Incorporating Low GI Foods Into your Diet
Incorporating Lower GI foods into your diet
Q. What are some simple ways I can incorporate lower-GI foods into my diet?
• Enjoy plenty of salads and fresh vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.
• Choose breads that contain a high proportion of whole or cracked grains, stone-ground whole wheat flour, oats, bran and/or seeds.
• Choose unrefined cereals, such as large-flake rolled oats, oat bran, wheat bran, muesli and cereals made with psyllium.
• Choose brown, wild, basmati or converted (parboiled) rice.
• Try sweet potatoes for dinner instead of regular white potatoes.
• When baking, choose recipes that call for whole grain flours, oat bran, wheat bran, rolled oats or ground flaxseeds instead of all-purpose flour.
• Snack on fruit, vegetables, yogurt or a handful of nuts (almonds, peanuts and walnuts are good choices because they also add healthy fats to your diet).
• Enjoy more legumes, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
• Try tofu, barley, bulgur or lentils.
• Try to include at least one low-GI food at each meal.
Q. What are some of the factors that influence GI values?
Type of starch. There are two types of starch in foods: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose has a lower GI rating because the molecules form tight clumps and are harder to digest. Amylopectin has a higher GI rating because the molecules are more open and are easier to digest. The more amylose starch a food contains, the lower the GI value of that food. For example, pasta, parboiled rice and many varieties of beans are higher in amylose starch and therefore have a low GI.
Cooking or processing starch. When a food is highly processed or cooked for a long time, the structure of the starch changes and the granules become swollen (gelatinized), softening the food and making it quicker to digest. The more quickly a food is digested, the higher the GI value. Less-gelatinized starch is digested more slowly, resulting in a lower GI. For example, al dente pasta has a lower GI than overcooked pasta.
Acids. Acids in foods slow down stomach emptying, thereby slowing the rate at which the food is broken down and lowering its GI value. Vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, salad dressings, grapefruit, oranges, pickled vegetables and sourdough bread are good examples of acidic foods. Adding acidic foods to high-GI foods will result in an overall lower GI value.
Dietary fibre. Soluble fibre, such as that found in large-flake rolled oats, beans and apples, slows down digestion and lowers a food's GI.
Protein and fat. These slow down the rate of stomach emptying and carbohydrate digestion, which lowers the GI of the food. Some high-fat foods have a low GI and may seem like a good choice, but if the fat is saturated or trans fat, it may increase your risk of heart disease. The best advice is to look for foods that have a low GI and are low in saturated and trans fats. For example, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting has a lower GI than angel food cake, but is much higher in fat, thanks to the buttery frosting.
Sugar. Sugar helps prevent the swelling (gelatinization) of starch granules. Less-gelatinized starch is digested more slowly, resulting in a lower GI. This helps explain why some cookies and frosted breakfast cereals have low GI values despite their high sugar content -- and not necessarily high nutritional values