Beat hunger with a low GI diet

Heathy crispbread with low GI

If there is one thing our members appreciate about the Total Wellbeing Diet, it’s the fact that they don’t tend to feel hungry. But why are low GI diets so successful at keeping hunger at bay?

The glycaemic index (GI) is a ranking given to food to describe how quickly the carbohydrate in the food is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. The scale ranges from 0 to 100 with the lower numbers representing a low GI food and the higher number representing a high GI food.

The glycaemic index is split into 3 ratings:

  • Low: GI value 55 or less
  • Medium: GI value of 56 – 69 inclusive
  • High: GI 70 or more

So, what are the benefits?

The scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy low glycaemic diet is growing stronger. In Australia, 2 out of 3 men, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese. Lowering the GI of your diet may help control appetite and therefore help to prevent these conditions - a worthy goal considering being overweight or obese are the major underlying causes of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Low glycaemic foods are excellent at keeping hunger at bay for longer after eating, which means you consume less food and less calories throughout the day. A key reason people abandon a fad diet is because they feel constantly hungry – which also often ends with gaining back any weight lost.

Studies have demonstrated a 50% increase in a meal's GI – for example, from 50 to 75, results in a 50% decrease in satiety – that feeling of being satisfied or full after a meal. 

We examined 17 studies on satiety and low versus high GI meals, and 16 of them confirmed that low-GI meals increase fullness to a greater extent than do comparable high-GI meals,” Professor Jennie Brand Miler says.

Some examples of low GI foods include beans, lentils, legumes, oats and wholegrain bread.

Keeping insulin steady

When the starches and sugars in carbohydrates are digested, they are broken down into millions of glucose molecules which are released into the bloodstream. When blood glucose levels rise, your body releases a hormone called insulin, which allows glucose to enter cells. This provides fuel for our brains, muscles and other vital organs. If you are overweight or obese, this insulin may not be as effective as it should be.

Foods with a high GI are quickly broken down and absorbed by the body and result in a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, while low GI foods are broken down and absorbed more slowly into the blood stream. They result in a steady rise in blood sugar and insulin levels.

The lower and slower rise in blood glucose, and therefore insulin levels, provided by low GI foods is better for your body.

Insulin also plays a key role in fat storage: when insulin levels rise, our cells are forced to burn glucose rather than fat.

“Insulin is a leading player in  fat storage deciding whether you burn fat or carbohydrate to meet your energy needs. It does this by switching muscle cells from fat-burning to carb-burning,” says Jennie.

For example, if your insulin levels are low, as they are when you wake up in the morning, then the fuel you burn is mainly fat. If your insulin levels are high, as they are after you consume a high carb meal, then the fuel you burn is mainly carbohydrate.

Don't cut out the carbs

But this doesn’t mean you should avoid carbohydrates -  just switch high GI for low GI types.

“If you eat healthy low GI carbohydrates, the pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard, it releases less insulin to manage your blood glucose levels and helps burn more fat.”

Last but not least, Jennie says another benefit of low GI diets like the TWD is they provide a sustainable lifestyle change, rather than a fad that’s impossible to easily integrate into your life or maintain. “Regardless of the types of foods and textures you like to eat, there is generally a way of adapting recipes to use low GI ingredients and improve the value of our food without giving up the enjoyment.”

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