Learn about the glycemic index diet, including tips for eating a healthy, low GI diet for weight loss and energy gain.
GI stands for glycemic index; this is the measure of how food reacts with the body. Eating foods that are low GI has many benefits, and when followed for a length of time, a low GI diet can help boost energy levels, improve mood and banish sugar cravings.
To skip the complicated science of the diet, low GI foods keep the body feeling fuller for longer, whereas high GI foods do not sustain the full feeling for very long.
The beauty of this diet is it does not restrict the dieter to any categories; it describes how all foods are fine if well balanced and eaten in the right amounts. For example, if you want to eat something that falls into a high GI category, you eat one portion with two portions of something low GI, therefore balancing the meal out.
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Get Started With Low GI- Bread and Potatoes
One of the key features to the GI diet is to cut down on highly processed foods and swap them for purer, wholegrain versions. For example, white bread is high GI, so it can be replaced with breads such as barley bread, soya bread or granary bread, which are low GI.
Swap high GI potatoes (which score as high due to their high starch content) for yams or sweet potatoes, which can be used in all the same ways as a regular potato, but with added benefits. Sweet potatoes are classed as medium GI but are acceptable substitutes as they contain plenty of fibre, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Yams are only a little lower in GI but do not contain as much nutritional value.
Get Started With Low GI- Rice, Pasta and Snacks
Rice and pasta are a tricky subject. Pasta is at its lowest GI when made from durum wheat and eaten in smaller portions; the longer it is cooked, the higher its GI, which also applies to rice. With rice, there are no low GI varieties, so the best ones to use are white, brown and basmati rice. However, in many recipes things such as grains can be used instead: barley, buckwheat, bulgar wheat and variety of beans can replace pasta and rice if required.
For snacks, chocolate is allowed, of course in moderation, and in its purest forms. Good quality plain, dark or white chocolate is a great snack for a sweet tooth, but when chocolate is combined with sugary additions such as caramel, the GI becomes higher. For more nutritional snacks, choose nuts, seeds and yoghurts. Sponge cake is also allowed.
Get Started With Low GI- Vegetables, Fruit and Meats
Whereas most diets encourage the eating of any vegetables, fruits and meats, low GI does effect the choices made.
Most fruits are low GI as they have high fibre content; the general rule is that the higher the acidity is the lower the GI is. Some of the lowest GI fruits are apples, cherries, grapefruit and most berries. High GI fruits include watermelon and dates.
With vegetables, the cooking process can change the GI. All vegetables rise in GI when cooked, so eat as many raw or steamed as possible. High GI vegetables are ones that are high in starch such as potatoes, parsnips, pumpkin and turnip. The lowest GI vegetables are the greens such as asparagus, cabbage, mangetout and lettuce.
Most meats are low GI, although it is important to keep an eye on the fat content, particularly if watching your heart health. Fish is always a good choice, as it is rich in omega-3 and other vitamins. Chicken is a healthy choice as it is low in fat and also it is an inexpensive meat.
Why Try the GI Diet?
Here are some of the benefits that can be gained from following a low GI diet:
- It is perfect for monitoring heart health, resulting in better cholesterol.
- It is an easy way to increase fibre content, helping prevent digestive cancers.
- Reducing sugary food produces anti-aging results.
- Low GI diet can help diabetes sufferers, keeping blood glucose more stable.
- The low GI diet can boost your immune system.
- It can increase energy levels and stamina.
- Women will see improvements in PMS symptoms and can improve fertility.
The GI diet is easy to follow, quick to switch to and can instantly increase energy levels. Over time, it can also aid weight loss. There are many books and websites available for further information, so be sure to check out local bookstores and the web for more details.