If you're collapsing in front of the telly each night, you might like to take a look at the GI value of what you're eating. By Lani Lopez

We are living in an energy crisis. But this particular crisis doesn't involve oil, global warming, or conflict. This is a far more personal crisis, the battle for the energy to make it through the day.

In my work as a naturopath, the most asked question is how do I get more energy?

It is asked at all stages of life too, Grandparents and young mothers want energy to play with their children. Young couples need the energy to get home from work with enough left over to have a relationship that involves more than flopping in front of the TV every night. I hear everyone, from ironman entrants to people struggling with chronic ailments, all on a quest for energy. A large part of the answer lies in energetic eating, consuming foods to support and sustain us.


One key tool is the Glycemic Index or GI of food, a guide to the rate energy is released from food for our body to use. Basically the slower that energy is released, the better, and the lower the GI number of a food.

This slow release brings more than just the energy benefits, especially in the battle against obesity. While high GI foods give us crash-and-burn energy cycles and binge-eating urges, low GI foods are more satisfying, suppressing appetite for longer and providing long-lasting energy.

In 1999 an early research leader in this field, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children's Hospital, published research showing that foods with lower GI scores reduced hunger in his obese teenage patients.

Ludwig says that higher GI foods "trigger a rise in blood sugar, followed by a cascade of hormonal changes, which tend to make you hungry again sooner because they are metabolised quicker than low-GI foods," which he explains "are more satisfying than high-glycemic foods. Low-GI foods take longer to absorb and help dieters feel full longer, so they are less likely to overeat. High-GI foods break down faster, leaving you hungry and less satisfied."

Energy is a short term win and weight loss a significant longer term benefit, but research suggests that there maybe even more compelling life-long reasons to go with low GI food.

A study from the University of California has shown that high GI foods may increase the risk of colorectal cancer in women.

But back to energy. In addition to the challenge of sufficient sleep, a successful thief of energy is dehydration. We all know to drink water several times a day, but water alone doesn't satisfy the palate. Some drinks drain energy - caffeine, sugary soft drinks, especially so-called "energy drinks", or more than a few serves of fruit juice a day load the system with sugary fructose, and so, too, with alcohol.

Energy friendly drinks include herbal teas, lemon and other citrus in hot water, vinegar and honey (add ginger to fight colds).

Eating Energetically

Steer clear of:

Sugar under any of its guises; sucrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, corn syrup etc

Processed and refined carbohydrates such as white flour products (even multi-grain bread can be white flour with grains added; read the label).

Eat plenty of:

Fibre-rich food: legumes and beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, whole grains, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, barley, quinoa, oat bran and low GI cereals.

Fruit and veges, including the skin when possible,
especially with organic and spray-free produce

Smaller amounts more often - snack freely between meals, keep a stash of raw nuts, fruit, avocado and cut up fresh veges handy such as celery or carrot sticks.

Include protein with each meal, add nuts to your cereal, tuna or chickpeas in salad and eat fish and red meat.

Energy Friendly tips
• Refrigerating boiled potatoes significantly lowers their GI. Boil your potatoes, chill them and eat them cold for slower energy release.
• A capful of vinegar ?at every meal ?reduces GI.

By Lani Lopez
??Lani Lopez BHSc, Adv.Dip.Nat, is a clinical nutritionist, author and a specialist formulator of naturopathic supplements.
Find out more at Lanilopez.com or contact her at naturopath@lanilopez.com

Glycemic Index measures increases in the blood glucose (a type of sugar) by eating a specific carbohydrate (food containing sugar). High GI foods release glucose quickly and cause a rapid rise in blood glucose. Foods with a low glycemic index release glucose slowly into the blood. A glycemic index score over 70 is considered high by the Glycemic Index Foundation. A medium grade is between 56 and 69, and a low score is under 55.