If you have ever pondered what eating low GI means and why people follow this way of eating, New Zealand foodie sisters Julia and Libby Matthews demystify the topic.
Throughout the year, many Kiwis commit to new diet goals with vegetarianism being an increasingly popular option. While there are many pros to switching to a plant based diet, people often suffer low iron levels and other deficiencies from consuming less meat.
Whether becoming a vegetarian for health reasons, animal welfare or sustainability causes, Julia and Libby Matthews have a great guide on managing the switch and getting wholegrains, fibre, complex carbs and proteins into a vegetarian diet.
With Libby a graduated naturopath and Julia completing her Bachelor of Health Science, both are a trusted source with their followers (around 137k on social media). The sisters have also published two cookbooks.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. GI is measured on a scale from 1 to 100.
- GI levels that are below 55 are considered low, which indicates that the type of carbohydrate is great for keeping blood sugar levels stable. These foods include non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains like millet, rye and oats, fruits such as apples, oranges, strawberries and pears as well as pulses.
- GI levels that are 55-70 are considered moderately desirable.
- GI levels that are more than 70 are considered high and will spike blood sugars levels very quickly. These foods include potatoes, white bread, soft drinks, and lollies.
- Glucose has a glycemic index level of 100 which means that it spikes blood sugar levels instantly.
- When you eat a high GI food your blood sugar levels rise rapidly, and your body starts producing insulin (the fat storing hormone) in order to eliminate the blood sugar from the bloodstream. While your body is trying to slow the rapid spike in blood sugar levels caused by the high GI food, it may over produce insulin so that the blood sugar levels decrease. The high amount of insulin produced causes glucose levels in the blood to suddenly crash, and this may make you feel very hungry, even though you may have just eaten not long before.
- Eating low-GI foods cause a steady rise in the level of glucose in the blood, which in turn leads to a smaller and gentler rise in insulin. When insulin slowly increases it keeps you feeling full and energised for hours after eating and can help your body burn fat more efficiently.
- Following a low-GI diet helps with reducing blood sugar levels, weight loss and helps lower the risks of heart disease and type 2-diabetes.
Top five tips for eating a low GI diet:
- Choose low GI carbs and a lean source of protein at every meal to help level out blood sugar and keep your energy levels and appetite in check for the rest of the day.
- Swap high GI Foods like white potatoes and refined-grain products, for lower GI options
- Watch serve size – eating too much of any kind of food, even healthier choices, will most likely put on weight
- Practice mindful eating – eat slowly and enjoy your food.
- Exercise regularly – include a minimum 30 minutes of regular exercise as part of your daily routine
Low GI diet swaps
- Swap white bread for wholegrain bread with seeds which are lower GI contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals.
- Try a certified low GI White or brown rice product – they’ll keep you fuller for longer and provide sustained energy release.
- Swap boxed breakfast cereal for traditional rolled oats or natural muesli which are lower GI and have more fibre, so they will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- Swap potatoes for kumara (sweet potato) because it contains more fibre than potato and is lower on the glycemic index. For this reason, blood glucose will rise a little more gradually with kumara than with white potatoes.
- Swap potato chips for a handful of nuts and seeds because they contain healthy fats, protein and fibre helping you feel fuller and more satisfied.
- Julia and Libby’s Brown Rice Vege Bowl is low-GI, rich in nutrients, protein and flavour. The recipe uses SunRice’s Naturally Low GI Brown Rice.
Brown Rice Vege Bowl
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1 cup SunRice Low GI Brown Rice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ capsicum, finely sliced
1/3 cucumber, chopped
¼ cup red onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Place rice and two cups of water into a medium sized saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15-minutes) and then stand for five minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients and place aside.
Once the rice is cooked, spoon into two serving bowls. Arrange the vegetables in the two bowls and place a tablespoon of Greek yogurt into the middle of each bowl. Add your favourite protein such as tuna, chicken, tofu or egg if you wish. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and protein. Best served warm.
Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry
As the months get cooler curry is a dish on people’s minds. This Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry is a delicious vegetarian dish that everyone can enjoy. A nutritious plant-based meal, this curry ticks all the boxes for those looking to reduce their meat consumption without sacrificing taste. In this recipe SunRice Ambassadors Julia and Libby use the SunRice Naturally Rice & Quinoa blend because the quinoa adds a boost of protein and the brown rice is a good source of fibre. They recommend the Quinoa blend for curries, salads, fritters or served alongside fish and a salad.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes
1 cup SunRice Naturally Rice & Quinoa
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup kale or baby spinach
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
1 white onion, sliced
¼ cup coconut chips
¼ cup fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon oil
1 chilli, de-seeded and sliced (optional)
Salt + pepper
Place SunRice Naturally Rice & Quinoa and two cups of water into a medium-sized saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered for five minutes.
While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large pot and brown onions, garlic, ginger and chilli for two minutes. Add the sweet potato, kale or baby spinach, sprinkle of salt and pepper and cover with the coconut milk. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve the rice and quinoa into bowls and cover with curry. Top with coriander, lime juice and coconut chips.
Mexican Rice Bowl
his Mexican Rice Bowl is a convenient and simple dish for anyone who’s short on time. Work lunches don’t have to be a bore! SunRice Ambassadors Julia and Libby have created this zesty Mexican Rice Bowl with delicious seasoning to enjoy as a nutritious snack.
1.5 cups SunRice Rice & Quinoa mix (cooked, as per packet instructions)
3 cups water
1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp chilli powder
1 red onion, diced
2-3 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, mashed
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
Handful fresh coriander, chopped roughly
Salt and pepper to season
Rinse Rice & Quinoa with water. Place rice into a saucepan. Add water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stand covered for five minutes.
In a pan over medium heat add oil, spices and red onion. Brown for a few minutes and add the cooked Rice & Quinoa. Brown for a further three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped tomatoes.
Combine mashed avocado and lemon juice. Divide rice mixture into serving bowls and top with a big spoonful of avocado. Pour over lime juice, season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh coriander.