For Effective Metabolic Management –
Know the Glycemic Load:
The term “glycemic index” is commonly used by healthcare professionals and patients alike. In contrast, the term “glycemic load” is heard much less often. Most patients, and many practitioners, are not familiar with the term or don’t fully understand the difference between the two. When helping guide patients through the various metabolic conditions, it is important that the practitioner understand and can explain the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load.
What is the difference?
Glycemic index (GI)is a measure of the effects of
carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI. Foods like white bread, with high amounts of refined carbohydrates, are high GI foods and cause rapid rises in blood sugar levels.
A GI of 70 or more is high, a GI of 56 to 69 is medium, and a GI of 55 or less is low.*
The glycemic load (GL) is another way to assess the impact of carbohydrate consumption. The glycemic load takes the glycemic index into account, but gives a more complete picture than glycemic index alone. While a GI value depicts how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar, it does not tell you how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food . You need to know both things to understand a food’s effect on blood sugar. The GL shows how much of that kind of carbohydrate is in the food, thereby giving a better sense of the food’s total glycemic impact. A fine example is watermelon; it has a high GI ( 72), but because of the low amount of ‘available carbohydrate’, its GL is relatively low (4).
A GL of 20 or more is high, a GL of 11 to 19 inclusive is medium, and a GL of 10 or less is low.*
Fiber and Available Carbohydrate:
The presence of dietary fiber in a food reduces the ‘available’ or ‘net’ carbohydrates. While the GI gives you an idea of glycemic impact for a particular carbohydrate, it wouldn’t accurately reflect the lower glycemic impact of a food with low ‘available’ carbs. By encompassing variables like ‘available carbs’, the GL provides a more complete, measure of true ‘meal-like’ glycemic impact. Because of the the more practical application of the GL measure, low Glycemic Load meals are often recommended for diabetic control and weight loss.
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