Diet Spotlight: The GI Diet

01/11/2010 13:51 | Updated 22 May 2015

If you're struggling to shift some middle jiggle and don't want to resort to faddy weight loss plans, the GI diet could be for you. A clever way of working out which foods keep you feeling fuller for longer, it can help you drop pounds and stay healthy too.

Flickr: Summer Tomato

GI what?

GI stands for Glycemic Index, which measures the effect of food on your blood sugar level. In a nutshell, foods with a high GI content raise the body's blood sugar quickly and foods with a lower GI content raise it more slowly.

So what does high GI mean?

These foods release their energy quickly, giving you that classic high you experience after eating something like cake or biscuits. But after the energy is released, you can experience a low, leading to cravings and the desire to eat more quick-fix foods to recapture that high. The rapid burst of energy also means the body is burning calories rather than fat, making it harder to lose weight.

What's so good about low GI?

Low GI foods release their energy slowly, making the body feel fuller for longer. This reduces the desire to graze and snack, leading to less calories consumed overall so you end up losing weight.

How are GI values worked out?

Foods are given a GI score, which is worked out by closely monitoring the food's effect on blood sugar. Everyone is different - so you may process pasta differently to your partner - but but low GI is scored as 55 or less; medium 56 to 69; high GI is 70 or above.

What are some examples of high and low GI foods?

It's a bit of a mixed bag - healthy foods, such as watermelon, can have high GI counts, while traditionally unhealthy foods, such as custard, can have low GI counts. As a rule of thumb, processed foods tend to have high GI counts, while natural wholefoods tend to be lower in count.

How does the diet work then?

It's easy, honest! You eat meals based around low GI foods and avoid high GI foods as much as possible. You won't need to worry about points, sins, or complicated protein proportions. Although, you do need to keep an eye on your fat intake, as low GI foods can be quite high in fat.

What about mixing low and high GI?

Eating a meal featuring low and high GI foods is not necessarily a recipe for disaster, as the low GI foods will lower the overall GI content of the meal. This means the diet can be quite flexible and you won't be stuck eating lettuce for a lifetime.

Sounds great! How do I get started?

If you want to give GI dieting a go, make sure you buy a proper book or sign up to an online club to properly prepare for your GI adventure. And follow the same rules you would for any healthy eating plan - watch your portion sizes, avoid too much fat and make sure you fit in some regular exercise too.

How much weight will I lose?

Typical weight loss on the GI diet is around one to two pounds per week, which experts agree is an ideal healthy amount. Losing weight slowly and steadily means you're more likely to keep it off too.

Is it safe?

Yes - as long as you eat sensibly and regularly. The GI diet is also believed to help prevent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, making it an all-round good egg - incidentally, a low GI food!


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