What does low glycaemic load mean?
In a nutshell, when your blood sugar level goes too high (after eating too much sugar or refined carbs like white bread or pasta) the excess is converted to fat. When your blood sugar level dips you feel hungry and so you snack - often reaching for something sugary. Keeping your blood sugar even is the key to losing weight and this is what a low GL diet does. The GL is based on the glycaemic index (GI) of a food which works out how fast a food releases sugar and how much of the food is carbohydrate.
How do I work out the glycaemic load?
The Low GL Diet Made Easy and the online Low GL Diet Counter show you the GL of foods. The Holford Low GL Diet Cookbook provides loads of delicious and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, all with the GL worked out.
Once you’ve been following the diet for a short while you’ll soon get the hang of it and you’ll start to naturally follow the principles.
Three simple rules
The beauty of eating a low GL load diet is that you just don’t feel hungry. This is because you eat regularly and can have decent portions. A low GL load diet is also easy to follow, even when you go out. You just need to follow three golden rules:
- Eat protein with carbohydrate
- Eat no more than 45 GLs a day (see below for how this breaks down)
- Graze don’t gorge
Why it’s important to eat protein with carbs
Protein helps to slow down the release of sugar from carbohydrates and has virtually no effect on blood sugar. So if you combine protein (fish, eggs, beans, poultry) with wholemeal carbs like wholemeal bread, brown pasta or starchy vegetables (which are lower GL than refined carbs) you get a healthy, balanced low GL meal.
What food can I eat on 45 GLs a day?
Your GL intake breaks down as 10 GLs each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus 5 GLs for a mid morning and mid afternoon snack – so you eat (or graze) regularly instead of gorging at one or two big meals. That helps keep your blood sugar and energy even and stops hunger. Additionally you get 5GLs a day for a drink or dessert.
Here’s what a typical day’s GL Load diet intake could look like:
A bowl of porridge oats (30g)
Half a grated apple
A small tub of yoghurt
A cup of strawberries and a few almonds
A substantial tuna salad, plus 3 oatcakes or a slice of rye bread
A pear and a handful of peanuts
Tomato soup, then salmon, brown rice & green beans
Desserts and Drinks
You have a daily 5GL allowance for drinks and desserts. That means you could have a drink on Monday, a dessert on Tuesday, both on Wednesday and neither on Thursday. Dry white wine or a spirit on the rocks is best. Try a chunky 5GL slice of my Apple and Almond cake for a mid-afternoon snack.
The plate below gives you a clear idea of what a main meal making up 10GLs looks like. Half your plate should be vegetables (about 3GLs), one quarter protein (zero GLs) and one quarter low GL carbs (7GLs). So a meal with fish, vegetables and brown rice is a perfect low GL dinner.
Don’t forget to include exercise
Exercise is the fastest way to improve your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism. Combining low GL eating with regular exercise is important for success on the diet. I’ve found what works best is to do 30 minutes of any exercise that gets your heart rate up, three times a week, and 8 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises three times a week. See my routine, devised by former Gladiator Kate Staples.
Does it work?
“I've lost 16 pounds in six weeks. It’s been so easy and I no longer have any unhealthy cravings.” Linda
“The most surprising aspect of this diet was that I seldom felt hungry. I have lost over 7 stone (100 lbs) in 7 months.” Aemonn
In a GP trial of 21 overweight patients the average weight loss in 12 weeks was over 1 stone (15lbs/7kg).
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