Low GI and Gluten Free

Contrary to popular belief, gluten free doesn't necessarily mean healthy.

As I skim through the ingredients list on the back of gluten free food products, I am often astounded at how common 'sugar' appears as the first ingredient. When first diagnosed with coeliac disease, I found out about the importance of label reading and the standard practice that the first ingredient printed on the list is also the main ingredient in the product. While the marketing on the product will usually emphasise the healthy ingredients, how often does it truly reflect what the product is made from?

Coeliac Disease and GI

Those living gluten free have to be careful not to get too enticed by the marketing. And, they need to make sure they are not consuming highly refined, high GI food (which in my opinion, could be just as bad for you as the highly processed food you have been trained to avoid!) This is especially important for those with coeliac disease, as about 10 per cent also develop type 1 diabetes and need to manage their blood glucose levels.

Why? Your blood glucose rises and falls when you eat a meal containing carbs. How high it rises and for how long depends on the quality of the carbs (the GI) and the quantity. Foods that contain carbs that break down quickly during digestion have the highest GI values, as the starch in them is fully gelatinised, meaning digestive juices can easily attack, leading to high blood glucose levels. On the other hand, food that has carbs which break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have a low GI value as the starch in these foods is only partially gelatinised and therefore more resistant to attacks from digestive juices.

High vs low GI foods

You might be interested to learn that some naturally sweet foods actually have a low (below 55) or medium (between 55 and 70) GI rating. This includes most fruits and their unsweetened juices (with the exceptions being dates, lychees and watermelon which have a high GI rating of over 70).

However, the bread and cereals group is where most of your decisions about GI need to be made. While your choices here might already feel restricted, you can substitute some more common high GI gluten free cereals and breads with the following alternatives:

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