Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load – 5 Important Things to Know

carbsThis post is going to go over a number of important ideas concerning glycemic index and glycemic load.

And the reason to be concerned about GI and GL is because eating for with high GI ratings is a sure way to spike your blood sugar.


And why is that bad you may ask. Well …

Elevated blood sugar is a silent danger that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, neuropathy, and retinal damage.

More than a third of the American population is estimated to be pre-diabetic.

But before we go into any detail let’s start with two definitions –

Glycemic Index – from wikipedia

The glycemic index, or glycaemic index, (GI) provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. The effects that different foods have on blood sugar levels vary considerably. The glycemic index estimates how much each gram of available carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus fiber) in a food raises a person’s blood glucose level following consumption of the food, relative to consumption of pure glucose.[1] Glucose has a glycemic index of 100. A practical limitation of the glycemic index is that it does not take into account the amount of carbohydrate actually consumed.

Glycemic Load – from wikipedia

The glycemic load (GL) of food is a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it. One unit of glycemic load approximates the effect of consuming one gram of glucose.[1] Glycemic load accounts for how much carbohydrate is in the food and how much each gram of carbohydrate in the food raises blood glucose levels. Glycemic load is based on the glycemic index (GI). Glycemic load is defined as the grams of available carbohydrate in the food x the food’s GI / 100.

Glycemic load estimates the impact of carbohydrate consumption using the glycemic index while taking into account the amount of carbohydrate that is consumed. GL is a GI-weighted measure of carbohydrate content. For instance, watermelon has a high GI, but a typical serving of watermelon does not contain much carbohydrate, so the glycemic effect of eating it (and therefore its GL) is low. Whereas glycemic index is defined for each type of food, glycemic load can be calculated for any size serving of a food, an entire meal, or an entire day’s meals.

For one serving of a food, a GL greater than 20 is considered high, a GL of 11-19 is considered medium, and a GL of 10 or less is considered low. Foods that have a low GL in a typical serving size almost always have a low GI. Foods with an intermediate or high GL in a typical serving size range from a very low to very high GI.

The use of the glycemic index and load tables have become very popular in weight loss programs. However, the real use of GI/GL is in the control of blood sugar spikes.

The following tips and hacks will help you to maximize the benefits derived from the proper use of the GI/GL tables.



1. How to calculate Glycemic Loadfrom natural health solutions

The Glycemic Load is the most practical way to apply the Glycemic Index to dieting, and is easily calculated by multiplying a food’s Glycemic Index (as a percentage) by the number of net carbohydrates in a given serving. Glycemic Load gives a relative indication of how much that serving of food is likely to increase your blood-sugar levels.

GL = GI/100 x Net Carbs

(Net Carbs are equal to the Total Carbohydrates minus Dietary Fiber)

As a rule of thumb, most nutritional experts consider Glycemic Loads below 10 to be “low,” and Glycemic Loads above 20 to be “high.” Because Glycemic Load is related to the food’s effect on blood sugar, low Glycemic Load meals are often recommended for diabetic control and weight loss.

So what does this really mean? Let’s take a real example. Although I do not recommend manipulating the glycemic data to be able to eat junk, here is a example using a kids size McDonalds fries.

Using the formula above –  GI of fries(75) divided by 100 times net carbs of fries(14) = GL(10.5)

Not bad actually. A glycemic load of 10.5 is just above the “low” level on the chart.

So as a every so often treat a kids size fries is not going to kill you and should not impact your blood sugar level.

2. How to Lower the Glycemic Index of a Food – from coach calorie

Not every carbohydrate we eat is going to have as low of a GI as we want it to. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to lower the GI of your meal.

Add Fat – Adding fat to your meal slows down gastric emptying (the speed at which food leaves your stomach) and therefore slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This is one of the benefits of combining fats and carbohydrates in the same meal.

Add Fiber – Fiber also slows down gastric emptying. Because of this, it gives you a much slower release of glucose. It also has the added benefit of adding bulk to your meal – helping to control hunger.

Combine with a Lower GI Food – The glycemic index is somewhat of a math equation. It adds up all the food you eat and takes an average. Eating a lower GI food with a high GI food will help lower the GI of your meal (lower the high GI food).

Eat Protein with Your Meal – Protein isn’t a carbohydrate, but it still has a glycemic response. Protein can be converted to glucose through gluconeogenesis. Therefore, it does have an effect on blood sugar. The good thing is that whole food protein sources have an extremely low GI, and when combined with a carbohydrate source, can dramatically lower the GI of your meal.

3. Drink lemon water or unsweetened ice tea with lemon – from the healthy advocate

Crazy as it sounds, the acid in the lemon juice will help reduce the glycemic effect of a high-carb food, reducing the blood sugar spike you receive after eating it. This means a steadier stream of blood sugar will be released, and your insulin will not shoot as high if you were to eat that roll, cake, or taco shell on its own. Rapid blood sugar and insulin spikes result in decreased insulin sensitivity and fat storage, so using this tip will help you in every situation.

4. Here are three foods that will put you on the fast track to fatDr. Al Sears

Breakfast Cereal: This one is a little deceptive. No one thinks of cereal as being a threat to their health.

But no matter which one you choose, breakfast cereals are high on the glycemic index (GI). For many people, a dose of high-glycemic carbs in the morning is the prescription for building excess body fat.

French Fries: Possibly the worst foods you can eat. First off, potatoes are high-glycemic and not good for you in any form. But when you take potatoes and deep-fry them in trans fatty oil, you have a recipe for sickness and disease.

Bagels and Breads: Don’t fall for the “whole-grain goodness” trap. When it comes to the glycemic index, it matters very little whether breads are made from whole grain or not. Grains spike your blood sugar, and you know what that means.

5. Agave nectar – from emeals.com

It’s liquid nectar, similar in texture to honey. It’s a great sweetener that is easy to use and doesn’t have an aftertaste. You can use it in drinks, baking and sauces. Mix it into plain yogurt. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush” and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Agave nectar is a delicious natural sweetener that can be used moderately to replace high-glycemic and refined sugars. You can go online for plentiful recipes.

Well that is it for now. Make sure that you are careful in what you eat and work at checking your foods against the Gi and Gl tables.

I hope that this article will be of help in having you be more productive and feel much better on a day to day basis.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or leave a comment below. To be notified of new articles just sign up for my email alerts.

Stay healthy
Arnold Brod, Publisher

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Photo Source – Lebensmittelfotos

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