Fit to be tried: Low-GL diet
JUST when you thought you'd cracked the right diet for low GI -- that's glycemic index, the measure of your body's glucose or sugar level -- along comes a new approach: GL, or glycemic loading.
But whether you're loading or indexing, the idea is the same -- some foods release sugar or glucose into your body faster than others, and that puts on weight. Culprits such as white rice or bread and even some fruits like bananas, hit your bloodstream with a rush.
The energy you don't use is converted into fat.
Eating foods with a low glycemic rating -- berries, nuts, seeds, rye bread, chicken and fish -- means a steady blood-sugar rating. And this translates into better energy levels, fewer food cravings and less fat.
Celebrities such as Hollywood star Halle Berry, who suffers from type two diabetes, swear by this way of eating.
And if, like me, your head goes numb trying to work out what are the best foods to eat, author Patrick Holford, who is due to speak in Ireland next week, makes it all simple with his latest book, The Low GL Diet Bible, a follow-on from The Holford Low-GL Diet Made Easy.
Holford has a big following here, and says Irish people start out with an advantage -- we have good fish and bread.
"In my opinion, Irish oats are the best, and wholemeal soda bread is so much better for you than the white fluffy stuff," he says.
Holford's glycemic loading calculates carbohydrates as well as sugars because this gives a more accurate measure of the benefits and drawbacks of different foods.
But there's a week of pain for chocaholics at the start: "Sugar cravings take no more than seven days to cure." Holford's book gives a list of foods and divides them on a points system. If you're aiming to lose weight, you head for a daily score of about 40GL.
Foods with no carbohydrates or sugars have a very low GL. Eggs, meat and fish have virtually no carbohydrate, so they have a GL of 0, while even a relatively harmless-looking piece of pitta bread has a whopping 10GL.
So how does it work in real life? Pretty well is the short answer, and it's easier -- if more expensive -- if you buy the vitamins and shake powder that are sold by, surprise, surprise, Patrick Holford on his website.
After three days, I noticed a boost in energy. The book's three-week diet list is helpful. For example, day one reads: Breakfast: porridge. Lunch: chicken, tomato and pine nut salad. Dinner: king prawn pilaf with steamed vegetables. Snacks: small pot of natural yoghurt with berries, two rough oatcakes with nut butter.
A list of foods and their exact GL rating would be helpful -- it's unrealistic to expect readers to precisely follow all Holford's recipes.
I ran into trouble by making the food, starting to eat it, and then wondering how much I should consume and trying to weigh it later (messy).
So here's a radical proposition: read the instructions first. All of them. And then start.
Or get help -- there are plenty of local nutritionists who believe in the Holford approach.
"I think the main thing for people is to make small changes at a time," says Dublin nutritionist Helen Corrigan, who helps clients tailor a low glycemic diet to their way of life.
However, Holford does have his detractors. There's even a website, Holford Watch, which is full of criticisms of his methods and qualifications.
WHAT IS IT: Patrick Holford’s low-GL diet
DOES IT WORK: Thousands of people say yes, and it helped me
PLUSES: Energy boost, weight loss
MINUSES: Acquiring a taste for birdseed
COST: GL revolution tour talk with Holford on Thursday, April 30, at Tara Towers, Dublin. €15 per ticket, €42 including a copy of
new book,The Low GL Diet Bible
CONTACT: www.patrickholford.com Helen Corrigan, Dublin Holistic Centre, Wicklow Street. 087 904 8189.