How low can you go? Benefits of low-GI carbohydrate sources

how to eat healthy for diabetesGuest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

My most favourite topics on food to talk about as a dietitian are the Glycemic Index (GI) and nutritional quality of carbohydrates.  So I’ve decided to write a series of blogs through November covering various components of these, especially since November is World Diabetes Month. Today, I’ll focus on the benefits of the GI and you can keep an eye out for the others on Mondays through November.

Whenever I explain the GI to clients and they give it a try, they are astounded by the results they achieve. Common results include tightened BGL control, weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, improved energy levels, and a whole lot more.

In explanation, you know that all carbohydrate foods are broken down by our bodies to glucose which is the preferred fuel for our brains and muscles. The GI is a rating of how quickly the glucose from the carbohydrate foods that we eat reaches our blood supply. So if you eat glucose (doesn’t need breaking down so gets in there pretty quickly) you’ll get a spike, hence it being good for hypo treatments. And if you eat something like whole grains that need to be broken down first, the energy (glucose) from them will be delivered to your blood stream more slowly, creating a longer lasting energy level as demonstrated in this image from The Glycemic Index website.


There’s been over thirty years of research around the world demonstrating the benefits of eating low-GI carbohydrates. They are known to:

  • Help to fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied for longer, helping you to avoid over eating or too much snacking
  • Lower your required insulin levels which makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored
  • Help you to lose body fat and maintain lean muscle tissue
  • Reduce your triglycerides, total and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol
  • Increase your levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol
  • Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, or for us with type 1, slow down the chance of insulin resistance or ‘double diabetes’ (not a technical term).
  • Help to manage your blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of developing diabetes complications
  • Reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce your risk of developing some cancers
  • Reduce your risk of developing certain eye diseases
  • Improve your skin
  • Sustain your energy levels longer, improving both mental and physical performance

Fantastic, isn’t it!?  What was your favourite of all those benefits?

They’re all brilliant, but I think my favourite and that one that hits home with most of my clients, especially those with type 2, is that they lower your required insulin levels which makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored. This is often a revelation for many, and helps them to understand why carbs need to be included in the diet to help with weight loss, rather than avoided – it’s about quality and quantity, not avoidance.

We should therefore aim to include low-GI carbs, at least 1-2 serves, at every meal or snack time.

So how do you make the change?  It’s actually pretty easy and I’ll cover that next time.

In the meantime if you want to know more, you can have a look at The Glycemic Index Foundation website where you can subscribe to a free newsletter.

How low can YOU go? 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.


  1. helwild on November 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks so much Sally, this is very useful and informative. I will be using it in my work as well as my personal life. 🙂

    • Sally on November 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Great helwild – glad you can use it. How will you use it in your work may I ask?

      • helwild on November 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm

        Basically, it will form one of the references I will send as a weblink to some of the people with diabetes that I work with, quoting you as the author, when they are making remarks or asking questions about carbohydrate & GI that need some further clarification. Your explanation is so well written and one of the best I’ve seen. Sometimes information is presented in too ‘mysterious’ a way, rather than simply and clearly. 🙂

        • Sally on November 5, 2013 at 5:57 am

          Thanks Helen – that’s a lovely compliment 🙂