Sunday, June 07, 2009

SOYJOY Challenge 3: What is LOW GI?

With all this talk about SOYJOY and its LOW GI factor.... What exactly is Low GI (Glycemic Index)? Lets explore this and at the end of this entry.. tell me if it was helpful in your understanding towards what LOW GI is about. And perhaps let me know if this would now help influence the type of food choices that you consume from here on?

Let me thank those that have supported me by helping vote for me at these past weeks. If you have not put in your vote today, please do! You can vote once every 3 hours from now till the 28th of June 09. Thanks! *hand to heart*

A word of thanks too to those who have supported me in Challenge 1 "Feed the Office" Challenge and in Challenge 2 "How I like my SOYJOY best!" Picture Challenge.. you can still leave comments there as it would be great to hear from you! Let me know which one you like! :)

The Glycemic Index was devised about 20 years ago by a Professor of Nutrition, Dr. David Jenkins. Researchers looked closer at the dietary recommendations for diabetics; which was to eat more complex carbohydrates (starch) because they took longer to process and digest than simple carbohydrates (sugar).

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels.

Explaining this simply, you can check out this video of this guy named Kieran explaining LOW GI in easy terms for those who would rather hear it in audio version.

You can find out more on the GI levels of individual food at this website.

Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56 - 69
High GI = 70 or more

You get a bell-shaped curve when you eat food containing carbohydrates; the blood glucose rises and as your body produces insulin, it pushes the glucose out of the blood and into tissues, and then you see the blood-glucose level falling.

When eating high GI foods, you get a very high bell curve response with a dramatic drop. With a low-GI food, there is a slower and steadier rise in the blood glucose level.

Research has shown that very high glucose levels after meals, called glucose spikes, are damaging to our arteries and various blood vessels, and they promote far too much insulin to be around.

Eating low-GI foods means you avoid those spikes and dramatic falls in blood-glucose so you get a much steadier stream of energy. You, therefore, reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases that are implicated by those blood-glucose fluctuations.

How does LOW GI contribute to weight control?

High GI foods are bad for weight control for two reasons, the glucose spikes stimulate hunger because you are getting that dramatic drop in glucose, 90 minutes to two hours after eating. By eating low GI foods, you feel fuller for longer and are, therefore, not as likely to go searching for snacks every two hours.

Secondly, insulin is a storage hormone that stockpiles nutrients for later use by the body. A high-GI diet causes a lot of insulin to be produced and when you have too much insulin in your body too much of the time, it makes it easier to store fat and harder to burn it.

If your chosen weight loss plan leaves you feeling hungry then it will be even more difficult to resist eating between meals. GI eating promotes foods that raise your blood sugar slowly, so you won’t suffer from mid afternoon energy slumps that can leave you craving sugary snacks.

Getting a little scientific here... Foods that stimulate insulin surges can cause people to eat 60 - 70% more calories at the following meal! Low glycemic foods do not stimulate food-craving hormones like Neuropeptide Y and Lipoprotein Lipase. Stimulation of these hormones can cause chemically-triggered cravings for food and uncontrolled eating binges. Definitely something that we would like to keep under control!

Why do many high-fibre foods still have a high GI value?

Dietary fibre is not a chemical constituent like fat and protein. It is composed of many different sorts of molecules and can be divided into soluble and insoluble types.

Soluble fibre is often viscous (thick and jelly-like) in solution and remains viscous even in the small intestine. For this reason it makes it harder for enzymes to move around and digest the food. Foods with more soluble fibre, like apples, oats, and legumes, therefore have low GI values.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is not viscous and doesn’t slow digestion unless it’s acting like a fence to inhibit access by enzymes (eg. the bran around intact kernels). When insoluble fibre is finely milled, the enzymes have free reign, allowing rapid digestion. Wholemeal bread and white bread have similar GI values. Brown pasta and brown rice have similar values to their white counterparts.

Many people make the assumption that since the amount of carbohydrate in the foods is the same, then the areas under the curve will finally be the same. This is not the case because the body is not only absorbing glucose from the gut into the bloodstream, it is also extracting glucose from the blood. Just as a gentle rain can be utilised better by the garden than a sudden deluge, the body can metabolise slowly digested food better than quickly digested carbohydrate.

Fast- release carbohydrate causes "flooding" of the system and the body cannot extract the glucose from the blood fast enough. Just as water levels rise quickly after torrential rain, so do glucose levels in the blood. But the same amount of rain falling over a long period can be absorbed into the ground and water levels do not rise. I believe this analogy makes for a very good reference to how your body assimilates High and Low GI food.

You can watch and listen more about this with this lady who gives a rather detailed explanation of what LOW GI is about and examples of various food selections of what a Low, Medium and High GI food category entails.

So tell me about common LOW GI Food options?

Pasta has a low GI because of the physical entrapment of ungelatinised starch granules in a sponge-like network of protein (gluten) molecules in the pasta dough. Pasta is unique in this regard. As a result, pastas of any shape and size have a fairly low GI (30 to 60). Asian noodles such as hokkien, udon and rice vermicelli also have low to intermediate GI values. Pasta should be cooked al dente ('firm to the bite'). And this is the best way to eat pasta - it's not meant to be soft. It should be slightly firm and offer some resistance when you are chewing it. Overcooking boosts the GI. Gluten-free pastas based on rice and corn (maize) tend to have moderate to high GI values so opt for pastas made from legumes or soy.

The good news for potato lovers is that a potato salad made the day before, tossed with a vinaigrette dressing and kept in the fridge will have a much lower GI than potatoes served steaming hot from the pot. The cold storage increases the potatoes' resistant starch content by more than a third and the acid in the vinaigrette whether you make it with lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar will slow stomach emptying. The GI value of potato chips or french fries is lower than baked potatoes. Most potatoes tested to date have a high GI, so if you are a big potato eater, try to replace some with lower GI starchy alternatives such as sweet corn, yam or legumes.

Try to increase the soluble fibre content by partially substituting flour with oat bran, rice bran or rolled oats and increase the bulkiness of the product with dried fruit, nuts, muesli, All-Bran or unprocessed bran. Opt for breads made from chickpea or legume based flours. Chapattis made with besan (chickpea flour) have a low GI.

Did you know that freezing slices of bread and popping them into the toaster the next morning, lowers the GI level of bread?

Temperate climate fruits - apples, pears, citrus (oranges, grapefruit) and stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots) - all have low GI values.

Tropical fruits - pineapple, papaya, rockmelon and watermelon tend to have higher GI values.

Leafy green and salad vegetables are not measureable in terms of GI as they are very low in carbohydrate. GI Higher carb starchy vegetables include sweet corn (which is actually a cereal grain), potato, sweet potato, taro and yam, so watch the portion sizes with these. Pumpkin, carrots, peas, parsnips and beetroot contain some carbohydrate, but a normal serving size contains so little that it won't raise your blood glucose levels significantly.

Buckwheat (soba) noodles; cellophane noodles, also known as green bean vermicelli, are made from mung bean flour; rice noodles made from ground or pounded rice flour, are available fresh and dried. As for wholegrains, try buckwheat, quinoa, low GI varieties of rice such as basmati and sweet corn. Contrary to popular belief, brown rice does not have a lower glycemic index than white rice.

Legumes (pulses) including beans, chickpeas, whole and split dried peas and lentils. When you add legumes to meals and snacks, you reduce the overall GI of your diet because your body digests them slowly. Nuts are high in fat (averaging around 50 per cent), it is largely unsaturated, so they make a healthy substitute for foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, potato chips and chocolate. They also contain relatively little carbohydrate, so most do not have a GI value. Peanuts (actually a legume) and cashews have very low GI values.

Low fat dairy foods and calcium-enriched soy products low fat milk, yoghurt and ice-cream or soy alternatives provide sustained energy, boosting your calcium intake but not your saturated fat intake.

How can LOW GI choices affect my health?

Apart from its physical *weight loss or weight maintenance* and emotional & psychological benefits that the properties of GI choices provide, individuals who followed a Low GI diet over many years were found to have a significantly lower risk for developing and/or controlling both type 1 & type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

So with SOYJOY, what additional benefits does do the bars hold? With each flavour combination, I've found the following fun facts that you may be interested to know!

With the Raisin Almond SOYJOY bar, almonds has been regarded as a food that could help increase vitality, improve complexion and improve body’s capabilities to resist intoxication! Good Combination already!

With the Cacao Orange SOYJOY bar, chocolate studies have shown that consuming a small amount of chocolate everyday can reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. Chocolate also stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure. It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant. As well as theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants. Another good combination!

With the Hawthorn Berry SOYJOY bar, Hawthorn berries have a long history of use as a heart tonic. The Chinese used the berries for both digestion and circulatory problems and the Greeks employed hawthorn berries primarily for heart disorders.

And finally with the Apple SOYJOY bar, Apple is a rich source of flavonoid and polyphenols both are powerful antioxidant. Apples also contain a large amount of minerals and vitamins that can strengthen the blood. Eating apples daily can lower cholesterol and reduce skin diseases too!

So with all these benefits... using this knowledge of Low GI, we can now make more informed and preferred food selection in our daily lives. Snack wise, SOYJOY can be an excellent alternative to your other "sinful" non beneficial snack choices that your body will thank you.

You are what you eat is never more true.

Thank you for taking the time to go through all that information with me, I hope it helped you understand more about what LOW GI is about. Please feel free to leave me comments or questions or if you feel that there are facts or details here that can be more accurate, please drop me a note here in the comments section or email me at

Information above has been researched & collected from the following sources:


Anonymous said...

Loved the tips on lowering the GI of potatoes and bread. I'm going to try them and see if it has any effect on my blood sugar levels. =D

Chicky said...

okie. at least now I know why I keep feeling hungry all the time.. I must be eating too much high GI food! Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

hi pam! thanks for the great info. this is what i need to work on my GI NOW!

: )

Robert Sim said...

Love the GI tips! Basically if I am on a diet, this would help me a lot! I love reading what Pammy has to say about Gi on staple foods. Bring it on I say!!

chaosdingo said...

Yeah, so now you know how to make food that contains low GI right?
Good! make sure you follow the advises when you cook for me hor!

EY said...

Haha, it is a bit too long, and technical but generally a very good read for what it is about. Now I can eat more nuts and pasta, cut down the technical details and teach us more on how GI affects our diet for those who are watching our weights

Aka Pamela S. said...

Hiya Guys!!

Alexis - yeah! Let me know!

Chicky - Either that.. the quantity you consume is too little?

Nee: Good for you!

Rob: Bringing it on!

Chaos: Suuure.. tell the whole world I owe u cooked meals hahaa! Are u sure u want me to consider GI levels when I cook?

EY: Yes, fully detailed - However, how you incorporate GI choices is really up to each individual as knowing more about what selections are preferred selections make your own choices when eating in/out better. Following a food list isn't something that is sustainable as everyone sorts of eats differently according to personal preference.

For those on weightloss, I'd say, eat selectively and if you can choose a food that you now know is lower in GI than the other option, make a smarter decision! :)

FrozenIce said...

Wow! Thanks Pam for such a wonderful and complete list of information. I'm sure this will help lots of people in choosing healthier food now knowing what low GI means and what food belong to those catergories. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I've never heard about GI intil now. Thanks for the useful information and great tips Pam!

Venessa said...

Great tips Pam! Off to get myself some soyjoy bars!!!

krisandro said...

Thanks for the tips Pam!

It's great for me to know to help me along in my marathon training.

Diet is such an integral part in everyone's lives and even more so for athelete-wannabes like me.


Anonymous said...

Good info. Furthered my knowledge on the subject lol.

I've never tried soyjoy. The apple one seems nice :D

Liyan said...

the GI theory isnt as important for an athlete compared to a non-athlete. as an athlete, you'd want high GI foods so that you can store the carbs quickly, especially after a race/work out...

the glycemic index is actually not a very useful measure of carb release. the GI for carrots is very very high, but that doesnt mean that carrots are not good. you need to take the quantity of carbs consumed into perspective. the glycemic load would be a more useful piece information...

the GI values are only true for single category foods (eg pasta, rice, carrots, potatoes). but how often do you eat a single type of food for a meal?

AND lastly... not all low GI foods are good for you.. eg. you shouldn't replace fruits (high GI) for nuts, chocs (low GI)... the calories from these apparently low GI foods is wayyyy greater than fruits... you need to consider the food matrix...

what im trying to say is that GI is just an indicator of carbs release, use it as reference, not rule.

Aka Pamela S. said...

Hi Liyan!

That was an excellent contribution. Thank you! I did try to avoid going into Glycemic Load as it was already complicated enough focusing on the GI concept itself.

Personally, I believe that a person who is looking into watching their carb intake - GI level/load wise or simply carb counting for their intake to understand more on how a diet of low carbs affect the body. But thats another lesson for another time.

Thank you so much for your contribution.. do leave me more messages in this or other posts too! :)

Cool Insider said...

Now that is one helluva comprehensive and useful explanation of what GI is and isn't. Perhaps to add on, we should also be mindful about the total calories that we consume beyond just having low GI or high GI. Plus the nutrients of course.

I know about the importance of GI because my mother-in-law is a diabetic. One of the best foods you can eat to oats for its low GI content.

nadnut said...

Lovely post! I love the bits on each specific flavour. ;)

Anonymous said...

This is like going to school to study GI lor... :p

Tammy said...

Hey Pam, love your take on explaining what low GI means! Good job! I'm definitely gonna go grab some Soyjoy bars to give them a try!

molemole said...

I must eat them with ice cream...

arzhou (adrian) said...

Nice explanation! I am gonna give some of those tips a try! =D

Darran said...

Very very detailed post, I am going to target more low GI food from now on. Just a little question, rice isn't consider a low GI food?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. Everything I need in one post :)
Will try your tips!