GI Q&A with Prof Jennie Brand-Miller
A high fat food may have a low GI. Doesn’t this make these foods sound healthy, even when they’re not?
The GI is a measure of carbohydrate quality, not an all-in-one index of a food’s nutritional worth. We don’t recommend jelly beans simply because they are low in fat and the same goes for foods that are low GI but ‘nutritionally challenged’. It’s important to think about all of the different nutritional qualities of a food, and not only its GI. For example, potato chips and French fries are lower GI than baked potatoes. Corn chips are lower GI than sweet corn. The reason: large amounts of fat in food tend to slow the rate of stomach emptying and therefore the rate at which foods are digested. Yet the saturated fat in these foods makes them less healthful and contributes to a greatly increased risk of heart disease.
If we were to weigh the health benefits of a high GI but low fat food (e.g. potatoes) versus one high in saturated fat but low GI (e.g. some biscuits), then we vote for the potatoes. Again, the GI was never meant to be the sole determinant of what foods you choose to eat. It’s essential to base your food choices on the overall nutrient content of a food, including kilojoules, fibre, fat and salt. This is where the GI Symbol Program helps consumers identify nutritious sources of low GI carbs.
Save foods that contain saturated fats, even if they’re low GI – such as confectionery, cakes and biscuits – as treats for special occasions.
New GI values with Fiona Atkinson
We don’t just test health food. And I have to say I have never seen so many smiley volunteers when they heard we were GI testing chocolate mud cake, pavlova, Christmas mince pies, Christmas cake and rum balls! After all, it is the festive season whether or not you are a believer. What did we find? Well, no surprises in the calorie and fat department. So if you are celebrating, enjoy these foods, but remember they are treats for special occasions, so keep those portions moderate, slip into damage control mode and successfully navigate your way through the silly season.
Chocolate mud cake (a bought one from Woolworths supermarket): GI 43
Per 100 g serving you’ll get 1650 kJ/393 cals, 4 g protein, 21 g fat, 46 g carbs and 2 g fibre
Pavlova (Woolworths Select Classic Pavlova Shell, prepared with whipped cream, sliced strawberries, sliced banana and passionfruit): GI 49
Per 100 g serving you’ll get 816 kJ/194 cals, 2 g protein, 9 g fat, 26 g carbs and 2 g fibre
For American readers, pavlova is a light and airy, frothy meringue cake made up of egg whites and sugar that is crunchy on the outside and gooey inside, then piled high with whipped cream and fruit. Traditionally the fruit used is kiwi berries, but any fruit will do. Named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, recipes for pavlova first showed up in written form in the early 1930s.
Christmas cake (Big Sister Christmas Rich Fruit Cake): GI = 53
Per 50 g serving you’ll get 766 kJ/183 cal, 2 g protein, 7 g fat, 28 g carbs and 2 g fibre
Rum balls (Christmas Selection by Woolworths Rum Balls, packet of 12): GI = 50
per 25 g serving (1 rum ball) you’ll get 363 kJ/87 cal, 1 g protein, 3 g fat, 14 g carbs and 1 g fibre
Mr Kipling Christmas Mince Pies (pastry top and base, deep filled): GI = 58
Per pie (59 g) you’ll get 986 kJ/235 cal, 1.5 g protein, 9 g fat, 37 g carbs and 1 g fibre
GI testing by an accredited laboratory
Research Manager, Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS)
Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences
NSW 2006 Australia
Phone + 61 2 9351 6018
Fax: + 61 2 9351 6022
See The New Glucose Revolution on YouTube