Glycemic Index Diet: The Hype Grows

By Jim F

It seems there is always something “revolutionary” when it comes to weight loss. Over the past 6 months, the buzz surrounding the Glycemic Index (or Gylcaemic Index in the UK) has grown unabated.

This large piece in the Health Telegraph is calling the GI “the new Atkins”:

Unlike the Atkins, the cabbage soup and all the other diet crazes that have come and gone over the past decade or so, the GI has the thumbs-up from the medical establishment as well as the fashion pack.

It’s intriguing really. The South Beach Diet (bestseller, released in April 2003) is based on the GI, and so is the pre-packaged weight loss program NutriSystem. For some reason (unknown to me) the GI has suddenly become fashionable.

I remain unconvinced. The GI is very useful in determining potential insulin response from various carbohydrates – and is particularly helpful for diabetics and other blood sugar issues (such as hypoglycemia). However once again we see a great and useful concept marketed as the panacea for all weight loss. The GI has been packaged together and called a “diet”. It now has a number of incarnations and versions – (such as the Glycemic Impact Diet and The Holford Diet).

A Sample of the GI Diet

Rick Gallop’s “The GI Diet” is one version of a glycemic index based diet. He splits food into 3 groups:

Green

(eat freely)

Bakery: 100 per cent stoneground wholemeal bread; wholegrain, high-fibre breads (about 3g of fibre per slice)

Fish: all fresh fish; fish tinned in water; sashimi; smoked fish; squid; mussels; oysters; prawns; lobster; fresh crab; fresh clams

Meat: lean minced beef; back bacon; lean deli ham; tenderloin; chicken, game or turkey breast without skin; veal; venison

Pasta: all unadorned pasta – wholemeal is even better

Grains: barley; basmati rice; brown rice; quinoa, buckwheat; bulgur wheat; wild rice

Fruit and vegetables: all fresh green vegetables; tomatoes; peppers; fresh peas; carrots; cauliflower; mushrooms; new potatoes; most fresh fruit

Dairy: skimmed milk; cottage cheese; non-fat yogurt

Drinks: water; decaffeinated coffee; diet soft drinks (without caffeine); light instant chocolate; weak tea

Also: tinned tomatoes, tomato puree; dried beans; low-fat baked beans; tinned chick peas; tinned butter beans; vinegar; olive oil; low-fat low sugar dressings; olives; hummus

Yellow

(very limited quantities)

Bakery: wholemeal pitta bread; rye bread; sourdough; thin wholemeal pizza crust; wholegrain breads

Fish: salt cod; seafood salads

Meat: sirloin beef; fresh ham; pork shank; roast or casseroled chicken or turkey; turkey bacon; lamb loin chops

Pasta: rice noodles; basil pesto

Fruit and veg: artichokes; corn; beetroot; pumpkin; squash; sweet potatoes; apricots; bananas; mango; pineapple

Drinks: most unsweetened juice; non-alcoholic beer; vegetable juices; diet soft drinks with caffeine

Dairy: one per cent fat milk; low-fat cream cheese; low-fat cheese; low-fat mozzarella; soya cheese

Also: most tinned vegetables; sesame oil; vegetable oil; sunflower oil

Red

(avoid these)

Bakery: bagels; baguette; croissants; crumpets; white bread

Fish: breaded fish or seafood; seafood pate

Meat: sausages; beef on the bone; streaky bacon; spare ribs; duck; goose; offal

Pasta: pasta filled with meat or cheese; pasta sauces with added sugar; cream sauces

Grains: arborio rice; millet; instant rice

Vegetables: broad beans; parsnips; swede; turnips; mashed or baked potatoes; melons, including watermelon; tinned peas

Dairy: cream; full-fat milk; goats’ milk; rice milk; most cheese; full-fat yogurt; sour cream

Drinks: all sweetened drinks; coffee; alcohol; sports drinks; tonic water; watermelon juice

Broad beans not allowed? Maybe that’s the reason people are suddenly interested in the GI diet 😉

Filed in Diet Reviews

41 Comments

  1. Kris martin

    Good luck!
    I picked up Gallops” GI Diet Express for busy people” today after reading GI info from my doctor. I’ve done diets for years and am looking for one without a lot of thought. I’ve got the green list up in my kitchen and a copy for work. I;m having fun playing with leeks, fennel, arugula, water cress, etc – sauting them and playing with flavors. Also adding vinegar, acids to your diet is suppose to help (my mom is diabetic and my dad is prediabetic).

    Reply
  2. Alina

    I just recently found out that I am insulin resistant and is the cause for my PCOS, which has lead to weight gain and other issues. My doctor put me on Glucophage and suggested following the low GI eating plan. I noticed a difference right away when I started the medication and diet.

    Reply
  3. Joy

    Hello, Stumbled across this desperate to find someone who is so insulin resistant that they gain weight even on the Low GI diet!! That would be me. I’ve been having to Atkins for the past 8 years or so, and of course I can’t stay on it, but when I go off and eat “A balanced diet” (low GI) I quicly put on weight! I recently ordered the Food lovers fat loss system (deep inside I knew it wouldn’t work) but being desperate I tried it one more time. I gained 6 pds. in 8 days. Is there any info how a person can be so insulin resistant and is there anything I can truly do about it? If I eat over 22 grams of carbs per day I simply gain weight. Thanks, Joy

    Reply
  4. Drake

    Toni,

    Ezekiel Bread (original bread in orange packaging) is 33 GI.

    Drake

    Reply
  5. Michele

    I read Rick’s books a few years back , after I met a friend who had lost over 60 lbs on the plan. I started it January 2 , and by the end of March I had lost almost 40 lbs. With walking everyday. I found the plan very easy to follow. After having my second child 17 months ago I finally have my head in the right mind set to start again. So I started this morning , and I am looking forward to great things by spring.

    Reply
  6. Rev. Rhea

    Actually that is propaganda that heart attacks went up from the Atkins diet. It is actually due to the increase in high frutose corn syrup, that they started putting in everything the past few decades, which is off the charts when it comes to glycemic index. I have been on the diet since 1979 and my heart is perfect and so is my sugar level.

    Reply
  7. Nazir, (mozambique,Africa)

    hi, very happy.

    Iam from africa and would like to comunicate with you regarding WL4I. My email is papwaka@tdm.co.mz

    Reply
  8. Linda

    I am happy to see that interest continues in the GI Diet. I am always looking for additional information on the glycemic index. I keep a list of foods I want to eat on an excel sheet with columns for: GI, carbs, fat, sugar, fiber, beta carotene, omega 3, cholesterol. Except for GI, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl is very useful for this.

    I use the GI factor in combination with other healthy and sustainable guidelines for eating such as “no carbs at night”. Although the Atkins diet allows people to lose weight, there is too much evidence that it puts the wrong kind of stress on the body.

    I eat lots of fish and veggies. I have a combination of non-sugared oats and bran with freshly ground flax seed and a bit of fresh fruit for breakfast.

    Following learning about the glycemic index, I gave up fruit juice. An easy clue is what you eat should require chewing (except for bagels, those white bread devils).

    I cannot give up alcohol and was very sad to see beer at the top of the GIndex.

    No matter what diet you are on for weight or diabetes, exercise is an essential element. I exercise daily. We are all busy, which is an easy excuse to skip exercising. We must find time for exercise.

    I am not particularly overweight but I need to pay attention to my diet to maintain my weight and my health. I think I am genetically prone to gaining weight. I did drop 20 pounds about 5 years ago (after struggling with losing it for 10 years) which is when I started doing things like making my excel sheet. The glycemic index was very helpful then. I am American but I was fortunate to be in an international community (in Tokyo) with ideas from everywhere.

    Reply
  9. 58 pounds to lose apparently

    I am going to start the G.I diet today, someone lent me Ricks book and I have now read all of your entries and it looks like this could work for me, I just hope I have the determination to stick to it.

    Reply
  10. Stephanie

    I am supposedly insulin resistant. Kind of confusing because my fasting glucose was in the norm. What I want to say is that a lot of bread and rice, regardless of whether it is whole grain will raise your blood sugar. And so will LARGER meals of any kind. You are much better off with low fat cheeses and yogurts, sunflower seeds, and moderate amounts of nuts. Also, the obvious low glycemic veggies, salads, and fruits, lean meat protein sources. Some people can eat one slice of the grain bread, or half a slice. A lot depends on what else you are eating with it. It’s best to eat it with either fiber, protein, humuus, or low fat cheese with the bread. Corn can also raise your sugar. I notice a difference even when I have a “mini” corn muffin with a meal. Nacho chips — if only you could stop at five or six ! Your best snack ideas are low fat mozzarella string cheese, turkey roll-up, low fat yogurt with nuts, and small portions of fruits : plums, strawberries, handful of cherries, etc. Protein powders sweetened with Stevia or no added sugar are also great with some fiber powder, and a little cinnamon. These tips have helped me go from a hemoglobin A1c test of 6.9 to a 5.7 ! 🙂 It’s basically similar to South Beach, but personalize it to your metabolism. And of course, exercise can help. My doctor is insulin resistant too, so I do not feel so bad. I have dropped 30 lbs. since March 11,07. So, it seems it would probably work for people that are either “carb sensitive” or may have some blood sugar issues. What works for your best buddy may be different for you, especially when considering genetics.

    Reply
  11. Toni

    Although not new to a GI diet I am new to being diagnosed with diabetes type 2. I’m used to eat organic and the sprouted grain bread is the only bread I ate for the last 4 years. Today I noticed it really spiked my bloodsugar. Does anyone know the GI for this Ezekiel bread?

    Reply
  12. Jesse

    Are you kidding? I was a bodybuilder for years and had to reduce bodyfat to under six percent in season and usually maintained at about 12%. I went through a powerflifting stint whereby I willingly put on 40 pounds of muscle and fat and increased my bodyfat percentage to 25%. I then returned to bodybuilding and reduced back to competitive percentages. I used two diets to do this and both were remarkably effective: the low fat/med carb/high protein diet and the GI diet, emphasizing high proteins (remember you need them for muscle maintenance). Both diets reduced caloric intake to approximately 12 calories per pound of lean body mass. Typical maintenance is between 16 and 18, for some with high metabolic rates it is higher. While both diets were tremendous, the GI diet was superior to the low fat/mc/hp diet. It is how I eat today (I do not bodybuild anymore). Plenty of vegetables and high protein. If you are looking to lose fat, I cannot recommend a better diet. I was competitive on a national natural (no steroids or other performance enhancing drugs) level. It takes lowering your fat intake and high glycemic index carb count and cycling your caloric intake: diet so that you lose bodyfat for 12 to 14 days, normalize (while keeping fats and hi G carbs in check) for 7 – 10 (if you have a pair of skin calipers this can help you monitor when you begin to gain again – then it is time to calorie reduce again). You simply have to exercise to do this properly. It is a lifestyle change and your body will thank you.

    Reply
  13. kat

    Re: Bread
    I use the sprouted grains bread such as “Ezekiel Bread.” It’s not made from flour, but from seven grains which are sprouted then pounded into a flour-like consistancy. And it tastes good. I’ve seen it called ‘legal’ on several low-carb and also GI diets.

    Reply
  14. amanda

    I have been following the GI diet for 3 weeks and I have lost 8lb. I am delighted! I do not have a great deal to lose, (another 8-10lb will do nicely thanks!). I have found it easy, abut I have to say I find websites informing of GI diets misleading, so anybody who does not have a book should buy one..! For the first week I was eating a wholemeal pitta with prawn salad because on a website it said you combined yellow and green foods, with the preference to green…I am sure I would have lost more in the first week if it wasnt for that ‘slip up’..!
    I am doing great though with no plans to stop, I feel a lot better so even if I do not lose anymore weight (which I am sure I will!) the fact that I am eating healthier is a good start!
    I really do not know why Broad beans are a high GI though! they are one of my fave veggies!

    Reply
  15. very happy

    I’ve attempted many diets, and the only one that has worked for me other than this one was ephadrine, and I lost 40lbs in 2 months. Since it has been removed from stores, WL4I has worked well for me. I’m into my firsr 11 days and has lost 14lbs !

    Reply
  16. Alison

    I’m 21 years old and have been hypoglycemic for about 3 years. I was diagnosed when my doctor tried to put my on antidepressants and I refused and asked for further tests.

    I’ve been on the low GI diet ever since. My mood swings have disappeard and I did indeed lose weight, although I was a size eight to start with.

    I’d recommend this for anyone, not just diabetics or athletes.. I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been.

    Reply
  17. frances

    The real reason the US is the holdout on the GI diet is because the junk food processing industry lobbies the government to keep telling us to eat starch. We are not to stupid to understand it. It is not complicated.

    Reply
  18. John Lorencen

    I’ve been on the GI diet for the past four months. I had a heck of a time getting the sugar out of my diet. I still have “attacks”. For me, Bartlett pears take the sugar edge off very well. I began using the Weightwatcher “Core” plan. While using their community board one day, I read a message from a lady that had good results using the GI version. After reading both of Gallop’s books I found it mirrors the “Core” plan very closely without the $12 weekly charge. Two weeks of dues paid for the two books using Amazon. I hope those of you that use this diet are doing well. Those that aren’t, I hope you at least give it a good read before passing on it. I’m 58 years old, have amazing amounts of energy now, and plan on keeping this eating lifestyle for the rest of my life.

    John Lorencen
    Mason, MI

    Reply
  19. corinna

    Just for Info: the major diabetes organisations in most countries do recommend the Glycemic Index for diabetics — the US is the major holdout. Their position is that it’s too complicated for people to follow, that it’s easier to say all carbs are bad carbs.

    Reply
  20. sue

    I have been on the GI plan for 2 weeks and have lost 8 pounds with no cravings whatsoever and feel no real hunger at any time. I have suspected for some time that I had a blood sugare problem at different times of the day, etc. Sometimes I would have to stop in the middle of a strenous step class and go eat protein and then go back to class in 15 mins. I am NOT having these problems after starting the GI diet. By the way, I am 64 and very health oriented

    Reply
  21. B

    Hold up…

    Full fat yogurt is in the “red” category? If anything regular yogurt will have a lower GI than any other type. Avoid most cheeses? What a bunch of BS. Knock off diet cant even get their facts straight

    Reply
  22. Eric USA

    I found the low GI eating style throught the book “Eat Yourself Slim” by Michel Montignac, a Frenchman. I believe that book came out in the late ’80s. It’s worked for me.

    Reply
  23. angela Lapsley

    is the GI diet same as the south beach diet,is it then atkins with more veg anf fruit thrown in? I have been on low carb for last two years or so, no bread,rice no fruit, no junk, ie cakes, (still drank alcohol though)and ate good amounts of veg each day,fish meat eggs, bacon, and lost about two stone, then I fell off the wagon bigtime,thinking I would stay slim, now I want to go back to the atkins style because the weight loss is so much quicker, does anyone know if I can now do atkins for 14 days or so, and then just switch and include more fruit and veg without putting on loads of weight? I would still cut out bread etc, all the white and junk stuff, oh my alcohol already is now almost nil, only if out once in a while, I eat plain soya yoghurt as a podding one a day, and use soya milk please answer as I was ab out to buy yet another book on the south beach, I already have atkins and Low Gi books. angelalapsley1@aol.com

    Reply
  24. Jan

    I think there are other factors that are being ignored, like glycemic load, that Jim already mentioned. I find this particular list simplistic – pasta is not equal to cauliflower when it comes to weight loss, and everyone knows it. If I ate pasta “freely” – heck, if I ate any more than 1/2 a “standard portion” once a day I wouldn’t lose an ounce, I might even gain weight. But I could eat 10lb of cauliflower a day and that wouldn’t happen. That is just one of the examples. Putting stuff like “chicken casserole” on the list also doesn’t mean a lot – I can make casserole out of chicken breasts and vegetables and plain pasta, all which are “green”, or I can make it out of dark chicken meat smothered in cream of mushroom soup, with white rice.

    Reply
  25. William Gross

    I’ve recommended, and follow, the GI diet myself.

    I do not have diabetes or other health related issues that have pushed me toward it.

    In fact, I don’t even have a weight problem.

    A diet is just that, a diet. A strategic set of eating guidelines designed to help achieve a certain goal.

    The goal of eating a low-GI diet is to have a fairly regular level of blood sugar over a long period of time.

    I am an endurance athlete. I run marathons and ultramarathons. I routinely run distances of 25 miles or more, which equates to an additional 2500 calorie burn for the day.

    Endurance sports places a huge strain on blood sugar levels, especially during exercise. I began studying the GI diet as a means of finding foods I can eat before and during runs that last 4, 5, even 8 hours. My concern is finding foods that will keep my blood sugar level consistent.

    I highly recommend a low-GI diet for any endurance athletes out there.

    Oh yea, if you are falling asleep at the keyboard every day at 3:00pm, try replacing your lunch with a low-GI lunch for a week and see what happens ?

    A low-GI diet may not change your life, but it did mine.

    Bill

    Reply
  26. Patricia Blackburn

    Ifound out I was a diabetic,when I eat alot of carb foods and sweets,my sugar goes down.I do not take no
    medecine,now Iwatch what I eat.I love cheese,and eggs
    and veggies I do not eat pork I very seldom eat beef.
    I do not like much fish I like tuna fish,ground turkey,
    and chicken.I bought Splenda, and Splenda Brown Sugar.
    I now use unsweet chocolate, soy flour wheat flour to
    make desserts. I also love pecans. Is there any thing
    else I need to know?

    Reply
  27. frances

    I make lettuce wraps with sandwich fillings. There really is no substitute for bread. While whole grain breads seem to rank medium on the GI lists they have more calories than white bread. I know the Atkins and South Beach plans steer away from counting calories, but a typical diet might include two servings of bread per meal. This can add up to 600 calories per day, not to mention what you might put on it.

    Low GI is really the same thing as low carb. The old fashioned word for high carb or high glycemic food is starch. None of this is new. I’m 58 years old and can remember my grandmother saying don’t eat anything white.

    Reply
  28. sarah o neill

    just wondering why some breads eg wholegrain are on the low and medium list. what would be a good substituet for bread adn a sandwitch

    Reply
  29. Cheryl

    Can anyone explain the difference between the CSIRO diet and the GI diet?Also is there an indication of how much (eg weight or portion wise) individual food items should be consumed to lose weight?

    Reply
  30. Jim

    Frances has the right of it. I believe it was Canada where the GI was first “invented” – and one Australian university has done a lot of study into the GI of various foods. A lot of British authors like Gallop and Holford have written books based around the GI for UK audiences. For some reason over the last 6 months the US (or the marketers?) has finally seemed to take notice.

    This doesn’t mean the GI is hot air – I think it’s a great tool for understanding insulin response from certain carbs – it’s a good way to eat – but it’s just another tool.

    Reply
  31. frances

    The countries you mention have history with the British Empire as do we. It is starting to be hyped here too. I think the concept was invented in Australia and to some extent in Canada who also have British roots.

    Reply
  32. Gie

    Hi there,
    Does anybody know why GI is such a hype in some countries (UK, South Africa, Australia) but of not in other.
    Love to hear it
    Gie

    Reply
  33. Garry

    Nice feature of the low-GI diet (such as South Beach):
    with plenty of vegetables, and reasonable amounts of
    chicken, fish, and lean meat, you feel well fed.

    Your blood sugar stays low, your insulin stays low,
    and you have stable metabolism. Very helpful, to
    get through the day without carb cravings. A well-designed low GI diet achieves that.

    Reply
  34. Jill

    The big Organizations won’t get behind it because if you can fix your problem with a simple change in diet and can loose the shot everyday you won’t be making their bank account bigger now would yah?

    NEVER accept the word of someone who is after your money!!

    Jill

    Reply
  35. frances

    I’m happy for Tor’s success. The large diabetic health organizations do not support the glycemic index. I think it is great for weight control and may be the best thing ever for diabetics. Why won’t the big organizations get behind this. I have to be challenged by diabetic inlaws that think they are supposed to be eating cool whip and nabisco pie crust. They think I’m nuts for trying to help my husband with the GI diet.

    Reply
  36. Tor

    The original Glycemic Index was created in the early ’80s by a team of scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada, and was in response to a growing problem among diabetics. The recommendation at the time was to avoid carbohydrates, and as a result their blood sugars were good and instead they were dying of heart attacks from a high fat diet – what some would call the Atkins phenomena.
    Seven years ago I developed diabetes type II as a result of damage to my pancreas from a hereditary blood disorder (hemochromatosis). I didn’t like the warning labels on the prescription meds my doctor was giving me, and while looking for alternatives stumbled over the Glycemic Index.
    I’ve since stuck to a strict GI giet (barley, steel cut oats, whole rye bread, squash, wholewheat fettucini and beans as carb sources rather than wheat, potatoes and rice). I’ve also managed to put in a couple of hours of walking every day. Protein sources are mainly fish and lean chicken.
    After seven years, I could walk into a doctors office and have a full checkup and he or she wouldn’t detect my diabetes. It hasn’t gone away, it’s just being controlled, day by day, by healthy eating and activity.
    As an unexpected but welcome ‘side effect’ of this, my weight dropped from 224 to 164 lbs, and has stayed there for the past years, for a healthy BMI of 23. So yeah, not surprised the ‘diet industry’ is discovering the Glycemic Index.
    However, when the users discover that there are no freebees, that it needs to be supplemented with regular exercise and that it has to become a lifelong thing, it will be interesting to see what happens.
    Tor

    Reply
  37. Jim

    The GI of Broad Beans is 79 – which is high – BUT the glycemic load is 4.1 – which is not that high. I personally don’t see what the problem is here. Remember the above food listing is from Rick Gallop’s book. There are other versions of GI diets that make more use of glycemic load.

    Reply
  38. jackie

    The broad bean thing with GI diet, can anyone shed light?. The whole thing works really well for us (we are vegetarian), missing cheese, but can eat all the beans we like except Broad Beans???

    Reply
  39. Carrol Wolverton

    Some of the suggested food changes here are excellent. I self-published my own successful weight loss plan on lulu.com. Successful readers may wish to do likewise. I recommend small, permanent changes one at a time. My favorite is 10 calorie hot chocolate, my own recipe. Forever 107: A Common Sense Approach to Weight Loss is only $1.88 download version on lulu.com. Carrol Wolverton

    Reply
  40. Mary Crawford

    Re: Glycemic Index Diet…

    Gosh! No liver, kidneys, heart? I couldn’t do this diet. I love liver. And the British will be up in arms; no steak and kidney pie, crumpets, or toad-in-the-hole.

    Let’s hear it for the medicos and the fashion pack. They make life interesting, if dull.

    Reply