Three easy tips to lower the GL (Glycemic Load) in your meals
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes you might be familiar with the concept of GI (glycemic index). GI ranks foods on how fast they are digested into sugars and how quickly it impacts blood glucose levels, but it does not reflect the portion size.
The GL (Glycemic load) combines both the quantity and quality of carbohydrates, reflecting the amount of carbohydrates a food contains and its GI. In other words, the GI – is how quick, and the GL – how much and how quick, so is a better parameter to understand the impact of foods on blood glucose levels. Some examples of high GI/GL foods are sugary snacks, pastries, biscuits, fruit juices, white pasta and rice.
The effects on your health
Foods with a low GL help maintain stable blood glucose levels, avoiding the dreaded ‘blood sugar roller-coaster’ manifesting as sugar rush followed by a crash, which can leave you craving for more high GI/GL foods. Stable blood glucose levels translate as consistent energy levels and a more levelled mood.
If diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, choosing low GI/GL foods is a must to manage the condition, but also non-diabetic people can benefit in choosing mainly low GI/GL food to help prevent type 2 diabetes, better weight management and increased energy levels.
What affects the GI/GL of a food?
- Fibre and fat tend to lower the GI of a food. For example, having a whole orange is better than orange juice because of the fibre content, or adding a source of fat like avocado to bread will lower its GI.
- Processing. The more carbohydrates are broken down, the quicker they will spike blood glucose. For example, a mashed potato has a higher GI than a whole baked potato.
- Cooking method. Cooking food for longer increases breakdown of carbohydrates. For example, al dente pasta has a lower GI than soft-cooked pasta.
3 easy tips to lower GI in your meals
1. Make sure there is always a source of fibre in each meal. Adding spinach to breakfast, a side salad with your main meal and adding as many vegetables as possible to cooked dishes. Wholegrain foods are also a very good source of fibre, so make sure to favour brown pasta and rice, seeded bread and wholegrain flour. The NHS recommends an intake of 30g of fibre per day - as an example 100g of kale have 2g of fibre.
2. Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas, edamame) are also an excellent source of fibre, and their blood sugar stabilising effects linger until the meal after the one they have been consumed in. It is a good idea to include them in your lunch to have stable blood sugar levels for the whole day. An idea could be adding hummus to a salad, having a chilli con carne with black beans in it, or a minestrone with a variety of beans.
3. Avoid tropical (pineapple, papaya, mango, etc...) and over-ripened fruit as those have a very high GI. Swap them for berries and apples, fruits with a low GI/GL.