Sunday, 19 September 2021

Diet means much more than calorie control

THE word “dieting” on its own is something I try to avoid when I speak with anyone looking to lose weight — the word itself can be so debilitating and stressful and lead to a false sense of security.

Instead I encourage people to look at eating sensibly, understanding the importance of balancing food groups and energy balance and understanding how the GI (glycaemic index) works.

The GI is a good way to monitor your blood sugars. It is something I have enjoyed for many years.

Keeping a steady state of food groups throughout the day is a good way to keep your blood sugars regulated. If you continue to peak and trough with high sugary/fatty foods then your day becomes erratic and your blood sugars create huge fluctuations that can lead you to want to eat more, indulge further and can give you headaches and lead to further anxiety about your body weight — not to mention increase risk factors for disease.

The GI can be thought of as a measure of the quality and digestibility of a carbohydrate. The GI value of a food ranks how quickly sugar is seen in the bloodstream following the eating of that food, compared to glucose — the most easily digested and absorbed carbohydrate.

Foods are given a GI number on a scale of one to 100 according to their effect on blood glucose levels. GI 100 is the highest ranking and is glucose or white bread.

Foods are grouped into three bands. Low GI is one to 55, medium GI is 56 to 69, and high GI is 70 to 100. For example, a bowl of porridge has a GI of 55, which is low.

When we consume carbohydrates they get digested and the end products are absorbed. The absorption of these end products causes a rise in the blood sugar levels. This in turn causes the hormone insulin to be released which reduces the blood sugar levels back in line with how the body prefers blood sugar levels to be.

The body doesn’t like any extreme rises or falls in circulating blood sugar and uses hormones to regulate the blood sugar levels at as steady a level as possible. Foods that create large fluctuations in blood sugar levels put the body under stress as it will have to manage these extreme changes.

Some useful guidelines:

Manage portion sizes sensibly.

Include a source of protein in your meal as this can lower the overall GI of the meal by slowing down the digestive process. Lean meat reduces the fat content and calorific value.

Include at least one low GI food which will lower the overall GI value even if there are high or medium GI foods included. The more low GI foods the better!

Include foods rich in fibre such as wholegrain which slows down the digestive process which in turn slows down the glycemic response.

For more information, please email me at

Emma-Jane Taylor

PS Be careful. Certain foods such as cheeses have a low GI but are high in fat so cheese is not a good choice of food. Also chocolate cake (30-40) and chips (lower than 55) all have low GI values but are high in fat, especially saturated fats. GI must be used in line with sensible healthy eating options and plans.

Low GI foods, which cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall slowly over time, may help you feel fuller for longer. This could help control your appetite and may be useful if you’re trying to lose weight.

However, as mentioned, not all foods with a low GI are healthy. Therefore, relying on GI may not always be a reliable way to decide whether foods or combinations of foods are healthy. For more information on foods you should eat to keep a low sugar/fat lifestyle visit the website

Fitness Watch