainly have a positive impact on your health. You will be able to control your blood sugar level more effectively this way. Moreover, using the GI approach, you will also minimize your chances of acquiring heart diseases, getting a stroke, and getting diet-related cancers like colon cancer and breast cancer. More research is being done nowadays to show the positive influence the GI approach can do to your overall health and well being.

Getting Started with the GI Approach

When you start the GI approach, you have to continue eating a balanced diet. You should still continue to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and minimize the consumption of fatty foods and salty foods.

In order to lose weight with the GI approach, you have to ensure that your calorie consumption is lesser than the amount of calories burned during your day-to-day activities. If you combine your diet with exercise, you will lose weight more effectively. You should aim for thirty minutes of exercise five times a week if possible.

Some Key Elements to the GI approach

Here are some key points to remember about the GI approach

  • The GI of food informs you on its effect on the level of blood sugar in your body
  • There are several factors that affect the GI of food. These factors include the carbohydrates in it, the manner in which the food was cooked, and how long you chew your food
  • Foods that have a low GI will release sugar into the blood slowly and steadily
  • Eating foods with a low GI will make you feel full longer and more energetic longer as well
  • When you eat foods that have a low GI, you tend to eat fewer calories. Since the low GI foods make you feel full for a longer time, you end up eating less and snacking less
When you alter your diet and consume mostly low GI foods, you are minimizing the occurrence of sicknesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

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