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What Is The Glycemic Load & How Does This Affect Your Body?

You might have heard of the glycemic index but this aspect is incomplete until you don’t get full insight about glycemic load.

Your body responds immediately to the type of food you are eating.

Hence, it is utmost vital to keep an eye on your food intake as the right type of food can actually help in keeping away disease.

Moreover, a balanced diet with the right amount of essential nutrients is always recommended.

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There is a regular rise and fall in the blood glucose level whenever you eat meals rich in the carbohydrates.

However, the amount of rising and the time for which it remains is highly dependent upon the quality and quantity of the carbohydrate.

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Hence, it is always advisable to not to cut the carbohydrates completely but take the one with the low glycemic load.

Before proceeding further let us understand the meaning of glycemic load.

What Is Glycemic Load?

The glycemic load of food can be defined as  “a number that estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it”.

Unlike glycemic index, glycemic load signifies both the quality as well the quantity of the carbohydrate been ingested.

In formula form, the glycemic load is obtained by multiplying of quality of the food ingested (GI) with the amount of carbohydrate in food in specific serving.

It is an ideal way to make a comparison between blood glucose values of various types and varied quantity of foods.

Why Glycemic load is preferred over the Glycemic Index?

The rate of blood sugar level depends upon three factors which are:

  • The type of carbohydrate in the food,
  • Nutrient composition of the food and
  • An amount of food eaten.

A glycemic load considers all of the above factors. However, the glycemic index is often criticized as it is a relative measure which overlooks the amount of food consumed.

For solving this problem, the idea of a glycemic load was developed.

The GL measures the effects of carbohydrates on your blood sugar levels, considering both its type (GI) and its quantity (i.e. grams per serving).

How to Calculate the GL?

The glycemic load formula is as follows:

Glycemic Load = GI x Carbohydrate (g) per portion content ÷ 100.

Let’s take an example, the Glycemic Index of an apple is 38 and has 13 grams carbohydrates, hence its Glycemic Load is

GL= 38 x 13/100 = 5

Similarly, a potato has a Glycemic Index of 85 and has 14 grams carbohydrate, hence its Glycemic Load is

GL=85 x14/100 = 12

Classification of Glycemic Load

Hence, we can predict through these examples that Glycemic load of potato is almost double the amount of that for an apple.

Just like the glycemic index, it is also possible to classify the glycemic load of food as low, medium, or high:

  • Low: 10 or less than 10
  • Medium: 11 to 19
  • High: 20 or more than 20

It is also possible to calculate the glycemic load of a mixed diet by adding the GL for each individual item.

For example, if at teatime, you had two wheat biscuits with tea, the GL will be GL of 2 wheat biscuits (i.e. 15) +  GL of half cup of milk (i.e. 4) and GL of two teaspoons of sugar (i.e. 6), thus the total  GL will be 25 (i.e. 15 + 4 + 6).

In the entire day, a low GL diet contains less than 100 g/% GL for all those who consume 8,700 kJ. Thus, those who are taking three meals in a day, a low GL meal will have a GL less than or equal to 33 g/%.

For optimum health, the daily glycemic load value of 100 or below is recommended.  

Food List for Glycemic Load

As a general rule, the focus should be on avoiding the food with high GL and taking plenty of food with low GL.

However, with medium GL foods, they can be taken in a moderate quantity.

The glycemic load food list is as follows:

S.NoGL 10 or below 10GL 11 or 19GL 20 or above
1.Kidney, pinto, garbanzo, soy and black beansWhole-wheat bread and pastaBeverages/juices with high sugar levels
2.Fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, grapefruit, apples, green peas, and watermelonRice cakesPizza
3.Cereals with 100% branOatmealCheese Macaroni and cheese
4.LentilsFruit juices without added sugarLow-fibre cereals (with added sugar)
5.Peanuts and CashewsBrown riceCandies
6.Whole-grain bread such as pumpernickel, barley and whole wheatBulgur and BarleyCouscous
7.MilkGraham crackersWhite pasta
8.Tomato juiceSweet potatoFrench fries
9.Whole-wheat tortillasBaked potatoes, dates and raisins
10.White rice

Benefits of Low Glycemic Load

A diet with low glycemic load carbs is beneficial due to the following reasons:

It helps in losing weight easily- Low GL foods are generally the one which has a high content of complex molecules These molecules does not metabolize and absorb easily into the blood circulation.

These aspects play an important role when you want to lose weight and achieve a normal BMI.

As per the study published by the American Diabetes Association, it was seen that overweight people with high insulin secretion showed greater weight loss when fed with low glycemic load, hypocaloric diet [1].

It helps in keeping the blood sugar levels constant- The foods with low GL release sugar into blood slowly. This helps in improving the glycemic control in the body.

Also, it reduces the complications of insulin resistance while improving the sensitivity.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it is seen that foods with high fibre content and fewer refined-cereals reduces the hypoglycemic episodes if taking insulin dosage.  Also, it is associated with reduced diabetes risk [2].

  • It helps in lowering the risk of heart disease- The relation between diet and the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is very close and more crucial. Studies have suggested that the risk of CHD is, even more, when refined cereal-based products replace the Saturated fats (SFAs).

As per the Journal of the American Heart Association, the glycemic load tends to affect the biomarkers of coronary heart diseases (CHD). Various studies have shown that a high glycemic load in the diet increases the parameters like TG and LDL. Similarly, such diet or food items also reduces the HDL level.

The diet with high glycemic load is also linked with increased blood pressure and inflammation owing to a raised level of C- reactive protein (CRP) [3].

All these factors indicate the harmful impact of the high glycemic load over the risk of CHD and overall heart health.

It lowers the risk of cancer- It is a well-established fact that the fluctuation in the aspects that are linked with glucose metabolism can cause chronic disease including cancer. 

Though the exact mechanism is still not known but many studies, meta-analysis and reviews have suggested that high GL foods contribute to increased risk of cancer especially in the colon, rectum and endometrium regions [4].

Healthy snacks in-between the meals

It is unhealthy to binge on highly sugary food and processed food whenever one has craving as these foods are detrimental for health and can lead to serious consequences of obesity.

Moreover, these kinds of foodstuff are deprived of essential nutrients. So simply say no to junk stuff like cakes, pastries, pasta, pizzas, fresh fries, burgers, cookies, fizzy drinks, etc.

A bowl of yoghurt with berries
A bowl of yoghurt with berries

You can manage the hunger pangs by snacking on the following healthy snacks which are low in GL and high in the goodness of essential nutrients:

  • Unsalted nuts
  • Fruit
  • Carrot
  • A cup of grapes or berries
  • Yoghurt
  • Apple
  • Hard-boiled egg

These were some facts about GL. For staying fit and healthy it is better to concentrate on taking the food low in GL.

It will not only help in lowering the weight but will also help to say bye-bye to many disease and complications. So what is your plan in this regard?

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