The Low-GI Hit List: What Should You be Eating and Why

Eating foods that have a lower score on the glycaemic index (55 or less) can help balance your blood sugar levels and help you feel more energised throughout the day. While this is great for everyone, it is especially beneficial for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Luckily, going low GI is easy and is mostly about making healthier food choices.

Try these tips to keep meals and snacks low GI and full of nutrients:

1. Swap cereal for porridge

Many packet breakfast cereals are laden with hidden sugars and are higher on the glycaemic scale, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. On the other hand, porridge made from whole rolled oats has a GI score of less than 50 and will help keep your blood sugar steady and provide your body with much-needed fibre and B vitamins. Be careful of instant porridge however, as it has a GI value of 83.

Expert Tip: In winter, mix warm porridge with berries, yoghurt or milk. In summer, try ‘overnight oats’ by mixing ½ a cup of whole rolled oats with 1/3 cup of Greek yoghurt, ½ cup of milk, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla paste and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds. Pop in a sealed jar, shake and leave in the fridge overnight. Serve topped with fresh fruit.

2. Include nutrient-dense beans

Beans are nutrition powerhouses. They are a good source of protein, fibre, zinc, folate and magnesium and have an average GI score of 40. Plus, they are inexpensive and simple to prepare. You could make homemade baked beans for a delicious breakfast. Simply add chickpeas or kidney beans to a salad for lunch and add lentils or cannellini beans to a hearty soup or casserole for dinner.

3. Eat your greens

Green leafy vegetables are great sources of many vitamins and minerals and have a very low GI score. To add more greens to your plate, add spinach to pasta dishes, salads or toss a few leaves in a smoothie, use kale in salads and soups or make wholemeal kale muffins, add broccoli and bok choy to stir-fries and rocket to homemade pizza.

4. Swap white potatoes for their orange counterparts

Sweet potatoes have a lower GI value than regular potatoes and are higher in nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C and fibre. They can also be enjoyed the same way: baked, steamed, mashed or made into fries.  Also look out for purple sweet potatoes (white on the outside, purple on the inside), which are a great source of antioxidants.

5. Look for easy white rice alternatives

Brown rice and basmati rice are lower on the GI scale than white rice and taste great with all manner of dishes. Quinoa (keen-wah) is another great rice alternative and has a low GI score of 50. Plus, it’s a terrific source of complete protein and contains calcium and magnesium.

6. Go nutty

Walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews and almonds have limited amounts of carbohydrate and will therefore only have a small impact on your blood sugar levels. They are also filled with heart-healthy fats and a rich source of minerals such as selenium and zinc. Snack on a small handful of nuts or try spreading almond or ABC butter on wholemeal crackers, bread, carrot or celery sticks. Look for raw, unsalted varieties, which are much better for your health.

7. Enjoy pasta, but don’t overcook it

When cooked ‘al dente’ (slightly firm) like the Italians do, pasta has a fairly low GI score (30-60). Cooking it until it is soft however, will actually boost the GI and make it less desirable for people with diabetes, or those wishing to keep their blood sugar in check. Also look at your portion sizes. Try to stick to a cup of pasta and mix with plenty of vegetables and protein.


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