Healthy GI

Healthy GI

Butter is bad for you. Butter’s better than margarine.

Red meat’s bad – eat soya. Most soya is genetically modified. You don’t know what problems that might cause.

Advice on what is or isn’t healthy to eat is highly confusing and contradictory. But there is one concept that makes good sense, is very easy to apply and is healthy for all of us. That is the glycaemic index, or GI for short.

Many things that we eat cause a release of glucose into the bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin to maintain balance. If a large amount of glucose is released the pancreas responds with a large amount of insulin. The result is an initial sugar high followed by a sugar low. This yo yo-ing can feel uncomfortable and is unhealthy in the long term.

The glycaemic index is a scientific measure of the rate at which a food releases glucose. A true Low GI food releases glucose slowly and steadily into the bloodstream without overstimulating the pancreas to produce too much insulin.

By using the GI concept we can maintain steady levels of blood glucose. If we combine that with low-fat foods then blood pressure, cholesterol and weight levels can all improve as well. The Heart Foundation of SA recommends it as a healthy, normal way of eating for the whole family.

Leo and I have eaten this way since the early 2000’s. We started because both of us often experienced low blood sugar episodes. Nowadays it is rare that we have that experience of a sugar low when you struggle to think clearly and concentrate, maybe sweat or just feel tired.

Last week when speaking to my homeopath he stated that we should all probably eat in this manner just for general good health.

Now you know what GI is and why using it is good for you, how do you do it?
The idea is to adjust your choice of food so as to eat more low GI and less high GI foods.

Finding low GI foods is quite simple. Just changing the brand you buy or the variant you use is often sufficient.

Here are a few examples –
When buying breakfast cereals or breads many of them tell you on the packaging if they are “low GI”. If not then slowly become familiar with what is. If it’s All Bran Flakes you want then buy Bokomo or Spar, if oats then buy Bokomo, Spar, Pick n Pay or Woolies brands. And the wholewheat variety of Pronutro as well as the multi grain version of Provita biscuits are both low GI. By the way the so called slimmer’s cereal of Special K is a high GI cereal. This means that you feel hungry again quite quickly after eating it. A bowl of Bokomo All Bran Flakes and some plain yoghurt will keep you satisfied for much longer.

Most white and brown rice is low GI and Basmati is intermediate. Pasta made from dhurum wheat is great and baby potatoes in their skins are both delicious as well as low on the GI scale.

Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low GI. And all meats, fish and chicken as well as eggs. Also the dairy protein sources like low fat milk, yoghurt or cheese.

How our bodies react to food depends on chemistry so combining foods correctly lowers the GI. Adding milk or strangely enough sugar to cereals lowers the GI so Strawberry pops have a lower reading than Rice Krispies. Another funny one is cooking and then allowing something to cool often lowers the GI. This works with pap and custard.

Generally the simple mixing of a high GI item with a low one will bring the value down to the average. In general combining protein with carbohydrate moderates the body’s response.

To get a more detailed understanding of the GI concept you can go to the website There is also a range of recipe books all containing low GI, low fat recipes. The first one was called Eating for Sustained Energy. All are coauthored by Gabi Steenkamp.

To sum up why it is beneficial to adjust one’s eating in this way. It helps one generally feel well with good energy levels and in the long run reduces one’s risk for lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
And best of all it is really simple to get started and it easily becomes a normal way of life.

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