Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load – the Facts!

There’s no doubt that many people are aware of, have heard about or have read about, ‘Glycemic Index’ – but surprisingly few people know about ‘Glycemic Load’. And those who have heard of glycemic load (GL)  – likely assume that it is just another synonym for glycemic index (GI).  The fact is – they are two distinctly different things.  How, you ask?  You’ve asked the right question and I’d be happy to explain!

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Chart 1

6 facts about the glycemic index (GI):

  1. It was a new concept introduced in the early 1980’s by Dr. Jenkins.
  2. It is “a numerical system that rates how fast carbohydrate foods break down into glucose and enter the bloodstream”, according to Dr. Ray Strand (in his book Healthy for Life).
  3. Dr. Jenkins assigned a GI number of 100 to glucose and set that as the standard. All other carbs are measured, rated and compared to that standard.
  4. The GI number of a carb gives us an idea of how fast that particular carb can “spike” or raise our blood sugar after it has been eaten – which is valuable information for all of us, but especially for diabetics.
  5. GI numbers fall into 3 categories:
    1. Low GI: under 55
    2. Medium GI: 55 – 70
    3. High GI: over 70.
  6. Five Factors that influence a carb’s GI number are:
  1. how ripe a food is (example: very brown bananas vs not-so-ripe yellow bananas)
  2. how processed the carb is (example: bleached white flour)
  3. how the food is cooked
  4. how much fiber a carb contains
  5. what type of sugar content the carb has.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: The GI number is only half of the picture – the Glycemic Load is the other half.

4 Facts about the glycemic load (GL):

  1. The GL number is a more important than the glycemic index (GI) number.
  2. The GL takes into consideration both the quantity and the quality of the carbohydrate because both are factors that affect how fast a carb turns to glucose in our bodies.
  3. GL numbers fall into three categories:
    Low GL: 0 – 10
    Medium GL: 10 – 20
    High GL: over 20.
  4. The GL number is determined by the following formula:
    • the food’s glycemic index number (GI) multiplied by the number of grams of carbohydrates, divided by 100.

It can be very deceiving to look at ONLY the GI number of a carb.

Here is an example, taken from Healthy for Life by Dr. Ray Strand.

  • Looking at only the glycemic index (GI) number:
    • One cup of cooked pasta has a GI of 41 (and contains 52 g of carbohydrates).
    • An average serving of carrots has a GI of 49 (and contains 5 g of carbohydrates).
    • So – it looks like the pasta is a better choice, right?  WRONG!
  • Now let’s look at the glycemic load (GL) of each of the same foods:
    • One cup of cooked pasta has a GL of 21.3 (41 GI X 52 grams of carbs = 2132, divided by 100 = 21.3 GL).
    • An average serving of carrots has a GL of 2.45  (49 GI X 5 grams of carbs = 245 divided by 100 = 2.45 GL)
  • The GL number gives us a much more true picture:
    • the fact is that carrots (2.45 GL) are lower glycemic than pasta (21.3 GL)!

Certain things can lower the glycemic load of a food:

  • having enough protein with the food
  • having enough fiber with the food
  • eating the food along with some acidic foods (such as lemon juice, pickles, etc.)
  • reducing the food’s portion size.

Three of the many benefits of a consistent dietary lifestyle of low GL foods, (of avoiding foods with a high GL):

  1. the body’s blood sugar does not spike.
  2. a healthy body weight can be easily & naturally be achieved & maintained
  3. the body has a healthy energy level throughout the day (no slump times).

Are you ready to find out more about how a low GI/GL dietary lifestyle can help you lose weight, look great and have all the energy you desire?  Contact me.


Informational Resources:

Book: Healthy for Life by Dr. Ray Strand

David Mendosa, Free-lance Diabetes Consultant – GI/GL Lists

Online Glycemic Index Database

Dr. Andrew Weil – What is the Glycemic Index?

Dr. Andrew Weil – Confused by the Glycemic Index?


Copyright © 2012 Cathy Ormon – All Rights Reserved