GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

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Alan Barclay
Dr Alan Barclay

Give us this day our daily bread. 
Taken literally, this line from the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4) reminds us that bread has been a staple food for humankind for millenia. And still today it is consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner time, and often for snacks in many parts of the world. Taste, value for money and convenience are no doubt primary reasons for its ongoing popularity. It is also nutritious and depending on the type, a good source of protein, B vitamins, minerals like potassium and magnesium and dietary fibre (if not highly processed). The carbohydrate content of a typical slice of bread ranges from 11–19 grams with an average of 15 grams – which is a typical diabetic exchange.

What about the GI? Being high in carbs, the GI really matters a lot if you need to manage your BGLs. Values range from a low 39 for dense wholegrain breads to a high 91 for some varieties of Middle Eastern flatbreads. Typical white and brown breads from the supermarket or corner store are generally high GI, while authentic sourdough breads made from white flour are typically low. Low GI breads with the GI symbol available in Australia include:

  • Bürgen® Soy-Lin bread 52; Pumpkin Seeds bread GI51; Rye bread GI53; Fruit & Muesli bread GI53; Wholemeal & Seeds bread GI39; Wholegrain & Oats bread GI51. 
  • Tip Top 9 Grain Original GI53; 9 Grain™ Pumpkin Seed GI53; 9 Grain Wholemeal GI53; 9 Grain™ Mini Loaf Original GI53; 9 Grain™ 9 Seed GI53. 
  • Mission Foods White Corn Tortilla GI52.

Isn’t wholegrain bread low GI? No, not all wholegrain breads are low GI. This is because the definition of wholegrain now means the intact grain or the dehulled, ground, milled, cracked or flaked grain where the constituents – endosperm, germ and bran – are present in such proportions that represent the typical ratio of those fractions occurring in the whole cereal, and includes wholemeal”. In other words, wholegrain products can be made from flour that has been milled very finely down to white flour, then had the endosperm, germ and bran added back in, so that it contains the same proportions as in the original grain. However, the starch in the finely milled white flour is typically very rapidly digested and absorbed, so many wholegrain breads in fact have a medium-to-high GI. Varieties that have a high proportion of kibbled grains and whole seeds – around 20% of the total ingredients – are generally the lower GI varieties.

I can’t eat bread because … You hear people say this a lot these days. But in fact, not that many people really do need to avoid bread for their health. It is more often a matter of choice.

  • People with coeliac disease must avoid breads that contain gluten because their immune system reacts to it, leading to damage to the small intestine, malabsorption of essential nutrients, and associated symptoms like wind, bloating and  diarrhoea.
  • People with wheat intolerance, which is not the same as coeliac disease because it is not an auto-immune condition, need to limit their intake of wheat (and sometimes other gluten-containing grains) to avoid gastro-intestinal symptoms like wind, bloating and diarrhoea. 

Because the symptoms can be very similar it is important that you don’t self-diagnose. See your doctor.

Luckily for those with diagnosed coeliac disease or wheat intolerance, an ever increasing range of gluten free breads are becoming available in local supermarkets, and a few of these are even low GI.

Herbed-crusted fish
Image and recipe kindly provided by Burgen

Herbed-crusted fish: Burgen low GI breads are popular and widely available here in Australia. For those living elsewhere, use a low GI dense grainy bread.  Serves 4

4 slices Bürgen® Wholegrains & Oats bread
mixed bunch flat-leaf parsley and chives, chopped
1 tsp lemon zest 2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 fish fillets (dory or bream)
lemon wedges, to serve

Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400F). Combine bread, parsley and chives in a food processor and process until you have fine breadcrumbs. Add lemon zest, olive oil and pepper to taste. Place fish fillets onto a lightly-greased oven tray and evenly coat the fish with the bread crumb mixture and bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish is cooked through and crust is golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.

Per serve: 1025kJ/245 calories; 25g protein; 9g fat (includes 1g saturated fat); 14g available carbs; 2g fibre
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For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037