The lowdown on low GI eating
Prof Jennie Brand-Miller talks to GI News with the release of the fourth edition of her book, The Low GI Handbook (previously published as The New Glucose Revolution). We asked her to describe what she feels is the key to a low GI diet.
‘I find that it’s the word “low” that seems to throw people. Eating the low GI way is not putting yourself on a low carb diet. If anything, it’s a “slow” carb diet. It’s about choosing the right carbs to fuel your body and power your life.
I like to use the analogy of a car – if you don’t put gas in your car, it won’t go. And, if you put the wrong gas in your car, it won’t perform at its best and it may even break down. It’s the same with your body – carbohydrate is your fuel – it’s what makes you go because it gives you energy.
We don’t specify how many carbs you should be eating (that’s your call) – but we do say wherever you can opt for the low GI ones. Why? Well, low GI foods are the “slow” carbs and high GI foods are the “fast” carbs.
Slow is better than fast for you and me most of the time. This is because fast carbs stress your body because they release too much blood glucose (energy) too quickly and your body has to really work overtime producing insulin to reduce the glucose levels. This not only stresses the organs (leading to disease), it also depletes your energy levels, which makes you feel hungry – possibly leading to snacking, snacking, snacking and becoming overweight.
Slow carbs, on the other hand, release energy over a longer period of time and sustain it at the level you need to perform at your peak. You may also lose weight eating this way, and keep it off – reducing your risk of “breaking down” with disease.
As for the health benefits, well, a low GI diet is proven to reduce the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. And best of all you’ll lose some weight and keep it off.
But while I am a firm believer in the idea that NOT all carbs (just like fats or proteins) are created equal, I would be the first to say that you should not use the GI in isolation. So a low GI claim on chocolate would be inappropriate. A low GI claim on cola would be inappropriate. But it is appropriate on foods that are nutritious in their own right, as well as being low GI.
So, what’s the key to eating a low GI diet? It’s simply choosing “slow carbs” to fuel your body like pasta, legumes, fruit, lower GI starchy vegetables and dairy products. Of course you also need to eat plenty of vegetables and lean protein and exercise. The GI isn’t a magic bullet!’
Listen to the podcast interview with Prof Jennie Brand-Miller recorded in June 2008.