The key, is knowing how to tell the difference between “good” fats and “bad” fats, and then apply this knowledge to the concept of a low GI diet. By including good essential fatty acids with our meals, we tend to slow the rate at which a meal is digested or absorbed into the bloodstream, and in so doing, lower the GI of the overall meal.
It’s now well known that “good fats” or essential fatty acids (EFA’s), play a very important role as part of a healthy diet and are important for the functioning of all cells in our body. Essential fatty acids support
- Heart health
- Immune function
- Cognitive function
- Hormone function
- Joint health
- Weight loss
- Skin & hair
The “good” or beneficial fats are the unsaturated fats, either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which come from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, and some fruits such as olives and avocadoes. Medium chain fatty acids, which are most prolific in coconut oil and coconut products, are also not to be overlooked. They’re metabolised differently, and are digested and absorbed quickly. They’ve been attributed with many health giving properties, so be sure to include good quality coconut oil in your diet.
The “bad” fats, on the other hand, are mainly the saturated fats derived from animal sources. “Transfats” or “hydrogenated” oils and fats are another category of fats to be totally avoided. Hydrogenation is a way of processing oils so that they can be used in the production of processed foods to extend their shelf life. Hydrogenated fats are damaging, as our bodies are incapable of breaking them down. Read the labels of all packaged foods, and if you see the words “transfats” or “hydrogenated” leave them on the supermarket shelf! They have no place in a low glycemic diet!
What to Include in Your Low GI Diet
Enjoy the vast array of delicious oils available to you – they’re really all very different in taste, and are wonderful additions to your salads or meals. Experiment and you’ll find your favourites. The most important thing, however, is to choose oils which are fresh, cold pressed, and extra virgin where available. The taste difference is very noticeable – as is the nutritional content! And remember to keep them in the fridge, too!
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
Both are very stable at high temperatures, so great choices for cooking. Have both on hand to enjoy the benefits of each.
Salad Oils – so many to choose from!
- Olive oil
- Walnut oil
- Macadamia Oil
- Sesame oil
- Pistachio oil
- Flax seed oil
- Coconut oil
Nuts and Seeds
These are a nutritious addition to any low GI diet. They’re high in protein and EFA’s so include them in snacks, salads, or meals. Enjoy a small handful daily. If you haven’t tried any of the following lately, enjoy some soon! Just remember to rotate your choices to benefit from the varied nutrient and EFA combinations in each.
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pine nuts
- Flaxseeds / linseeds
In my book they rate a special mention! They’re a powerhouse of nutrition – so use them on your wholegrain breads as a spread instead of butter or margarine!
So stock up the pantry on healthy oils today! Avoid the mass produced supermarket varieties if you can – choose fresh, local, cold pressed – and taste the difference. They’ll help you appreciate the lifestyle of a low GI diet.
Grains and Cereals can make or break your low glycemic diet goals! They can be ranked with either a very low glycemic index rating or a very high glycemic index ranking, largely depending on how they’ve been processed.
At the bottom of the traditional food pyramid you would have always found the recommendation of numerous servings of bread and grains daily. Unfortunately, not all grains are equal! Sadly, processing often leaves a fibre poor, nutrient depleted starch with an incredibly high glycemic score, often-times equal to that of pure glucose.
Breakfast Cereals are often the worst. Most cereals found in supermarket aisles are very high glycemic, sugar laden, and nutrient poor. Sadly, many people, particularly children, begin their day with a poor breakfast choice that sets them up to be hungry a short time later, with rapidly spiking and falling blood sugar levels. Even instant oats, long time believed to be a nutritious choice, are very high glycemic. Instead, choose steel cut or rolled oats as your preferred grain – or you can try other low gi grains like quinoa, millet and buckwheat as well. Perhaps you could even go without a grain for breakfast. Start discovering the vast array of great low gi foods for breakfast that are available, when you start considering a low gi diet as a way of life.
Bread – As far as bread goes, the supersoft, white, fluffy bread that we see almost everywhere, has little resemblance to the whole wheat grain we see growing in the fields. All the goodness has been removed. Instead, choose heavy, wholegrain breads (where you can actually see the grains – and there are far too many to count!) Even better, choose sprouted grain breads, or pumpernickel, usually available from health food stores. Also, consider experimenting with grains other than wheat – rye, spelt, barley and rice are great choices to begin with. And don’t forget the seeds too – sunflower, linseeds, pumpkin, poppy, linseed and more. Some of the nicest breads available are from small traditional bakeries and markets rather than supermarket shelves. Although they may sometimes appear to be slightly more expensive, you’ll soon find that a small slice or too will go a long way. Low gi foods definitely don’t have to be boring!
Highly Processed Grains – Sadly, for many people, processed grains and cereal foods make up far too much of their diet, often leaving little room for quality fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein. As a general rule, if you think of a dinner plate, low gi grains, cereals and starchy vegetables, like potatoes, should only take up one quarter of your plate, leaving another quarter for good quality proteins, and the remaining half for fresh or lightly cooked vegetables or salad.
Always choose whole grain breads, brown or basmati rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and experiment with some of the ancient grains (often found in health food stores and some progressive supermarkets).
Not only do wholegrain low gi foods maintain steady blood sugar levels, and keep you feeling satisfied for longer, they also increase your fibre intake. Research is showing again and again that an increased consumption of wholegrain low gi foods is associated with a greatly reduced incidence of cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
Remember, a low gi diet doesn’t need to be complicated! Just eat foods as close as possible to their natural state in nature, and you can’t go wrong – that’s all there is to low gi foods and a low glycemic deit!