Most of us have heard the term glycaemic index, or GI, at some
stage during our diabetes journey. The glycaemic index is a simple
ranking of carbohydrate foods according to their effect on blood
glucose levels (BGLs). The lower the GI of a food, the longer it
takes for the carbohydrate to be digested into glucose (sugar) and
Low GI products have started popping up everywhere - including
bakeries and supermarket shelves - but how do they fit into a
healthy eating plan for diabetes?
Low GI = less carbs, right? - Wrong!
It is a common misconception that low GI foods contain less
carbohydrates than their high GI counterparts, when in fact, GI is
just one part of the carbohydrate story.
When thinking about carbohydrates, it is important to consider
both the amount and the type of carbohydrate food eaten, as both of
these factors affect BGLs. The amount of carbohydrate will depend
on the portion size consumed, whereas the type of carbohydrate
refers to the glycaemic index (i.e. fast or slow-release).
White bread often gets a bad rap (or wrap, pardon the pun) for
being "too high in carbs", when in reality, the amount of
carbohydrate found in different types of bread is relatively
similar (see table below). What changes is the glycaemic index, but
both need to be considered when managing blood glucose levels.
*Note: these figures are averages - the carbohydrate content
will vary between different brands of bread, due to variations in
size and thickness.
Eating too much carbohydrate in one sitting can still result in
high blood glucose levels, even if the food or meal has a low GI -
so portion size is key. Be sure to discuss the right amount of
carbohydrate for your activity level with your dietitian.
DQ dietitians top picks - Low GI breads
- Any bread with grains and/or seeds e.g. multigrain, mixed
grain, 9 grain, soy & linseed, pumpkin seed. Tip: For an extra
fibre boost, choose grain breads made with wholemeal (rather than
- Traditional sourdough
- Some rye breads
- High-fibre low GI white breads
- Dense fruit/raisin breads
The same principle applies to other carbohydrate-rich foods,
including rice. Balancing portion size with GI can help you to keep
BGLs within target range after a meal.
DQ dietitians top picks - Lower GI rice
- Long grain white rice e.g. Basmati, Doongara
- Low GI brown rice
- Black rice
- Red rice
- Wild rice
There are now plenty of tools available to help you make
healthier carbohydrate choices. Look for the Low GI symbol on
packaged foods, but remember low GI certification is voluntary - so
products without the logo can still be low GI.
The Glycaemic Index Foundation website 'Swap it' tool www.gisymbol.com/swap-it/ contains easy
GI swaps for various foods. Just be wary that this is an
international website, so some brands may not be available
For the less computer-savvy, you can also purchase glycaemic
index books, which list the GI of a wide range of Australian food
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2010). NUTTAB (NUTrient
TABles for use in Australia) Online Searchable Database. Available
The University of Sydney (2017). Search for the glycaemic index.
Available at http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php