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Blog 1 on Glycemic Index Gluten Free - Why is it important?

Another popular request from our poll for blog topics in the Be Well Gluten Free closed Facebook group was learning about the glycemic index on a gluten free diet. It is really very important for wellbeing due to increasing evidence demonstrating that poor quality carbohydrates lead to inflammation and heart disease.

This is one of my favourite topics, and again is a big one so we might break it into a mini-series. Today we’ll look at some of that evidence and at what a low-GI diet ‘means’ a well as at what ‘other’ health benefits low-GI carbs have so you have a good understanding.

Then in the next blog we’ll explore the Australian Dietary Guidelines further along these lines and how to build gluten free carbs into your meals and snacks.

Please check with your health professional before making any changes based on this information as it’s provided at a population level and doesn’t take your personal requirements into consideration.

What evidence exists?

It’s not totally surprising when we find research like this paper related to possibly health risks for people with coeliac disease and potentially others on a gluten free diet. This is an area that needs more research, but it’s worth making the change to low-GI foods in the meantime.

This early research paper tells us:

“Compared with the general population, individuals with celiac disease were almost twice as likely to have CAD (coronary artery disease), according to a large retrospective study presented here today at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2014 Scientific Sessions [1]. Even patients younger than aged 65 years were at higher risk.

Celiac disease—a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive system that can damage the small intestine—was also linked with a 1.4-fold greater risk of stroke.”

And on the side of the glycemic index there’s 30 years worth of scientific evidence demonstrating how a low-GI diet is linked with improved cholesterol levels/blood fats, weight management, lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and general wellbeing .

What is a low-GI diet?

The Glycemic Index Foundation explains this best:

“Carbohydrate is an essential part of our diets, but not all carbohydrate foods are equal. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels. A low GI diet is not a fad diet but a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term and backed by over 30 years of scientific evidence.”

What health benefits do low-GI carbs have?

  • They’ll keep your hunger at bay for longer, helping you to avoid over eating or too much snacking

  • Makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored

  • Reduce your triglycerides, total and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol

  • Increase your levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol

  • Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes

  • Reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease

  • Reduce your risk of developing some cancers

  • Reduce your risk of developing certain eye diseases

  • Manage acne

  • Sustain your energy levels longer, improving both mental and physical performance

  • When pregnant, reducing the GI of your diet is one of the safest and most effective ways of ensuring your baby grows at a healthy rate and can affect your child’s future health

So I hope you can see that it makes sense from a population perspective to consider making the swap to maximising lower GI carbs in our day to day eating as the benefits are quite enormous.

In the next blog we’ll take another peak at the Australian Dietary Guidelines to see how easy it is to combine meet the nutrient targets with a low-GI gluten free diet and we’ll talk more about how you can lower the glycemic load of your snacks/meals too.

Please remember that it’s important that you check with your health professional before making changes, and I highly recommend a personalised consultation with an Accredited Practising Dietitian .

Sally is the owner of her private practice, Marchini Nutrition , has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. She is also Social Media Dietitian with Diabetes Counselling Online , and the dietitian on The Moon and You App and works on ‘ Be Well Gluten Free ’ in her spare time.

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