image of healthy food is vital for prevention and control of diabetes, Diabetes Insight Cork Ireland

image of healthy food is vital for prevention and control of diabetes, Diabetes Insight Cork Ireland

Low GI is not just for Type 2 Diabetes

The Low GI (Glycaemic Index) Diet has been commonly associated with Type 2 Diabetes. Working for over 15 years in diabetes, I have found this to be one of the most effective diets for regulating blood sugars, losing weight and curbing cravings in Type 2 Diabetes. But I also use and advice it for people with Type 1 Diabetes that attend Diabetes Insight Educational Services, as the foundation level diet for controlling blood sugar levels and then subsequently using carbohydrate counting as the building blocks to tighten control. Many people with Type 1 Diabetes are quick to dismiss the Low GI Diet as a ‘Type 2’ Diet which doesn’t hold much relevance for them. Pity about that, because I have found the Low GI Diet to be just as effective in Type 1 Diabetes as carbohydrate counting and the science is there to back up these claims [1].

Combining Low GI & Carbohydrate Counting

While I hold great credence in the advent of carbohydrate counting courses such as DAFNE and BERGER, I am very old school and I believe in getting the basics right first, which I do not apologize for. Just because you can carbohydrate count, does not mean you can pump whatever types of foods you like into you and bang in the insulin dose needed. Recent science and research all points to achieving good cholesterol, normal weight and normal blood pressure as being the ring leaders in avoiding long term complications in type 2 diabetes, alongside normalizing blood sugar levels [2]. I believe that this approach needs to be taken in Type 1 Diabetes, as I have seen a marked increase in overweight amongst people with Type 1 diabetes, which normally was considered to be a problem for Type 2 Diabetes

It is very dangerous to assume that just by regulating blood sugar levels alone and having the images (1)perfect HbA1c, that you will avoid all the complications of diabetes, despite having a high cholesterol, blood pressure and being overweight. I have seen many people with Type 1 Diabetes live long and healthy lives despite not having perfect blood sugar control, because they kept all these other factors in check.

The danger is that if you presume you can eat what you like when carbohydrate counting, you may not be following a healthy diet, which we ALL must be doing, and in particular when living with a chronic condition such as diabetes. Carbohydrate counting offers greater flexibility and freedom to those living with Type 1 Diabetes when it comes to making food choices, but it cannot be a substitute for healthy eating. This is where the Low GI Diet can be very useful.

Studies have shown that in insulin pump users, blood sugar levels post meals are up to 20% lower when low GI foods are eaten, compared to high GI foods, despite them having the same carbohydrate content [3].

What is the Low GI Diet?

Glycaemic Index (GI) is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on our blood sugar. GI is a relatively new way of analyzing foods. Previously, most meal plans designed to improve blood sugar analyzed the total amount of carbohydrates (including sugars and starches) in the foods themselves. GI goes beyond this approach, looking at the impact of foods on our actual blood sugar. In other words, instead of counting the total amount of carbohydrates in foods in their unconsumed state, GI measures the actual impact of these foods on our blood sugar.

The GI Diet is rated in a ranking system in order of high,” medium” and “low” system for GI. Low GI is what is recommended for people with diabetes, as these are the carbohydrates that are digested, absorbed, and metabolized slowly by our body and have the least impact on ones blood sugar levels. It is not only the types of food that effects the GI of foods, but the cooking process. This is why Diabetes Insight has designed our Cooking Well for Diabetes Cookery Courses to help people understand how the cooking process affects the GI of the foods they eat. 

Fibre is Good

A good rule of thumb when following the Low GI is that the higher the fibre content of your food, the longer it takes to burn and absorb in your body, the less likely it is to cause your blood sugars to rise. Therefore you feel fuller for longer, reduce cravings, eat smaller portions which in turn can lead to weight loss. Because the Low GI Diet is high in fibre, your body has to expend additional energy to deal with fibre, and again this can aid weight loss [4]. Increased fibre intake is linked with lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure [5], making it the ideal diet for people with ANY type of diabetes to be on, and their families.

Controlling Swings & Roundabouts

I have always found the Low GI Diet particularly good for leveling out blood sugar levels when scalesthere is spell of blood sugars swinging from high to lows. It is also useful for reducing the risk of night time hypoglycemic events [6] and anyone playing sports to reduce the risk of hypos post exercise, especially in endurance sports like triathlons and marathons.

For those people with Type 1 Diabetes who may be newly diagnosed, not have access to carbohydrate counting or may have difficulty controlling their blood sugars, the Low GI Diet may be useful and information is widely available and cost effective. It is a shame that not greater emphasis is put on the benefits of a low GI way of eating for people with Type 1 diabetes.

Further Information


The only book on the Low GI Diet is by Rick Gallop, as it is the most simple and easy to understand. Based on a traffic light system, it is easy to follow and contains many handy recipes. For further information please go to


Many foods now will be labelled Low GI. There is Low GI bread available in Aldi, and numerous other products across stores will be labelled to make it easier for shopping.


There are numerous apps available on relation to the Low GI Diet, many of which you can enter foods while shopping to let you know the GI of that particular food.

Cookery Classes

All our recipes featured on our website are Low GI and our Cooking Well for Diabetes Course is held regularly throughout the year from our premises in the Cork Health and Lifestyle Centre. For further inquiries please contact Helena on (086) 1739287 or email

Individual Consultations

Individual Consultations are available at Diabetes Insight to help how the Low GI Diet can be relevant and apply to how you live with diabetes. To find out more please ring Helena on (086) 1739287 or email


[1] Brand-Miller, Jennie, et al. “Low–Glycemic Index Diets in the Management of Diabetes A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Diabetes care 26.8 (2003): 2261-2267.

[2] Mannucci, Edoardo, et al. “Prevention of cardiovascular disease through glycemic control in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 19.9 (2009): 604-612.

[3] Parillo, M., et al. “Effects of meals with different glycaemic index on postprandial blood glucose response in patients with Type 1 diabetes treated with continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion.” Diabetic Medicine 28.2 (2011): 227-229.

[4] Howarth, Nancy C., Edward Saltzman, and Susan B. Roberts. “Dietary fiber and weight regulation.” Nutrition reviews 59.5 (2001): 129-139.

[5] Jenkins, David, et al. “Effect on blood lipids of very high intakes of fiber in diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol.” New England journal of medicine 329.1 (1993): 21-26.

[6] Giacco, Rosalba, et al. “Long-term dietary treatment with increased amounts of fiber-rich low-glycemic index natural foods improves blood glucose control and reduces the number of hypoglycemic events in type 1 diabetic patients.”Diabetes Care 23.10 (2000): 1461-1466.

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