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A low glycemic index diet helps reduce risk of MD

There is now good evidence that people who eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) compared to high GI, have a lower risk of developing macular degeneration (MD).

The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 1 to 100 according to how much they raise blood sugar after eating. Carbohydrates with a high GI (GI = 70 or more) are digested rapidly and produce a large and rapid rise in blood sugar. Low GI carbohydrates (GI = 55 or less) are digested more slowly, giving a more gradual but longer release of energy.

Low GI carbohydrates include most fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals and whole grain breads.

Note that the glycemic index only applies to carbohydrates. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter etc contain very little carbohydrate, and do not have a glycemic index.

  • Look for the low GI logo on many packaged foods at the supermarket.
  • Instead of regular potatoes, try to use sweet potato (kumara) or lower GI varieties such as Carisma, Nicola or Almera or tinned new potatoes.
  • Choose Basmati, Doongara or Moolgiri rice or pearled barley, cracked wheat, quinoa, pasta or noodles instead of short grained rice.
  • Don't overcook rice or pasta as this increases the glycemic index.
  • Try to avoid highly processed breakfast cereals. Instead, choose traditional rolled oats (porridge), muesli or commercial brands with a low GI logo on the pack.
  • Cut down the consumption of biscuits, cakes and pastries. For a quick snack, try a slice of wholegrain bread, a few nuts, or a piece of fruit.
  • You don't need to eliminate all high GI foods. Just try to ensure that you eat a greater proportion of low GI foods.

These recommendations are in addition to the Foundation's other diet and lifestyle recommendations including eating fish two to three times a week, eating lots of leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables, eating a handful of nuts a week, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking.

For more information and a free nutrition and supplements fact sheet, please call the Foundation on 1800 111 709.