• Andy De Santis, RD MPH

The Relevance of the Glycemic Index & Soluble Fibre for Diabetes Management

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and as a former employee of Diabetes Canada the relevance of increasing awareness and best practices around diabetes management is not lost on me.


In today’s article my goal is to discuss the relevance of the glycemic index and soluble fibre as it relates to their roles in enhancing glycemic control in those living with diabetes.


This conversation may be particularly relevant to those of you who encounter individuals with newly diagnosed pre or type 2 diabetes who may not require medication but are eager to take in knowledge related to the dietary management of their condition.


So let’s get right into it.


Soluble Fibre

Soluble fibre is physiologically unique owing to the slowing effect it has on the transit of food through the digestive tract, which in turn leads to a more favourable glycemic response.


Here’s what Diabetes Canada says about Soluble Fibre in their practice guidelines:


Adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may aim to consume 30 to 50 g/day of dietary fibre with a third or more (10 to 20 g/day) coming from viscous soluble dietary fibre to improve glycemic

control.


So the next question we must ask then is which foods are highest in soluble fibre?

  • The majority of the pulse family of foods such as lentils, chickpeas and black beans, etc.

  • Avocado

  • Flax & chia seeds

  • Oatmeal & barley

  • Sweet potato & squash

  • Apples, pears, berries

  • Broccoli & brussels sprouts

The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a familiar but nonetheless relevant concept in diabetes management discourse.


Here’s what Diabetes Canada says about the glycemic index (GI) in their practice guidelines:


Adults with diabetes should select carbohydrate food sources with a low-GI to help optimize

glycemic control.


A systematic review and meta-analysis published only a few months ago in the British Medical Journal reinforced the sentiment that low-GI choices remain a relevant consideration for diabetes management across a variety of contexts.


So which foods are lowest as it relates to their GI score?

  • The vast majority of pulses and their flours

  • The vast majority of nuts and seeds

  • Soluble fibre rich fruits such as apples, berries, orange, grapefruit and pears (among others)

  • The vast majority of dairy and dairy alternatives

  • Steel cut oatmeal, barley, quinoa & bulgur

  • All bran buds and flakes

  • Sweet potato

  • Al dente or firm pasta

Of course, the list above is not exhaustive and does not account for relative serving sizes (glycemic load). However, it should serve the purpose of reinforcing that a core group of foods which share desirable characteristics (high soluble fibre, low GI) can be used as a baseline for meal and recipe planning purposes (via Nutrioso of course!) for individuals wanting to work towards better glycemic control.


Thanks for reading! -Andy De Santis, RD MPH

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