Food for Thought

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Better breads for blood glucose
However you slice it, bread is truly a staple food. It’s not particularly fattening (a typical slice has around 300 kJ/70 cals) so long as you watch what you spread on it, and it’s an affordable convenience food. However, most breads on supermarket shelves – and that includes most English style muffins and bagels, baguettes, rolls, burger buns, Turkish (pide) bread and pocket (pita or Lebanese) breads – are made from quickly digested highly refined flours (white or wholemeal) that can send your blood glucose soaring. If you make the ‘this for that’ switch to a low GI bread for your sandwiches and toast, you will be well on your way to reducing the overall GI of your diet, managing the blood glucose roller coaster and trickling those smart slow carbs into your engine for sustained energy.

How do you know which ones are low GI? Well, you can look for the GI Symbol if you live in Australia or New Zealand or check out The Shopper’s Guide to GI Values 2010. Otherwise, here’s what we suggest. Look for:

  • Grainy wholegrain breads such as ‘multigrain’ contain lots of ‘grainy bits’ right in the bread (not just on top for decoration). They tend to have a slightly chewy texture.
  • Soy and linseed tends to be a moist bread with good keeping qualities. It’s typically made by adding kibbled soy beans or soy flour and linseeds to bread dough. These breads are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the good essential oils).
  • Crusty, chewy traditionally made sourdough’s characteristic flavour comes from the slow fermentation process, which produces a build-up of organic acids.
  • There are several types of fruit loaves or breads which include raisins, sultanas, dried apricots or apple, figs and sometimes nuts and seeds. Generally, the heavier, dense fruity breads will have a lower GI.
  • Pumpernickel, a traditional rye bread from Germany, can be something of an acquired taste. It’s a very good source of fibre and thanks to its high proportion of whole cereal grains, has a low GI value. It is usually sold thinly sliced and vacuum packed for long shelf life.

Grainy bread

If you like to buy your bread from a specialty bakery or hot bread shop (no labels at all), look for really grainy wholegrain breads, a traditionally made sourdough, or soy and linseed breads. If you want a general rule of thumb: the higher the proportion of kibbled grains (ideally around 20%), the coarser textured, denser and less processed a bread is, the lower its GI is likely to be from these outlets.

A word of warning: Don’t overspread yourself. It’s what goes on the bread or into the sandwiches that can really pile on the calories.