High Energy Foods without the bulge
Having more energy is the elusive holy grail these days. ‘I’m knackered’ is becoming the new standard response when friends ask how things are going. It’s the world we live in today – we work hard, play hard, get up earlier and go to bed later. So how can our diet help?
When we eat carbohydrates, they get broken down into sugars. This sugar gets into the bloodstream and triggers the body to release insulin. This helps to convert the sugar into energy which is used by the brain, muscles and liver. Insulin works slowly (over a couple of hours) so while you have a surplus of sugar circulating in your body, you will have extra energy as well.
But when the sugar is all gone you’ll notice a big drop in energy levels and you can end up feeling more tired than when you started. Not ideal. It is like being stuck in a mouse wheel – always chasing the next high. But you can get out of this rat race by being smart with your carbs.
Carbs with a low glycaemic index (or ‘GI’) release sugars slowly. This allows the insulin to keep up with the supply, preventing spikes and dips in energy levels. A low GI diet gives consistent energy through the day and helps you avoid ‘hitting the wall’ between meals. Be the tortoise who is happily chugging along all day, rather than the hare that runs out of steam before the finish line (the next meal)!
What are the benefits of going low GI?
If you have diabetes, this is one of the main dietary tactics we use to better control blood sugars without the need to reduce the carbs in the diet dramatically. All of the evidence-based recommendations for the management of diabetes from the major diabetes organisations around the world (the American Diabetes Association; Canadian Diabetes Association and Diabetes UK for example) now advise people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to use the GI or glycemic load (GL) as part of the nutritional management of their condition.
If you have gestational diabetes, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have recently recommended a focus on lower GI foods. “Low GI diets are associated with less frequent insulin use and lower birth weight than in control diets, suggesting that it is the most appropriate dietary intervention to be prescribed to patients with GDM,” they say.
If you have high cholesterol, recent research provided high-level evidence that high-fibre, low GI diets can significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, independent of weight loss.
If you have lost weight and want to keep it off, there has been some convincing evidence that a moderately high protein, low GI diet is the best for longer-term weight management.
What foods are low GI?
Well you can check the exact GI of a food through glycemicindex.com. The University of Sydney regularly test new foods and update the database with foods and their GI score. A low GI food has a score less than 55.
But we can’t be checking websites everytime we want to eat something so here is our summary/tips on how to get an overall lower GI diet and more sustainable energy. Below this snazzy infographic are our lists of products which are low GI to add to your shoping list.
Our top low GI breads, crackers and wraps:
- Bürgen® Soy-Lin/Rye/Pumpkin seeds/wholemeal and seeds bread
- Tip Top® 9 Grain™ Original Bread
- Helga’s Lower Carb 5 range
- Mission White Corn Totillas
- Country LIfe Gluten Free Low GI white bread
- Wholemeal Rye Bread (no specific brand)
- Bürgen® Fruit Loaf
- Wholegrain pumpernickel bread
- Sourdough rye bread (no specific brand)
- Bakers Delight™ Hi Fibre Lo GI white bread
- Bakers Life 85% lower carb, higher protein bread (Aldi)
- Hermon Brot lower carb bread
- Ryvita crackers
Our top low GI breakfast cereals
- Allbran (all types except Wheat Flakes)
- Muesli (Vogels, Bürgen®, Purina, Freedom Foods, Sanitarium, Morning Sun, Naytura Fruit and Nut)
- Porridge* (made from rolled or steel cut oats)
- Special K
- Guardian Oat Puffs
- Sustain, Vogel’s Ultra Bran Soy and Linseed
- Goodness Superfoods cereals
Our top low GI rice and pasta
- SunRice® Doongara™ Low GI Brown Rice
- SunRice® Low GI Steamed White Rice
- Moolgiri Rice
- Basmati Rice
- Mahatma Long Grain White Rice
- Rice noodles
- Egg Fettuccine
- Fresh Rice Noodles
- Wholemeal Spaghetti and pasta
- Vetta pasta range
- Hermon Brot Lower Carb Pasta
Our top low GI (starchy) vegetables (those not mentioned have negligible carbohytrates)
- Sweet Potato
- Sweet Corn
- Carisma Potatoes
- Green Peas
- Butternut Pumpkin (boiled)
- Cooked and cooled Potato (increases the resistent starch = good for your gut!)
- Parsnips (boiled)
- Legumes (peas/beans/lentils)
- Soy beans
- Kidney beans
- Baked beans
- Lima beans
- Split peas
- Haricot beans
- Butter beans
Top low GI dairy foods
Just a note here because the carbohydrate in dairy foods are from lactose which is naturally a very low GI carbohydrate. The problem is when these foods have lots of sugar added to the mix.
- Greek-style yoghurt, natural flavour
- Low-fat milk (Pura Tone, Physical reduced fat and no fat, skim etc)
- Low-fat yoghurt (natural, vanilla or fruit)
- So Good
- Low-fat ice cream
- Low Fat Custard
- Yoplait Le Rice
FIVE SIMPLE STEPS TO BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS – BEYOND THE GI
We don’t eat foods in isolation, so how do we EAT and put meals together to ensure they are filling, nutritious and won’t pile on the pounds? Also if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you need to balance the ‘sugar’ books, so keep these steps in your mind when planning out your meals.
- Eat mostly unprocessed, unrefined foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grain bread and cereals, meat, fish, and dairy
- Watch your portions –eating lots of ‘low GI’ carbohydrate foods still increase your blood sugar levels!
- Make sure each meal has some protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, beans, nuts)
- Eat regularly: 3 meals and 2 snacks each day will help to keep your blood sugar at a consistent level and prevent spikes and dips in energy
- Eat a variety of foods –fill a whole grain sandwich with lean meat and salad, then have a piece of fruit or yoghurt as a snack.
For a personalised low GI eating plan and recipe ideas, book an appointment to see one of the dietitians at My Nutrition Clinic.