I was disappointed to see an article by an RD extolling the virtues of consuming more low glycemic index (GI) foods. I’ve written about the GI before and how glycemic load (GL) is much more relevant when looking at the effects of a specific food on blood sugar. Even so, I don’t think that GL is all that useful (for healthy people) when making food choices in the real world. Sure, you can use it as a tool for selecting foods if you want. There’s certainly no harm in using the GI (or GL), but it’s complicated and frankly, would be a significant pain in the ass to be looking up the GI of every carbohydrate containing food on your grocery list. I mention carbohydrates because the article that prompted this post didn’t, perhaps assuming that everyone is already aware that GI is only relevant to carbohydrate containing foods. Just in case you weren’t, I don’t want anyone walking away with the impression that this is a way to push meat, fat, or a low-carb diet. Although, that would certainly make it whole heck of a lot easier; avoid carbs and thereby avoid high GI foods.
In case you couldn’t be bothered to read the older posts I linked to above. Here’s the gist of it: some high GI foods can be quite healthy (think: watermelon, baked potato, many crackers), and some low GI foods can be quite unhealthy (think: chocolate bars, corn chips, and ice cream). Should we all eat less watermelon and more chocolate bars? Probably not. The other thing about GI is that we don’t generally consume foods in isolation. So, while bread can be high on the GI it’s unusual for most of us to eat bread by itself. Usually we’d have it as part of a sandwich or toasted with peanut butter. Consuming higher GI foods with lower GI foods and fats and proteins helps to mitigate the effect on our blood sugar.
Okay, now that I’ve shat all over the GI what’s an easier way to make healthier choices? And here we go, back to the not so sexy RD style… Choose more whole foods. When choosing processed grains like breads, go for the whole grain options. Try to incorporate two foods groups when you have a snack. For example, cheese and crackers, veggies and hummus, banana and peanut butter, an apple and almonds, snack bars that contain nuts (not just oats and sugar), yoghurt and muesli, you get the idea. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated.