Food for thought (…and much more!): The GI values of some popular foods

GrainsOver the past two weeks we looked at the Glycemic Index (GI) and its importance in regulating our ‘fuel supply’. Understanding its role in doing this is especially important for people who are faced with the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. This is because the maintenance of stable blood sugar levels is one of the key factors in controlling the inattention, impulsiveness and mood swings that so often go hand in glove with ADD/ADHD.

This week we will go one step further by taking some of the theory and putting it into practice. We will specifically look into the GI content of different foods. This should help you a great deal in terms of designing your diet to be as ADD/ADHD unfriendly as possible.

Just a short word of warning before we look at individual food types: It should be clear from last week’s article that the whole GI concept is based on solid scientific fact and that it is possible to determine the GI values of food with remarkable accuracy. However, the scientific nature of the Low GI approach was tarnished in the eyes of many by the fact that some unscrupulous people decided to market the concept as part of the latest ‘miracle diet’. Please be aware that what we are describing here does not fit into this category at all. Fad diets come and go and they usually involve going overboard with some important principle (like GI). We are recommending the exact opposite, namely learning about GI and its benefits for tackling ADD/ADHD and then applying what you have learned in a balanced and responsible way.

Having some general information about the Glycemic Index can be quite beneficial, this would however be close to worthless if you do not allow that knowledge to influence your food buying decisions. To recap, we saw last week that the Glycemic Index can be divided into three categories:

1 – 55: Low Glycemic Index

55 – 70: Medium/Intermediate Glycemic Index

70 – 99: High Glycemic Index

Putting the principles behind the GI concept into practice will obviously means that you need to orient your food choices very much towards the first two categories (i.e. Low GI and Medium GI). Some of the foods in the different categories will be listed below. It is obviously not an exhaustive list but it should give you a very good idea of the GI values of different kinds of foods.

Low GI Foods

Bran based cereals, porridge, natural muesli, wheat pasta shapes, new potatoes, brown rice, buckwheat, white long grain rice, wheat tortillas, soya bread, linseed bread, whole wheat bread, sourdough rye bread, muesli bars, milk chocolate (high fat), hummus, peanuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, raisins, oatmeal crackers, kidney beans, butter beans, chick peas, green and red lentils, black eyed beans, green peas, sweet corn, carrots, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, chillies, lettuce, green beans, red peppers, onions, cherries, plums, grapefruit, peaches, apples, pears, apricots, grapes, coconut, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, prunes, whole milk, skimmed milk, yoghurt, custard, soy milk

Medium GI Foods

Nutrigrain, porridge oats, shredded wheat, basmati rice, couscous, cornmeal, gnocchi, baked potatoes, wild rice, croissants, hamburgers buns, white pita, wholemeal rye bread, Ryvita, digestive biscuits, blueberry muffins, honey, beans in tomato sauce, beetroot, sultanas, bananas, raisins, papaya, figs, pineapple, ice cream

High GI Foods

Cornflakes, Coco Pops, Rice Crispies, instant white rice, short grain white rice, fresh mashed potatoes, French fries, white bread, bagels, baguettes, pretzels, water biscuits, rice cakes, crispbread, donuts, scones, pumpkin, parsnips, watermelon, dates

Two things should be immediately apparent from the foods listed above:

1) Low GI values can be found across a wide spectrum of foods. It is therefore very wrong to immediately assume that you will have to eat like a medieval monk in order to follow a Low GI diet! In fact, with a bit of careful planning and some creativity you should be able to create an eating plan that is not too far removed from what you are already eating. The only difference being that you will now be eating in a way that will keep your blood sugar levels much more stable.

2) GI values can sometimes seem slightly counterintuitive. The Glycemic Index can be very good at throwing up surprises. For example: Who would have thought that very ‘wholesome’ vegetables like pumpkin and parsnips would achieve such high scores? At the other end of the spectrum we also see ice cream and chocolate at places where we would not expect them (Medium GI and Low GI respectively). This clearly shows that you will have to follow the best possible professional advice when trying to follow a Low GI diet. Get yourself a book with detailed listings of the GI values of different foods and/or check back regularly to 3StepsADD for the latest news on GI related research.

Trying to follow a Low GI diet may seem like a bit of unnecessary hassle that you can easily do without. However research has shown time and again that it can be one of the most effective tools in combating the effects of ADD/ADHD. When you realise this, the effort and expense starts to pale into insignificance when compared to what the pharmaceutical companies would like you to do in response to ADD/ADHD!