What Is Glycemic Load?

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All foods containing carbohydrates are not equal. Nutritional science is showing us that some influence blood sugar levels much more than others.

Glycemic load is a modern way of measuring how certain foods affect a person’s blood sugar and insulin levels. It provides an estimate of how much a food item will raise the body’s blood glucose level after it is eaten.

Glycemic load is often used in conjunction with glycemic index (GI), too, which determines how fast or how slowly carbohydrates get into the blood stream.

Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed. They can result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

On the other hand, low-GI foods are much more slowly digested and absorbed. As a result, they produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and thus have proven health benefits.

Glycemic load helps us understand the impact of carbohydrate consumption using the glycemic index, while taking into account the amount of the carbohydrate consumed. In effect, glycemic load is a GI-weighted measure of carbohydrate content such that one unit of glycemic load is equivalent to the effect of consuming one gram of glucose.

Another way to look at the relationship between GI and glycemic load is that for every gram of carbohydrate in a certain food, it is multiplied by the food’s glycemic index, and then divided by one hundred. That provides the formula for getting the glycemic load.

Knowing about glycemic load is an effective way to monitor blood sugar levels. It can be used to develop a diet program that avoids the spiking of blood sugar and may actually help avoid the onset of type-2 diabetes.

Glycemic load monitoring is beneficial in non-medical dietary programs, too, particularly among athletes seeking a natural energy boost and anyone trying to lose weight.

Glycemic index was invented by Dr. Thomas Wolever and Dr. David Jenkins in 1981. Glycemic load was later created by Harvard researchers because some foods have a low carbohydrate content.

Taking into account the amount of carbohydrates in a serving provides a more useful measurement than GI alone. And foods that have a low glycemic load often have a low glycemic index.

As one might suspect, white rice, potatoes and pizza carry relatively high glycemic loads per serving, while carrots, whole grain breads and most fruits are relatively low.

It may surprise and delight some dieters, however, that ice cream, microwave popcorn and chocolate-covered peanuts fall on the low end of the scale. In other words, making healthy choices based on glycemic load need not mean the sacrifice of comfort foods entirely.

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