With so many diets to choose from, knowing which one to go for is more challenging than implementing a new eating plan itself. The GI diet has been consistently popular over the years, but for newcomers can be confusing.
This month sees the release of the ultimate guide to the diet, The Low GI handbook. A complete guide that offers readers a complete and easy-to-grasp lowdown on the glycaemic index (GI) as well as just how to incorporate the principles into their diet.
Author Professor Jennie Brand-Miller chats to ninemsn Health about the diets benefits and gives readers a preview selection of delicious, low-GI recipes for you to try at home.
There is still so much confusion the low-GI diet can you put it in simple terms?
A low GI diet is not a low carb diet, it's a 'slow' carb diet. It's about choosing the right carbs. I use the analogy of a car if you don't put petrol in your car, it won't go. And, if you put bad petrol in your car, it won't perform at its best and can even break down. It's the same with our bodies - carbohydrate is our fuel it makes us 'go' because it gives us energy (blood sugar) but the trick is choosing between 'slow' carbs and 'fast' carbs.
GI is a rating of carbohydrates low GI foods are 'slow' carbs and high GI foods are 'fast' carbs. Fast carbs stress the body because they release too much blood sugar (energy) too quickly the body has to work overtime to reduce the sugar levels. This not only stresses the organs leading to disease, it also depletes us of energy which makes us feel hungry leading to overweight.
Slow carbs, on the other hand, release energy over a long period of time and sustain it at the level we need to perform at our peak; we lose weight, we keep the weight off and we reduce our risk of 'breaking down' with disease. So, the key to a low GI diet is choosing 'slow carbs' to fuel our body.
And, now that choice is easy. Standards Australia, in a world first, has developed a standard for determining the GI level of foods and foods that meet that standard carry the GI symbol. Just look for the symbol when you're shopping it will rate foods as low, medium or high GI. The choice is simple choose the low GI! A low GI diet is one based on choosing carbs with a low GI, ie those that have a minimal impact on blood sugars. (It's not a low carb diet).
Fortunately, lots of healthy foods have a low GI, including pasta, legumes, fruit and dairy products. To make healthy choices easier go to gisymbol.com.
What are the health benefits of this diet?
Weight loss is the immediate benefit. Choosing good carbs or a low GI diet helps us control our appetite so we lose weight faster and keep it off. And weight maintenance is so important, lots of people diet to lose weight, but then it creeps back on.
A low GI diet is also proven to reduce the risks of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Faster weight loss, appetite control, prevention of weight re-gain, as well as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
In 1999 the World Health Organisation recommended that people in industrialised countries, like Australia, base their diets on low GI foods to prevent obesity and these other common diseases.
How easy is it to stick to?
Pretty easy because it doesn't require a huge change to eating habits. Low GI foods are often more filling, helping to curb food cravings.
Who is suited to the diet?
Everyone! But especially those who are overweight and sedentary or have a family history of diabetes and obesity. The people who benefit most are those who secrete a lot of insulin after meals.
What makes the low GI diet superior to other diet plans in your opinion?
It's got more science to back it up than all the other diets put together. It's absolutely safe, cheap, palatable, sustainable and it's good for the planet. Most of all, it's simple. It's not just simple to follow it's also easy to choose low GI foods by looking out for the GI symbol
Is the GI diet is expensive?
Nonsense. Legumes and pasta are the cheapest foods you can buy. Some low-GI breads cost a little more, but it's a small price to pay compared to the costs of having diabetes.
What are the main difficulties people have in flowing the diet?
Finding low GI breads at restaurants and take-away foods outlets, but there are plans afoot to change this with education programs and the introduction of the GI symbol to restaurants and the like. In the meantime, people who are following a GI diet will come to know what choices to make when ordering a meal at a restaurant and again it's a simple choice fish, poultry or chicken with salad or steamed vegetables - forget the bread and the sauces!
How important is exercise in this plan?
Exercise is always important but you'll still lose weight without making a huge effort in that department. If you're following the low GI diet you'll have more energy so you'll probably naturally do more activity. Similarly, because you're losing weight, you're feeling better about yourself and again, that makes you want to get out and do more.
How long should we follow the plan for?
A weight loss phase of 12 weeks is a good idea. Then give it a rest just maintain that lower weight for another 3 months. Then, if you wish, start another 12 week weight-loss cycle. That stops your metabolic rate from dropping too low.
What does your books offer that other don't?
Most diet books are written by 'entrepreneurial' doctors who know little about nutrition and make weight loss claims that have no scientific credibility. In contrast, we are world experts, we conduct research, we are trained in nutrition and dietetics, we counsel people about diet on a day to day basis, we know the science and practice of dieting better than anyone else. The fact that our books have sold 3.5 million copies must mean something!