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Article by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Phd, FACSM

 

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WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI) AND GLYCEMIC LOAD (GL)?


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The Glycemic Index (GI) has been used for many years as guide to the rate at which carbohydrate content is absorbed into the blood stream for energy, and the effect it has on raising blood sugar levels. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the degree to which a carbohydrate is likely to raise your blood sugar (glucose) levels.  The scale is 0 to 100 (based on either white bread or glucose), with 0 being low and 100 being high.  The GI compares equal quantities of carbohydrates and provides a measure of carbohydrate quality but not quantity. So the drawback with GI ratings is that they are not based on commonly-consumed portion sizes of foods.
 
For example, only about 7% of a carrot is made up of are useable carbohydrates. But because a 50g carbohydrate content is employed as the standard measure for a GI rating of individual foods to show how fast blood sugar level are raised, a larger than normal food portion is used for the GI calculation.  In the case of carrots, for example, the amount is equivalent to 1.5lbs - far more, of course, than people normally eat as a snack or part of a meal. 
 
As a result, the GI rating often overstates relatively small carbohydrate content in a food item like a carrot.
 
The reverse is also true, i.e. the glycemic effects of foods containing a high percentage of carbs like bread, can often be understated under the GI system.
 
Therefore we recommend using the Glycemic Load index with calculations based upon realistic food portions. GL ranks food according to the effects of actual carbohydrate content in a standard serving size of food.

Glycemic Load (GL) index

In 1997, Harvard University scientists introduced the concept of Glycemic Load (GL).  This measure gives a more accurate reflection of the blood sugar effects of a standard food portion.  In short, the GL of a typical serving of food is the product of the amount of available carbohydrates in that serving and the glycemic index of that food

In practical terms, the higher the GL of a food, the greater the expected rise in blood glucose and the greater the adverse insulin effects of the food.  Foods with a GL of 10 or below would be presumed to be less detrimental to health, while those with a GL of 20 and above would have more detrimental effects.  Long term consumption of foods with a high glycemic load appears to be linked to a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.  These, it also now appears, may even have negative effects on the brain that we are only beginning to understand.
 
We have chosen to base our program on the glycemic load, as this is more reflective of the actual load of carbohydrates. Another reason to use Glycemic Load is that Glycemic Index can be deceptive for certain foods, especially those that contain added fructose (which is an unhealthy sugar for people with diabetes).   

About Fructose

Fructose has become the most prevalent sweetener in the diet because it is sweeter than sucrose (common table sugar).  It is often recommended because, on the Glycemic Index, it measures a paltry 32 (out of 100).  This would put fructose among the items with a "low glycemic index."

But we’ve been fooled for years by fructose and its low Glycemic Index.   It turns out that consuming fructose has a dark side for all organ systems.  Scientists have found that eating fructose actually creates insulin resistance. Fructose also contributes to abnormal sugar-protein reactions called "glycation," which damages a large array of structural (ligaments, cartilage, muscle) and functional (enzymes, neurotransmitters) proteins throughout the body. 

Source: This excerpt is with permission of Michael A. Schmidt, PhD and Frog Books, Ltd. Berkeley, CA
 

Glycemic Load of Common Foods

Food

 

Serving Size

(grams)

 

Glycemic Load

per Serving

Bakery Products and Breads

       

Banana cake, made with sugar

 

80

 

18

Banana cake, made without sugar

 

80

 

16

Sponge cake, plain

 

63

 

17

Vanilla cake, made from packet mix with vanilla frosting

 

111

 

24

Apple pie, made with sugar

 

60

 

13

Apple pie, made without sugar

 

60

 

9

Waffles, Aunt Jemima

 

35

 

10

Bagel, white, frozen, reheated

 

70

 

25

Baquette, white, plain

 

30

 

15

Coarse barley bread, 75% kernels

 

30

 

7

Hamburger bun, white

 

30

 

9

Kaiser roll

 

30

 

12

Pumpernickel bread, Whole grain

 

30

 

6

50% cracked wheat kernel bread

 

30

 

12

White bread, wheat flour

 

30

 

10

Wonder™, enriched white bread, wheat flour

 

30

 

10

Whole-wheat bread

 

30

 

9

100% Whole Grain™ bread (Natural Ovens)

 

30

 

7

Pita bread, white

 

30

 

10

Corn tortilla

 

50

 

12

Wheat tortilla

 

50

 

8

Beverages

       

Coca Cola® soda, average

 

250

 

15

Fanta® orange soft drink

 

250

 

23

Lucozade®, original (sparkling glucose energy drink)

 

250

 

40

Apple juice, unsweetened, average

 

250

 

12

Cranberry juice cocktail (Ocean Spray®)

 

250

 

24

Grapefruit juice, unsweetened

 

250

 

11

Orange juice, average

 

250

 

13

Tomato juice, canned, no added sugar

 

250

 

4

Breakfast Cereals and Related Products

       

All-Bran™, average

 

30

 

4

Coco Pops™, average

 

30

 

20

Cornflakes™, average

 

30

 

21

Cream of Wheat™ (Nabisco)

 

250

 

17

Cream of Wheat™ Instant (Nabisco)

 

250

 

22

Grapenuts™, average

 

30

 

15

Muesli, average

 

30

 

16

Oatmeal, average

 

250

 

13

Instant oatmeal, average

 

250

 

17

Puffed Wheat, average

 

30

 

16

Raisin Bran™, (Kellogg's)

 

30

 

12

Special K™ (Kellogg's)

 

30

 

14

Grains

       

Pearled barley, average

 

150

 

11

Sweet corn on the cob, average

 

150

 

17

Couscous, average

 

150

 

23

White rice, average

 

150

 

23

Quick cooking white basmati

 

150

 

23

Brown rice, average

 

150

 

18

White rice, converted (Uncle Ben's®)

 

150

 

14

Whole wheat kernels, boiled

 

50

 

14

Bulgur (cracked wheat), boiled

 

150

 

12

Cookies and Crackers

       

Graham crackers

 

25

 

14

Vanilla wafers

 

25

 

14

Shortbread

 

25

 

10

Rice cakes, puffed

 

25

 

17

Rye crisps, average

 

25

 

11

Soda crackers

 

25

 

12

Dairy Products and Alternatives

       

Ice cream, regular

 

50

 

8

Ice cream, premium

 

50

 

4

Milk, full fat

 

250

 

3

Milk, skim

 

250

 

4

Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit, average

 

200

 

7

Fruits

       

Apple, raw

 

120

 

6

Banana, ripe (all yellow)

 

120

 

13

Dates, dried

 

60

 

42

Grapefruit

 

120

 

3

Grapes, average

 

120

 

8

Orange, average

 

120

 

5

Peach, average

 

120

 

5

Peach, canned in light syrup

 

120

 

9

Pear, average

 

120

 

4

Pear, canned in pear juice

 

120

  5

Prunes, pitted

 

60

 

10

Raisins

 

60

 

28

Watermelon

 

120

 

4

Beans and Nuts

       

Baked beans, average

 

150

 

7

Black-eyed peas, average

 

150

 

13

Black beans

 

150

 

7

Chickpeas, average

 

150

 

8

Chickpeas, canned in brine

 

150

 

9

Navy beans, average

 

150

 

12

Kidney beans, average

 

150

 

7

Lentils, boiled

 

150

 

5

Soy beans, average

 

150

  1

Cashews, salted

 

50

 

3

Peanuts, average

 

50

 

1

Pasta and Noodles

       

Fettuccini, average

 

180

 

18

Macaroni, average

 

180

 

23

Macaroni and Cheese (Kraft)

 

180

 

32

Spaghetti, white, boiled 5 minutes, average

 

180

 

18

Spaghetti, white, boiled 20 minutes, average

 

180

 

27

Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled, average

 

180

 

16

Snack Foods

       

Corn chips, plain, salted, average

 

50

 

17

Fruit Roll-Ups®

 

30

 

24

M&M's®, peanut

 

30

 

6

Microwave popcorn, plain, average

 

20

 

8

Potato chips, average

 

50

 

11

Pretzels, oven-baked

 

30

 

16

Snickers Bar®

 

60

 

19

Vegetables

       

Green peas, average

 

80

 

3

Carrots, average

 

80

 

3

Parsnips

 

80

 

12

Baked russet potato, average

 

150

 

26

Boiled white potato, average

 

150

 

14

Instant mashed potato, average

 

150

 

17

Sweet potato, average

 

150

 

17

Yam, average

 

150

 

13

Miscellaneous

       

Hummus (chickpea salad dip)

 

30

 

0

Chicken nuggets, frozen, reheated in microwave oven, 5 minutes

 

100

 

7

Pizza, plain baked dough, served with Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce

 

100

 

22

Pizza, Super Supreme (Pizza Hut)

 

100

 

9

Honey, average

 

25

 

10

* Compared with pure glucose, which is assigned a glycemic index of 100.

Sources: This table is adapted with permission from: "International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002," by Kaye Foster-Powell, Susanna H.A. Holt, and Janette C. Brand-Miller in the July 2002 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 62, pages 5-56. The complete list of the glycemic index and glycemic load for 750 foods can be found at: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/76/1/5.

Updated (where applicable) with current values from the "Home of the Glycemic Index" - the official website for the glycemic index and international GI database which is based in the Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney: (http://www.glycemicindex.com/). Last modified: December 13, 2005.

 

 

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