"G.I. Joe" your Carbohydrates!

Article By: Shirley O'Dwyer 02/10/2017

"G.I. Joe" your Carbohydrates!

I’m sure you have heard of low and high GI foods – it’s been in the media for a while now, but what does it really mean for a food to be high GI and how relevant is it to your health? Is this just another fad-diet?

GI stands for Glycemic Index; it was first developed in 1981 by Professor David Jenkins – his intent was to create a reference tool for assisting people with Diabetes to make smarter food choices when trying to regulate their blood sugar levels [1].

The word glycemic means the presence of glucose (or sugar) in your blood [2]. When we talk about the Glycemic Index we are talking about the ranking of a carbohydrate on a scale of 0 to 100. This ranking is dependent on the extent to which the carbohydrate has raised your blood sugar levels after eating it [3]. For example, a food that has a high GI rating is one that is rapidly digested, absorbed and metabolised therefore raising blood glucose levels within moments of eating it. Glucose, unsurprisingly has a GI score of 100 and those fruit straps you ate as a kid... they score 99!

On the other hand, carbohydrates that score 55 or less are considered to be low GI [4]. These are digested slower and lead to a more gradual increase and decrease in blood glucose and insulin levels, which has a multitude of health benefits.


Benefits of a low GI diet

Eating a diet that incorporates low GI foods in substitution for high GI foods is beneficial for all, as it could prevent some of Australia’s most common diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. In fact, the Diogenes study from Europe found that low GI diets that were moderately high in protein were the best for long-term weight loss management [5].

“How does a low GI diet help someone to lose weight?” I hear you ask. I know everyone thinks that carbohydrates are the devil, but what the Glycemic Index tells us is that not all carbohydrates are made equal. A small bowl of white rice with a GI score of 72 will be digested and absorbed quickly causing a spike in blood glucose levels. As our bodies don’t like super high blood glucose levels, insulin is triggered to store that glucose in cells around the body or, if the storage holds are full, convert it into fat.

Now let’s compare that to a small bowl of brown rice with a GI of 50, as this is slightly more challenging to digest it is absorbed slower resulting in a gradual increase in blood glucose, one that is relative to our bodies need for energy meaning there is no need for conversion into fat.


SMG Health’s Top 6 Swap-outs!

You will be happy to hear that keeping to a diet that is low GI does not mean severe restrictions. The key to low GI diets is clever swap-outs and everything in moderation:

  1. Swap white rice for either brown rice or basmati rice.
  2. Swap plain potato mash for sweet potato and parsnip mash
  3. Swap rice vermicelli noodles for buckwheat soba noodles
  4. Swap puffed grain cereals for whole grain muesli
  5. Swap dried fruit for fresh fruit
  6. Swap rice cakes for rye crackers
  7. Swap out all cakes, biscuits and chocolate for wholegrain seeded bread with fruit or nut spread, or your favourite dip



This information on the glycemic index is general information only and will not suit all individuals. There are specific health conditions that specifically require certain glucose levels in the diet which can only be identified by a qualified health professional. Please seek your health professional for further advice.




1. http://www.glycemic-index.org/  
2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/glycemic  
3. http://www.glycemicindex.com/about.php  
4. http://www.glycemicindex.com/ 
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21105792  

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