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You might have heard of “low-GI” foods, and know they’re good for you. But what is the glycemic index? What foods are best and how can we get more of them in our diet?

This blog explains why low-GI foods are good for you, and how to eat “GI smart”. We’ll also share some tools to make it easy to swap high GI foods with healthier low GI options, which will help to keep you trim and reduce your risk of diabetes.

Learn how to eat “GI smart” and lower your diabetes risk. #lowGIfoods Click To Tweet

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index – most commonly known as GI – is a measure of the different levels of carbohydrates in food, depending on how much they affect your blood sugar levels. 

Not all carbohydrates are equal: those with a high-GI, such as white bread or jasmine rice, give you a huge, sudden spike in blood glucose levels. 

While carbohydrates with a low-GI, such as rolled oats or brown rice, are more slowly digested and absorbed, giving you a slower, smaller rise in blood glucose levels – and along with it, lower insulin levels. 

“If you eat a lot of high-GI foods, it’s like a constant attack on your body,” according to Kathy Usic, the CEO of the Glycemic Index Foundation. 

High-GI foods cause insulin levels and blood glucose levels to spike in everyone – not just people with diabetes, she said.

GI Foundation partners with MyHealthTest

The GI Foundation is a non-profit organisation that promotes the health benefits of low-GI food to help manage diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle diseases. The organisation also promotes and certifies low GI foods.

“We help translate the science of the glycemic index into real-world solutions. We’re particularly focused on developing tools and strategies for people living with diabetes,” Usic said. 

The GI Foundation has recently formed an alliance with MyHealthTest, as both organisations share a common goal of raising awareness of type 2 diabetes in Australia and helping to reduce its incidence. 

The two organisations will work together to promote the importance of low-GI foods to prevent chronic illness and to improve the health of people at risk of, and already living with, diabetes.

MyHealthTest General Manager Belinda Whittle said the partnership sought to empower people to make positive food choices and monitor their health and wellbeing with access to convenient at-home testing. 

“We want to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes in Australia by making it easier for people to understand what’s going on with their bodies and choose healthier options, thereby reducing the onset of disease” she said.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

In Australia, 60% of women and more than 70% of men are classified as being overweight. 

As a result, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is rising due to a range of lifestyle factors. Factors that influence your risk of type 2 diabetes include: 

  • Your environment
  • Weight
  • Diet 
  • Exercise levels
  • Genetics and family history
  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Whether you smoke 
  • Whether you drink alcohol

Pre-diabetes can be detected and reversed

Pre-diabetes is a condition that signals an individual is on a potential pathway to developing type 2 diabetes. It means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as having a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. 

“Thankfully, dietary and lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay pre-diabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes”, Whittle said.

Our aim at MyHealthTest is to promote widespread testing for pre-diabetes and diabetes, so people can actively take control of their health.

“In Australia, 1.8 million people are living with diabetes and about 500,000 people are unaware of their condition. 

“What’s more, it’s estimated about 2 million people in Australia are living with pre-diabetes”, Whittle said. “Early detection and healthy lifestyle changes in people with pre-diabetes can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 60%.”

Almost 60 per cent of cases of pre-diabetes can be prevented from developing into type 2 diabetes with effective lifestyle changes. #diabetes #prevention Click To Tweet

GI and diabetes: How are they linked?

According to the GI Foundation, it’s important for people living with, or at risk of, diabetes to avoid unnecessary spikes in blood glucose and insulin levels. 

“Eating foods with lower GI will lower your average blood glucose level and reduce your risk of complications related to diabetes”, Usic said.

“The evidence is strong around the science of GI and its effect on managing blood glucose levels,” she said. 

Help to turn around pre-diabetes with a low-GI diet and exercise. Get on top of pre-diabetes before it gets a hold on you. #diabetes #prevention Click To Tweet
glycemic index

Not all carbs are bad

Usic said there was confusing and conflicting information about how to eat well, and many foods – particularly carbs – were seen as being bad for you.

However, totally eliminating carbohydrates from your diet isn’t a healthy or viable option in the long term, she said.

“Rather, our advice is: don’t stop it, just swap it,” Usic says. 

She says a more practical solution is to make it easier for people to choose low-GI over high-GI foods.”

To help make that possible, the GI Foundation has developed a Swap It Tool to show how to swap out high-GI foods in a number of common food categories with healthier, low-GI alternatives.

The Swap It Tool makes it easy to swap high-GI foods for healthier, low GI foods in common food categories. Click To Tweet

How to check your long-term blood glucose at-home

Given the high rates of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes in Australia, many people now monitor their diabetes risk regularly from about the age of 45.

This is most commonly done with an HbA1c test, which measures the average level of glucose circulating in the blood over the past 3 months.

“This test is used to screen, monitor and diagnose diabetes,” Whittle says. And lots of people are now doing this simple test from home.

This fingerprick blood test can be ordered online from MyHealthTest and conveniently done at home, with results available within a few days via a secure website.

Find out your risk of diabetes

Another way to monitor your risk of diabetes is to use the diabetes risk calculator developed by the Baker IDI Heart Diabetes Institute and available on the GI Foundation website. After answering a few questions, it will tell you whether you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

“It’s a simple calculator that people can use in the comfort and privacy of their own home,” Usic says. 

“The results give you an indication of your risk for developing diabetes. If people are at higher risk, then we encourage them to discuss the results with their GP.

“The tool provides valuable information and empowers people to take more control of their health.”

 If the questionnaire shows you have an increased risk, you can click through to more information about diabetes, and order an Hb1Ac test to check your average blood sugar levels.

It’s easy to take control of your health with these resources:

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