Q. "Are all foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) healthy choices? I’ve heard that chocolate has a low GI. Is this true?"
Kitty, Rose Park, SA
A. Professor Jennie Brand-Miller says:
Not all low-GI foods are healthy, everyday foods. Many factors affect a food’s GI value, from its fat content and acidity to its types of sugar and starch, and its physical state (how it’s been processed).
Yes, it’s true that chocolate has a low GI (of around 45). This is because its high fat content slows not only the rate at which the stomach releases sugars into the intestine, but also the speed at which the blood subsequently absorbs these sugars. However, chocolate is energy dense, so even a little piece gives you a large number of kilojoules. It’s best to enjoy chocolate as an occasional treat, and to keep your portion sizes small. Also, choose a quality brand — preferably of dark chocolate, which has beneficial antioxidant properties.
To find out whether a packaged food is a healthy low-GI choice, scan store shelves for products that display the Low-GI Symbol. The Low-GI Symbol Program requires these foods to meet very strict nutritional criteria, such as specific limits for kilojoules, carbohydrate, saturated fat, total fat, sodium and, if appropriate, fibre and calcium. These are exacting standards that make these foods healthy choices in their individual categories.