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Low down on GI
Glycaemic IndexGlycaemic index
by Dr Rosemary Stanton

What is the Glycaemic Index?

The glycaemic index (GI) measures how rapidly the carbohydrate in a food is digested to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Each food is given a rating by comparing it with straight glucose which is assigned a GI value of 100. The lower the GI, the more slowly the carbohydrate in the food is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Low GI foods are important for those with diabetes because a 'dribble' of glucose into the bloodstream means the body needs only a small amount of insulin to clear the glucose from the blood. Some scientists believe that anyone at risk of developing diabetes - which includes those with excess fat around the waist - should also choose foods with a low GI.

Only foods that have at least 10g of carbohydrate in a serving have a GI. Most vegetables have too little carbohydrate to have a GI and meat, eggs, fish and chicken have no carbohydrate and so don't have a GI.

By definition

  • low GI foods means GI less than 55
  • moderate GI means GI from 56-69
  • high GI means GI greater than 70

Low GI foods for children?

The brain uses glucose as a fuel and studies show that concentration is better when blood glucose levels remain steady. Low GI foods are ideal because they provide a slow steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. However, it's important to also consider the overall healthiness of a food. A low GI junk food is still a junk food.

Low GI food ideas for home

These foods are healthy and have a low GI:

  • Sandwiches or rolls made with wholegrain bread
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hummus with carrot and celery sticks
  • Fruit loaf, fresh or toasted
  • Tabbouli salad
  • Pasta salad or hot pasta dishes
  • Brown rice salad
  • Soups with beans (eg minestrone)
  • Yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dried fruit

Fruits and vegetables and GI

Of the vegetables that have enough carbohydrate to have a GI, the lowest values are in peas, carrots and sweet potatoes. Waxy potatoes that won't mash and are used for potato salad generally have a lower GI than other varieties.

Most fruits have a low GI, especially

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