Understanding Diabetes and the Glycaemic Index (GI)

12 Jul, 2022

Normally, when we eat carbohydrate foods like bread, rice and pasta they will be broken down in the digestive tract to glucose. When blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin which allows glucose to enter the cells of the body; including muscles where it is used for energy.

What’s the difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes

For people with diabetes, the following occurs: 

  • Type 1 diabetes – the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas which make insulin, meaning no glucose can enter the cells. People with Type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin every day. 
  • Type 2 diabetes – the cells in the body do not respond effectively to insulin meaning less glucose can enter the cells. 

Currently, around 1.8 million Australians have diabetes and there are 280 new cases diagnosed every day. While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be effectively managed through medication and lifestyle modifications to prevent complications including heart attack, stroke, eyesight damage, kidney failure and nerve damage. 

Understanding Diabetes

Adjusting your diet to manage diabetes 

 For people with diabetes, it’s important to eat the right types and portions of food that will match the amount of energy you use throughout the day. Fuelling your body with more energy than you burn can result in weight gain and obesity, which makes it harder to manage. To manage your diabetes more effectively, our Dietitians recommend considering the following things when making your meal choices:  

  • Reduce your consumption of high energy foods including confectionary, cakes, biscuits, and fast food. 
  • When eating foods with high fat levels, make sure they are healthy fats. E.g., avocado, whole eggs, cheese, fish, nuts, and yoghurt. 
  • For your drink of choice, water is always the best option as it has no extra kilojoules and won’t impact your blood glucose levels. 
  • Foods containing carbohydrates are the best form of energy for your body and it’s important to spread them across the day to help maintain your energy and blood glucose levels. 

Using the Glycaemic Index of foods 

The Glycaemic Index is used to rank foods based on how quickly and how much they raise your blood sugar levels after consumption. This tool is essential for diabetes management, especially when deciding which carbohydrate foods you should be consuming. 

  • Foods with a lower GI produce more stable blood sugar levels and help you feel fuller for longer which can positively contribute to appetite control and weight management. 
  • Foods with a higher GI produce higher and faster rising blood sugar levels. 

It’s important to remember that the Glycaemic Index does not directly reflect how healthy a food is. For example: 

  • Foods that are high in fat can have a low GI (chips and chocolate). 
  • A small amount of food considered to be high GI might only slightly affect your blood sugar levels (watermelon). 
Glycaemic Index

You should always aim to eat a wide range of carbohydrate foods including fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain bread and dairy. It’s recommended to eat at least three low GI foods throughout the day to help balance out any high GI foods you’re consuming. 

How Gen Physio can help 

One of the most effective ways to manage your diabetes is by creating a meal plan and ensuring you eat regularly throughout the day. It’s important to recognise that one diet does not fit all and at Gen Physio, our experienced Dietitians can assess your individual needs and develop an effective meal plan to best manage your condition. 

We aim to take away any added stress by offering in-home face to face and telehealth consultations. Our team are driven to help their clients achieve optimal health and well-being through nutrition education, counselling, and encouragement of manageable adjustments in their lifestyles.  

 To book an appointment, get in touch with our friendly Client Services team today on 1300 122 884. 

References 

Diabetes Australia. (2022). Heads Up On Diabetes. Retrieved from National Diabetes Week 2022: headsupdiabetes.com.au

Diabetes Australia. (2022). Living with diabetes. Retrieved from Diabetes Australia: www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes

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