1. Oats Rule
Oats are a superb food choice for weight loss and blood sugar control. You can eat them as oat flakes (cold) or soak and cook them to make porridge. Oatcakes are the best ‘bread’ choice, for example, with your scrambled or boiled egg, or as a snack during the day with a high-protein spread such as hummus. Try oat bakes called Snackers (so much better than crisps) and oat biscuits, but do check that they say low-GI or GL load on the box. The best oat choices are those highest in the soluble fibre called beta-glucans. So, it’s best to choose ‘rough’ oatcakes rather than ‘fine’. The Nairn’s brand is particularly GL conscious.
2. Rye or barley instead of wheat
The whole rye grain is also excellent in terms of GL. This means a wholegrain rye bread, in moderation, for breakfast, perhaps with eggs, or as a snack together with a protein-rich food. The best choice of all would be the slow-cooked German-style breads called pumpernickel, sonnenbrot or volkenbrot. You can also find whole rye sourdough bread. These breads will be more dense and heavier than regular wheat bread – this is a good sign, but make sure you have thinner slices. One thin slice will be 5GLs.
Barley is another good grain to use, better than wheat. Studies show it makes you feel less hungry. You can buy wholegrain pearl barley, which boils like brown rice. It is also full of beta-glucans and soluble fibres and has a good, chewy flavour.
There is one ancient wheat I like called Kamut®khorosan. It has a lower GL and is delicious for breads and pastas.
3. Eat more lentils and chickpeas
This food group, known as pulses, is a staple in countries with low rates of obesity, but we just don’t eat enough of these highly nutritious foods in countries with a typical Western diet. Other than beans on toast, most people don’t eat enough pulses.
Pulses are all relatively high in protein, making them lower GL. If, for example, you chose a serving of beans or lentils as your 7GL carbohydrate portion in a main meal, you’d be achieving your low-GL goals easily: all of these portions are just 7GLs each: 130g (4¾oz) of cooked chickpeas; 150g (5½oz) of red kidney beans; 175g (6oz) of butter beans; 210g (7¼oz) of lentils; 260g (9½oz) of borlotti beans.
Including a serving of lentils, or beans, for dinner actually has a knock on effect on breakfast, quite substantially reducing the blood sugar spikes of breakfast the next day.
4. Quinoa – the Inca secret
Quinoa has been grown in South America for 5,000 years and contains protein of a better quality than meat. Quinoa is also one of the highest protein sources in the vegetable kingdom, with 16 per cent of its calories as protein (soya has the most, at 38 per cent protein).
Quinoa can be used as an alternative to rice. To cook it, rinse well, then add two parts water to one of quinoa and boil for 15 minutes. It is also gluten-free and is a much lower GL than rice. A 7GL serving of cooked quinoa is 130g (4¾oz). The GL load comes down even more if you serve it with protein, such as some fish or maybe tofu for a vegetarian option.
5. Chia seeds, walnuts and almonds
Chia seeds are very high in soluble fibres which help fill you up, as well as omega-3 fats and protein, all of which are good news for weight loss and blood sugar control. Chia has more than double the soluble-fibre content of oats but, of course, you wouldn’t eat the same quantity. Added to oats, for example in porridge, it is a great way to greatly increase your soluble fibre intake. You don’t have to grind them. Just sprinkle a dessertspoon on your cereal.
Other good nuts for helping to lose weight are walnuts and almonds. Whether you choose chia, or nuts, you really want to be having a dessertspoon of seeds, or a small handful of nuts, every day, either in your food, for example on breakfast, or as part of a low-GL snack.
You can get almond butter and pumpkin-seed butter, which are better for you than regular butter or margarine. Peanuts and peanut butter (sugar-free) are also an excellent source of protein but won’t provide the other benefits of omega-3 fats and soluble fibres.
6. Squashes, including zucchini or courgettes
I’m not talking about squash drinks here, but the vegetable family, which includes courgettes, marrows, pumpkin, butternut squashes and many other varieties of winter squash. These are a very low GL vegetables so a great choice for your 7GL carbohydrate portion for a main meal.
7. Berries, cherries and plums
The main sugar in most berries, cherries and plums is xylose, making these fruits especially low GL. The Montmorency cherry is exceptionally high in antioxidants and a concentrate called Cherry Active, as a cordial, is the only fruit drink I recommend. Since the predominant sugar in cherries is xylose, this drink is relatively low in GL whereas grape juice contains pure fast-releasing glucose. Plums, when in season, are a great fruit snack, together with some protein such as a few almonds or pumpkin seeds.
The next best fruits are apples and pears, but the kind of apple or pear you choose makes a difference. The harder and less sweet conference pears, for example, have the lowest GL.
I use crystallised xylose, called xylitol, in cakes. You use the same amount as you do of normal sugar but it has much less effect on your blood sugar – you’d have to have nine teaspoons of xylitol to have the same effect as one teaspoon of sugar.
8. A spoonful of cinnamon
Cinnamon is a safe and inexpensive spice, which has been used for many years in traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of type-2 diabetes as it helps to balance blood sugar. The active ingredient in cinnamon, MCHP, mimics the action of the hormone insulin, which removes excess sugar from the bloodstream so it can really help when you are trying to lose weight. You need 3 to 6g a day for a clinical effect. A teaspoon is 3 grams. I sprinkle it on my cereal, in soups and hot drinks. Some supplements use a concentrate of cinnamon high in MCHP since that’s quite a lot to swallow.
At menopause oestrogen dominance is usually a factor in weight gain so having a healthy diet and good hormone balance can go a long way to helping you lose a few pounds.