Rave About the Glycemic Index

Guest Post by Sally Marchini – Dietitian

Recently I’ve been hearing a few people raving about the benefits of including low-GI carbs regularly in our food intake, and you may have realised by now that I am a HUGE fan of them and include low-GI carbs in every meal that I eat (wherever possible) as I personally see the results in minimised fluctuations in my blood glucose levels, in my weight maintenance and in my cholesterol tests. So I thought it might be a good time for a ‘reminder’ blog for those less experienced in the glycemic index 🙂 Hopefully others of you may get a ‘light-bulb’ moment by a new idea too!

For those of us taking insulin, I also like to raise consideration of the action time of the insulin that we dose for the carb that we choose, bearing in mind that most of the fast acting insulins remain active for about three hours. So if you can match the action of the carbs as closely as possible to the action of the insulin then it makes sense that your BGLs remain more stable, and low-GI carbs help make this possible.


My first blog on the topic of the glycemic index, back in November last year (one of three) was called ‘How low can you go? Benefits of low-GI carbohydrate sources’.  In it I explain what the glycemic index means and how it affects our blood glucose levels, as well as listing several other benefits that have been demonstrated with over 30 years of research into the topic:

  • 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

In the second blog in the series, called ‘Choosing to go low – making the change to low-glycemic index carbs’, I explain that the great thing about making the change to low-GI is that it’s not a diet but more a way of eating.  It’s not restrictive, and if you can learn to recognise when foods are likely to have a lower glycemic index, then you’ll be able to make better choices. It doesn’t cut out any major food groups so we’re still following the Australian Dietary Guidelines.  I talk you through the five major food groups and how to include the low-GI carbs from them in your meals and snacks, as well as how to manipulate the glycemic index of your meal. It’s a really helpful blog 🙂

The third in the series, called ‘Closing the GI loop – quality + quantity of carbohydrates’, reminds us that for our blood glucose control we need to manage not only the quality of our carbohydrates by choosing low-GI and nutritious carb sources, but also the amount we’re having. It explains how the glycemic load works.


Then a few months later I attended a lecture by Dr Alan Barclay of the Glycemic Index Foundation and wrote an update blog, called ‘An update on glycemic index and glycemic load’, which referred to recent research on the topic as well as including further explanations such as that the glycemic index compares equal quantities of available carbohydrate in foods, is a measure of their effect on blood glucose levels in 10+ healthy people over a 2 hour period, and is expressed as a percentage.

The GI Ranking of individual foods is:

  • 55 or less = Low GI
  •  56-69 = Moderate GI
  • 70+ = High

We talked further in this blog about glycemic load (GL) and that it’s important to remember that the higher the GL, the greater the elevation in blood glucose AND insulin levels, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.   It also talks about the requirements for companies to use the low-GI symbol on packaging and has a link to subscribe to the free e-newsletter published by the Glycemic Index Foundation, GI News, that I would encourage you all to subscribe to.

If you’re looking for low-GI food ideas, the GI Foundation website not only has a special section for diabetes, but also some great recipes and many other hints and tips including a SWAP calculator to help you find a lower-GI alternative to your favourites AND this awesome shopping list.

How do you keep your BGL’s stable?


Suggestions from our community for foods you can include every day to help keep your blood sugars more stable include:

  • Natural foods – lots of fresh veggies, fruits and oats. I also find that sourdough rye bread is really good for me – doesn’t affect my levels too much
  • I have found too that rye bread is good for keeping my sugars in check. One thing lately has been oats for breakfast. Keeps me full and I don’t get that spike in my levels
  • Oats, dairy and fruit for breakfast – a good start for the day!
  • Vegetables, as many as I can fit into my diet
  • Porridge for breakfast, Soup for lunch, Apple orange and nuts during the day and muesli cookies with my late night cuppa
  • Bananas
  • Thanks for the suggestion of sour dough rye! I love my oats for breakfast and in winter soup for lunch
  • Almonds as snacks, Greek yoghurt in my breakfast, things in my salad like kidney beans and chickpeas, sweet potato by the bagful
  • That with an apple for morning tea is my 2 serves of fruit plus extra fibre
  • Porridge for breakfast, salad sandwich on raisin bread for lunch, fruit for snack and soup for dinner most days anyway
  • We like to have porridge which is great for our child’s readings
  • Nuts and avocados

Thanks for such great ideas team!  Isn’t it great how everyone is understanding that the low-GI carbs helped to keep their blood glucose levels more stable?  How do you do it? 🙂

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

1 Comment

  1. Sandra Williams on June 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Sallie, I make the orange cake where you boil 2 oranges for an hour, puree them and then add almond meal, eggs, sugar (or substitute) and baking powder. I find that this is fabulous – does not affect my levels much at all.