Over the years researchers have investigated different kinds of carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar levels. It was discovered that foods that release sugar into the blood stream at a rapid rate causes an immediate increase in blood sugar and thereafter hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). These foods where named high glycemic foods (high-GI). Carbohydrate rich foods that released sugar into the blood stream at a slow consistent rate where named low glycemic foods (low-GI). It has been suggested that children with behavioural and learning disorders could greatly benefit from avoiding high-GI foods (such as refined breads, most cereals, cold drinks, energy drinks and sweets that are high in glucose).
What is the relationship between low blood sugar levels and learning difficulties?
Many children with learning difficulties crave high-GI foods. These foods cause a rapid rise in blood glucose causing the pancreas to pour out insulin in an attempt to bring blood glucose to a normal level. In many people and some children that suffer from learning disabilities, the body pours out too much insulin, causing too much glucose to be drawn out of the blood and the blood-sugar level then falls below normal. The result is a hypoglycemic attack with the symptoms mentioned above, specifically important is the absolute lack of ability to concentrate.
Low-GI eating is easy!
If low-GI foods are eaten most of the time and especially for breakfast the brain will receive a steady supply of energy from the food. By keeping blood sugar levels stable concentration should improve and behaviour should be more consistent.
LOW GI BREAKFAST IDEAS
Bokomo fibre plus cereal
Whole-wheat apple bake and original pronutro
Nature’s source Mixed Berry Muesli, Apple and cinnamon, Orange and spices
Kellogg’s All Bran fruitful with low fat milk
Fine Form Muesli
Oats with yogurt or milk
All cereals to be eaten with yogurt or milk
Other Low GI breakfast ideas
Fruit (apple, pears, oranges and yogurt)
Scrambled egg/boiled/poached egg with a slice of low GI bread
TIPS TO INCLUDE LOW GI FOODS
1. Enjoy low-GI fruits, vegetables, low fat milk or lean proteins with meals
2. Choose 1 low-GI food per meal
3. Plan menus around low GI food choices such as sweet potato, lentils, low GI-breads, couscous
4. Exchange high-GI breads cereals and pasta’s for low-GI one’s.
Remember using the GI is only part of the equation for balancing blood sugar levels and providing sufficient fuel for the brain, a healthy balanced diet, limited intake of preservatives and additives and adequate micro-nutrient intake is also essential.
*P.S. if you are pressed for time or don’t have the time or energy to cook low-GI meals, EATrite has a range of frozen foods all based on the principles of low GI cooking and portioned to ensure the correct glycemic load. And most importantly the meals are delicious. They are now available at selected Dis-chem stores in Gauteng.
Holford, P & Colson D. Optimum Nutrition for your child’s mind. Piatkus. 2006
Delport, L & Steenkamp G. Eating for sustained energy. Tafelberg publishers. 2000