Low GI eating is an evidenced-based way of eating for better health.
Decades of science has shown that the slow release of glucose into the bloodstream from the “good” carbs in a low GI diet has many incredible benefits on our health.
The health benefits from low GI eating include:
- improving blood sugar control
- helping to prevent and manage lifestyle related diabetes including type 2 diabetes (the world’s fastest growing chronic disease) and gestational diabetes, as well as decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetic complications by 20%
- reducing insulin resistance
- managing cravings and helping to feel fuller for longer
- managing and maintaining a healthy weight by controlling appetite and delaying hunger
- reducing insulin levels and helping to burn fat
- managing PCOS and improving PCOS symptoms
- providing sustained energy levels to the brain, improving concentration and memory
- improving mood
- managing and reducing acne – a low GI diet can reduce acne by up to 50% in just 12 weeks
- providing sustained energy for muscles, helping you to perform longer during exercise
- improving blood cholesterol levels
- reducing the risk of developing heart disease
- improving pregnancy outcomes, including healthy bub growth rate and managing gestational diabetes
- eye health and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration
- dental health and reducing risk of dental caries
- reducing breast cancer risk
With all of the amazing benefits of low GI eating, let’s have a look at HOW to eat low GI, starting with a quick recap of the glycemic index.
The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index is a tool that measures how carbohydrate foods affect our blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Carbohydrate foods include foods like bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes such as lentils and beans, milk and yoghurt.
Carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet since they provide energy for our brain, muscles and organs. However not all carbohydrates affect our body in the same way.
Some carbohydrate foods cause a quick spike and drop in our blood sugar levels, providing us with short-lived energy. Other carbohydrate foods provide a steady rise in our blood sugar levels, giving us longer lasting energy.
The GI measures this effect of carbohydrate foods on our blood sugar levels (calculated by international scientific testing) and ranks them on a scale of 1-100:
- Low GI = 55 or less
- Mid GI = 56 – 69
- High GI = 70+
High GI carbohydrate foods are broken down rapidly during digestion releasing glucose quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, giving the quick, short-lived energy hit.
Low GI carbohydrate foods are digested and absorbed more slowly, meaning blood sugar is released more slowly into your bloodstream, providing you with steady and long-lasting energy.
How To Eat Low GI
Low GI eating simply involves choosing low GI carbohydrate foods inplace of high GI foods.
Low GI eating does not mean going low carb or cutting out carbs. Instead, low GI eating is about focusing on “good” carbs – that is, low GI carbs.
Going low GI is easy and achievable. It involves shopping for “good” low GI carbs at the supermarket and swapping high GI food options for low GI options for the majority of your meals when eating out and at home.
Follow the 4 easy steps below to help you eat low GI and live a healthier life:
Step 1: Look For The GI Symbol When Shopping
The Gl Symbol (pictured below) is your shortcut to choosing healthier, certified low Gl products. Products that carry the GI Symbol have been tested in a laboratory under strict guidelines to ensure their GI value is accurate.
Gl Symbol products are among the healthiest in their category as they must meet strict nutrient criteria for carbohydrates, kilojoules (energy), fats, sodium and where appropriate fibre and calcium.
Leading health experts agree that Gl product labelling is an important tool for people living with diabetes.
Look for the GI symbol when shopping to help you go low GI.
Step 2: Use A Low GI Shopping List
Buying low GI foods at the supermarket is key to following a low GI diet.
Use the following Low GI Shopping List to help you go low GI.
Low GI Shopping List*
BREAD AND WRAPS – choose from the following:
- Dense wholegrain breads
- Grain and seed breads
- Multigrain breads
- Authentic sourdough
- Fruit Loaf: Raisin bread
- Corn tortillas
- Grain and seed wraps
BREAKFAST CEREALS – choose from the following:
- Traditional rolled or steel cut oats
- Bircher Muesli
- Whole grain high fibre cereals
MAIN MEAL CARBS – choose from the following:
- Cracked Wheat
- Fresh Noodles; Hokkein, Udon, Rice
- Soba Noodles
- Rice – SunRice Low Gl (white or brown rice), Basmati rice
- Pasta, cooked al dente
- Pearl Barley
- Pearl Couscous
VEGETABLES – choose from the following:
- Carisma Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Green Leafy
- Sweet Potato
- Carisma Potatoes
LEGUMES – choose from the following:
- Baked Beans
- Borlotti Beans
- Butter Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Split Peas
FRUIT – choose from the following:
- Canned fruit in natural juice
- Dried fruits – apricots, prunes, raisins, sultanas
- Kiwi Fruit
DAIRY FOODS AND ALTERNATIVES – choose from the following:
- Reduced fat milk
- Reduced fat custard
- Reduced fat yoghurt, plain or fruit flavoured
- Low fat ice-cream
- Low fat soy milk
- Low fat soy yoghurt and ice-cream
SNACKS – choose from the following:
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Grain & Fruit bars
- Wholegrain crackers
- Nut & Seed bars
SPREADS – choose from the following:
- Fruit Spreads
- Nut butters
DRINKS – choose from the following:
- 100% Vegetable
- Fruit Juice
- Fruit Smoothies
- Skim Latte
- Soy Drinks
*Note: for specific brands, see swaps guide below or click here.
STEP 3: Use The Low GI Swaps Guide
Swapping high GI foods for low GI foods is a simple way to go low GI. Use the following Low GI Swaps Guide to help you swap high GI foods for low GI foods.
If you regularly consume foods from the first high GI food list, swap them for a low GI alternative from the other lists.
Swap These High GI Foods
Low GI Foods
|Low GI Certified Brand Options|
|Soft white bread, light and airy wholemeal bread, bagel, Turkish bread, focaccia bread, flatbreads, white pita, crumpets, English muffins and white tortilla wraps.||Dense high fibre wholegrain bread, authentic sourdough bread, grain and seed bread, pumpernickel bread, fruit bread, raisin bread, whole grain high fibre wraps, white corn tortilla wraps.||Bürgen® Rye Bread|
Bürgen® Wholemeal & Seeds Bread
Bürgen® Soy-Lin® Bread
Bürgen® Whole Grain & Oats
Tip Top 9 Grain™ Wholemeal Bread
Tip Top® 9 Grain™ Original Bread
Tip Top® 9 Grain™ Original Bread – Mini Loaf
Tip Top® Oatilicious® White
Tip Top® Oatilicious® Wholemeal
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low GI7 Seeds & Grains Vienna Bread
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low GI 7 Seeds & Grains Bread Loaf
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low Gl 7 Seeds & Grains Bread Loaf
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low GI 7 Seeds & Grains Bread Rolls
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low Gl White Bread Loaf
Helga’s™ Lower Carb Wholemeal & Seeds Bread
Coles Bakery High Fibre Low GI White Bread Rolls
Helga’s™ Lower Carb 5 Seeds Bread
Helga’s™ Lower Carb Wholemeal Wrap
Kawan Low Gl Chapatti
Helga’s™ Lower Carb Soy & Toasted Sesame Bread
Low Gl Paratha
Mission® Low GI+ Protein Wraps
Wonder Active Low GI
Woolworths Low GI High Fibre 7 Seeds Bread Rolls
Woolworths Low Gl High Fibre 7 Seeds Bread Loaf
Woolworths Low Gl High Fibre 7 Seeds Mini Bread Loaf Woolworths Low GI High Fibre White Bread Loaf Woolworths Low GI High Fibre White Mini Bread Loaf
|Refined puffed cereal and flaked cereal; quick or instant oats||Traditional rolled or Steel cut oats, natural style muesli, Bircher style muesli or low GI breakfast bars||Morning Sun® NaturalStyle Muesli – 97% Fat Free Fruit Muesli|
Morning Sun® NaturalStyle Muesli – Apricot & Almond
Morning Sun® NaturalStyle Muesli – Peach & Pecan
Moulmein™ Steel Cut Oats
Nestlé® Milo® Protein Bites
Nestlé®Milo® Protein Clusters Cereal
Goodness Boul Uncle Tobys Goodness Bowl
Low Sugar Muesli Berries & Coconut
Uncle Tobys Goodness Bowl Low Sugar Muesli Almonds, Cashews & Cinnamon
|White Potatoes: mashed, deep-fried chips and French fries, potato gnocchi||Carisma™ or Low Carb white potato, sweet potato, butternut pumpkin, parsnip, corn, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans and split peas||Coles Australian BabyCarisma™ Potatoes|
Coles Australian Carisma™ Potatoes
Mitolo Family Farms LowCarb Potatoes
|Rice pasta, corn pasta||Durum wheat pasta cooked ‘al dente’|
|Jasmine, calrose, arborio rice, glutinous white rice congee, medium grain white rice and medium grain brown rice||Low GI white rice, Low GI brown rice, basmati rice, pearl couscous, quinoa, buckwheat, freekeh, bulghur (cracked wheat), semolina, pearl barley and teff||Blue Gourmet Pearl CouscousOsem Israeli CouscousSunRice Low GI Clever White RiceSunrice Low GI Doongara Brown|
|Couscous, millet and polenta||Low GI white rice, Low GI brown rice Basmati, black rice, red rice, wild rice, chia and quinoa rice blends, prepared sushi made from traditional Japanese rice||Blue Gourmet Pearl Couscous|
Osem Israeli Couscous
SunRice Low GI Clever White Rice
Sunrice Low GI Doongara Brown
|Dried rice noodles and instant noodles||Soba noodles, hokkien noodles, udon noodles, vermicelli noodles, buckwheat noodles, fresh rice noodles and mung bean noodles|
|Rice crackers, rice cakes, water crackers and puffed crispbread||Whole grain high fibre crackers, grain and seed crackers|
|Potato chips, pretzels, water crackers, puffed crispbreads, rice cakes and rice crackers||Wholegrain crackers, nuts, dry roasted chickpeas, vegetable strips with hummus, nut, seed and grain bar, small sushi roll and baked beans|
|Biscuits, doughnuts, cakes, pastries, muffins, ice-cream, chocolate and lollies||Fresh fruit, canned fruit in natural juice, grain and fruit bar, fruit and raisin bread, fruit buns, dried fruit and nut mix and reduced fat yoghurt or custard, small fruit smoothie|
|Sugar, treacle, golden syrup, rice malt syrup, brown rice syrup and corn syrup||Date syrup, 100% Fruit Spreads, pure floral honey and pure maple syrup||Capilano Low GI Honey|
|Soft drinks, cordials, energy drinks, fruit juice drink, rice milk, oat milk and sweetened condensed milk||Water, reduced or low fat milk, reduced or low fat soy drink, almond milk, reduced or low fat yoghurt drink, fruit smoothie, coffee with reduced fat or skim milk, 100% fruit juice (limit to 150ml) and 100% vegetable juice|
|Full fat ice-cream, sorbet, gelato, cakes and pastries||Reduced or low fat ice-cream, reduced or low fat custard or dairy dessert, reduced or low fat plain or fruit yoghurt||Nestlé Milo®|
Nestlé® Milo® Energy Dairy Snack Tub
Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bakes Apple & Cinnamon
Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bakes Classic Peanut Butter
Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bakes Honey & Roasted Almond
Uncle Tobys Breakfast Bakes Roasted Cashew & Vanilla Flavour
You can also use the GI Symbol “Swap It” Tool here.
STEP 4: Follow the Low GI Meal Guide and Cook Low GI Recipes
The ideal low GI meal should contain:
- 1/2 plate of vegetables or salad
- ¼ plate lean protein
- ¼ plate quarter low GI carbohydrates
To make your meals low GI, try the following:
- Include legumes – legumes like lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans and baked beans are low GI. You can add legumes to salads, bolognese and casseroles. Canned beans are super easy and all low GI.
- Cook pasta al dente – this lowers the GI of pasta.
- Add vinegar, lemon/lime juice or pickles to your meal – acid lowers the GI of your meal.
- Add olive oil or healthy fat like avocado to your meals – the presence of fat lowers the GI of your meals.
- Include a source of healthy protein with your meals – protein helps lower the GI of the meal.
For more handy low GI meal portion guides, click here.
Stay tuned to my social media channels for an exciting 4-week low GI eating challenge with the Glycemic Index Foundation, kicking off in early 2023.
For more credible information on low GI eating, visit https://www.gisymbol.com
Editor's Note: This post was written as part of my paid partnership with the Glycemic Index Foundation.