Confused about bread, rice and the glycaemic index?

Low GI 

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 raise BGLs.


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.



Carbohydrate amount (100g)

Glycaemic Index (GI)




Brown (wholemeal)







*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 white) flour.
  • 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.


GI Foundation Certified


The Glycaemic Index Foundation website 'Swap it' tool contains easy GI swaps for various foods. Just be wary that this is an international website, so some brands may not be available locally.


For the less computer-savvy, you can also purchase glycaemic index books, which list the GI of a wide range of Australian food products.




Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2010). NUTTAB (NUTrient TABles for use in Australia) Online Searchable Database. Available at

The University of Sydney (2017). Search for the glycaemic index. Available at

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