What is Glycemic Load & Why Is It Important?

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The health benefits of  incorporating low GL foods  into your daily diet include, a lower blood glucose level, decrease in cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease and type II diabetes.  But determining which foods have a low Glycemic load can be confusing.  You have probably noticed that many foods today have listed the glycemic index (GI), but if you are like most people you may not know what it is or why it is important. Specifically it is used in developing a scale that ranks carbohydrates by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to a reference food.  The problem with using the GI alone is that it is based on a small quantity of food, 50 grams, which is typically less than a normal serving of food.

A more accurate or relevant measure is the glycemic load (GL) which reflects both the quality and quantity of dietary carbohydrates. This is important because, to put it very simply, blood glucose levels determine whether or not and how much fat your body stores.  Understanding GL allows us to maintain a healthy weight for our size. Because most foods with a low GL are whole foods (came out of the ground or had a face) instead of processed foods, this means that we will be eating more fruits and vegetables and healthier proteins.

To calculate the glycemic load of a food, divide the GI by 100 and multiply by the grams of carbohydrate in the serving size.  GL=GI/100 x # Carb grams per serving

Examples of How to Lower A Meal’s GL:

glpic glpic2

GI = 60    GL = 48                   GI = 42    GL = 31

A cereal with fiber plus a fruit, which also has fiber lowers the GL.

pretzels peanuts

GI = 83    GL = 19                   GI = 14    GL = 1

Pretzels are made from bleached white flour, salt and a little sugar. Peanuts, even with the fat, are a much better snack because of the fiber.

So What is High, Medium and Low in Terms of the GL for a food

Low 0-10

Moderate 11-19

High 20+

What Should I Shoot for During the Course of a  Day?

Low: less than 80

Moderate: less than 100

High: greater than 100

How to Increase Consumption of Low GI Foods

*Eat high-fiber breakfast cereals, especially oats, bran and barley OR

*Add berries, nuts, flaxseed and cinnamon to high GI cereals

*Choose dense, whole grain and sourdough breads and crackers OR

*Add a heart healthy protein and/or condiment to high GI breads and crackers.

*Include 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day

*Replace white potatoes with yams or sweet potatoes OR

*Eat smaller portions of high GI potatoes

*Eat less refined sugars and convenience foods OR

*Combine nuts, fruits, yogurt with commercial sweets – just watch portion sizes

It is important that one does not eat only low GL foods.  The result could be a calorically dense, high fat, low fiber, low carb diet (such as the Atkin’s Diet).  It is best to aim for a well balanced diet that includes low GL carbohydrates, such as fruits and vegetables and hi fiber grains and use the glycemic load as a guide for increasing these foods and for keeping blood sugar levels stable.


The Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index (www.glycemicindex.com/glycemic.index.ppt)

Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2009, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

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