Tag Archives: glycaemic index

You can still eat a jacket potato, here’s how.

So the news on the street is a jacket potato contains 19 sugar cubes. More than a can of coke. Now whilst this may be true on the one level there is a lot more going on here than just the sugar and it is not to say you cannot eat a baked spud.
 
Photo taken from the Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/6452643/potatoes-obesity-crisis-sugar-baked-potato/
Sugar in food is modified by several factors it is not something that can just be measured by sugar lumps alone. That potato has fibre, potassium (more than a banana), B6 and Vitamin C for starters. The can of coke – well I don’t think we can claim that has much else.
 
There is a system that ranks the effects that feeds have on blood sugars. This is the glycaemic index (GI), it looks at how rapidly a carbohydrate is digested and released as glucose into the blood stream. A food  with a high GI food is one that increases the blood sugars faster, leading to a potential blood sugar spike. Using this ranking  a jacket potato would be high (85) and something like chickpeas would be low (28). This is a really useful system but it has it flaws. If you use it alone you could live off chocolate and ice-cream as these are low GI!  Also this system does not account for the carbohydrate in food and it uses 100 g of food, rather than looking at portion sizes. However it is still a useful way to compare foods and I’d highly recommend you focus on eating more low GI foods. But remember we do  not eat these foods in 100g servings or in isolation. Read on to hear more about this.
 
 
Another good ranking system for those concerned about blood sugar control is glycaemic load. This looks at the effect of food per portion and it does take into account carbohydrates. So for example foods that have a glycaemic index of less than 10 have a low or little impact on bloodsugars, GL of 10 to 20 is moderate and 20+ is high. Again another useful system to keep in mind, but it has it’s flaws (doesn’t everything!). We don’t eat these foods in isolation, so other factors come into play.
 
So let’s think about the nutrients and factors that affect glycaemic index and glycaemic load…
 
These are general rules, there are always exceptions:
 
1. Fibre is something that slows the rate of digestion and therefore stops blood sugars from increasing as fast.
 
2. Protein also has this effect on the body a food that is higher in protein will be a food that doesn’t increase your blood sugar as fast.
 
3. Fat also slows down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream, that is why something like chocolate may seem like it will be a food that will increase your bloodsugars fast, but actually that’s not always the case as the fat slows down the digestion.
 
4. Cooking method and processing also affect food, as does the variety of the food. For example, the impact on bloodsugars from a ripe banana will be much higher than in unripe one and it’s the same with a potato. With our baked potato the impact on bloodsugars is higher than when you eat new boiled potato or sweet potato.
 
Now this is where it gets complicated because we can’t just rank certain foods as good and others as bad! So where to go from here? Well these systems of GI/GL give us really good principles that we can use when planning a healthy balanced diet. However that doesn’t mean that we need to be living our lives by a set of tables and numbers (see tables in the links below). Who wants to be doing that? It does mean you could look at the foods you eat regularly and think about making some swaps or improving meals by adding protein, fibre or plant foods.  It doesn’t mean you only have to eat foods that are low in GI or low in GL. What it does mean is it is helpful for blood sugar control to eat more of these foods and to adapt some of your meals that include higher GI/GL items. So for example let’s take the humble baked potato. Now yes it is high in GI (50) and GL (33) but by adding tuna to your jacket potato it will change this from a meal that had a large impact on your blood sugar levels to a more moderate one. Add a bean salad and some veggies in and it gets even lower.
 
Here is my dinner from the other night. A potato the size of my fist, with tuna and sweetcorn (protein), salad and cheese (fat). 
 
 
It’s once again, all about the balance.

Links:

Glycaemic Load Table.

Glycaemic Index Table.

 

 

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How to Eat to Keep Warm!

It’s that time of year when the weather is getting decidedly more chilly and the light is fading earlier. All of a sudden it’s time to switch from the summery salads to winter stews. The kettle is on more and the biscuit tin beckons. But how do you eat healthily yet still enjoy those winter foods?

Porridge is a great start to the day. Try adding different fruit, a sprinkle of seeds or some chopped nuts for variety. Alternatively try scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes with toast.

Include something warming and satisfying at lunch, try a vegetable based soup, baked beans on toast or an omelette.

Although tea and coffee can warm you up it should be limited to 4 cups a day. Try hot squash, herbal or fruit tea or even hot water with a slice of lemon instead.

Winter stews and casseroles are delicious. Try using a slow cooker, pop it on in the morning and dinner will be ready by tea time. Include plenty of vegetables and add a couple of handfuls of lentils or beans/pulses to reduce the amount of meat you use. Bean and pulses are low in fat, have a low glycaemic index and contain plenty of fibre, so are a great weight loss aid.

Keep Active. Getting up and moving around more will get the blood pumping around the body and so warm you up. Plan some activity into your day and keep moving whenever you can.

Carbohydrates, the Good Guys.

Carbohydrates are often seen as the baddies of the nutrition world. There are so many low carb diets out there and lots of claims about carbohydrates being the reason people can’t lose weight.

 

Carbohydrates are actually the bodies favoured energy source. Given a choice of protein, fat and carbohydrate the body will always choose to use the carbohydrate first. Why? Because carbohydrate foods easily break down to simple sugars that are the fuel the body needs. Proteins and fats needs to be converted to sugars in order to be used, a time consuming process that uses energy up. However you will put on weight if you OVEREAT carbohydrates or eat too much of the wrong kinds.

 

So where do these anti-carbohydrate claims come from? 

After we eat carbohydrates, blood sugar levels increase and insulin is released. Insulin moves the sugar in the blood into the bodies cells and it will be used as fuel or stored as glycogen to be used later on. Eating too much carbohydrate in one go or more white, processed carbohydrates cause a larger, rapid peak in blood sugar levels. In response lots of insulin is released, which can cause a problem. After the insulin has done it’s job it takes a while to drop back down to normal levels, so you have insulin in the blood stream asking the body for more sugar. It’s this lag phase that can lead to you craving sugary food or wanting to eat a short while after a meal.  If you eat like this you are likely to put on weight. Those hunger cravings will get the better of you and you’ll eat more than you need.

 

What happens if you avoid Carbs:

If carbs are the bodies preferred energy source then it makes sense that avoiding them can lead to you feeling tired, grumpy, lethargic, perhaps dizzy and shaky. Ever had that energy slump after skipping a meal?

 

How to eat Carbohydrates without gaining weight:

  1. Eat carbohydrates at every meal. Just watch your portion size. If you are trying to lose weight keep those carbs to 1/3 of your plate, steer clear of adding creamy sauces, butter and oils to them.
  2. Go Wholegrain. Wholegrains have been shown to protect against cancer, obesity, diabetes and obesity. Choose wholemeal, granary or multi-grain bread, whole oats, weetabix, shredded wheat, bran flakes, rye bread, oatcakes,brown rice and pasta, bulgar wheat, quinoa, pearl barley and anything with the word whole/wholegrain in from of it!
  3. Lower the glycaemic index of meals. Adding lower GI foods (many of which are wholegrains too) will help stabilise your blood sugars, preventing the peaks and dips that can cause those sugar cravings. Also try adding beans and pulses to your main meals.

This post was written for Slimsticks and can be seen on their website here.