Nuts shown to reduce the glycaemic index (GI) of foods eaten with them

On Wednesday my blog post focused on sugary soft drinks, and the link between their consumption with obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Part of the problem with such drinks is that, particularly when drunk quickly, they can lead to considerable surges in blood sugar. As a result the body is generally compelled to secrete considerable quantities of the hormone insulin, which in excess is linked with an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, as well as other ills including acne and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The speed and extent of sugar release from a food can be measured and is called its glycaemic index (GI). In the GI scale, glucose (a very fast releasing food indeed) is given a value of 100. The higher a food’s GI, the more it tends to disrupt blood sugar and insulin and, generally speaking, the worse it is for us.

As a general rule, it makes sense to keep the diet based on foods that have relatively low GIs. However, should a food of relatively high GI be consumed, is there anything that can be done to limit the damage?

Firstly, it is useful to be mindful of the fact that how much you eat of a high GI food will obviously have a bearing on how much it disrupts the body’s biochemistry. Basically, when eating a high GI food it’s better to have a little rather than a lot. In addition, it can help to consume the food with a foodstuff that slows the overall release of sugar from the meal.

In a recent study, the effect of eating almonds (a low GI food) on the GI of white bread (a high GI food) was assessed [1]. Subjects were fed a meal of white bread alone, or the same amount of white bread with either 30, 60 or 90 g of almonds.

Eating almonds was found the reduce the overall GI of the meal, and the greater the quantity of almonds eaten, the lower the GI was.

The lowering of the GI has profound implications for health, not least of all because lower GI meals are generally more satisfying to the appetite than higher GI foods containing the same number of calories. It’s not uncommon for individuals to find that a bowl of porridge (medium GI) may not get them comfortably through to lunch. However, just the addition of some ground nuts to the porridge will often be all that is required to keep hunger at bay for the whole morning.

Nuts may not only help to reduce the GI of a meal and satisfy the appetite, their consumption is also linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. And despite being intensely fatty, the evidence suggests that nuts are not fattening [2]. For a variety of reasons, nuts represent a generally healthy and nutritious choice, either as a meal ingredient or snack.

References:

1. Josse AR, et al. Almonds and postprandial glycemia ” a dose response study. Metabolism. 2007;56(3):400-4

2. Why the notion that eating nuts causes weight gain is, well, nuts

3 Responses to Nuts shown to reduce the glycaemic index (GI) of foods eaten with them

  1. Mary Lawrence 16 March 2007 at 10:32 am #

    Does peanut butter count?

  2. Dr John Briffa 16 March 2007 at 3:13 pm #

    It wasn’t tested but I suspect it would help a lot. I suggest going for a variety that is devoid of ‘partially hydrogenated’ fat.

  3. Tiggy 19 March 2007 at 2:28 am #

    Isn’t it just a case of averaging out the GI of foods? I don’t understand why they had to do a test to establish this, or is something else going on? I mean adding nuts to your white bread would just lower the overall GI average because part of the food intake has a lower GI.

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