Glycemic Whaaat?

Most of us aren’t going to pull out a Glycemic Index (GI) chart to tabulate each food item we’re eating during the day.

We’re also not going to scribble out the computations necessary to find the Glycemic Load (GL) of every meal, snack, or single food item we munch on.

Which begs the question: Why bother to learn about these mind-bending carb measurements?

If you’re prediabetic, at some point GI and GL will crop up in conversation with your nutritionist or healthcare provider, or some random smarty-pants who likes flipping words around.

Let’s briefly go over it, and you can decide how deep a dive you want to take for your personal use.

What is Glycemic Index?

Carbs, or carbohydrates, are a type of nutrient that feed our body. Basically, they present as fiber, starch, and sugar.

Our bodies don’t absorb fiber (which is why, when we’re “counting carbs” we subtract fiber).

But, we do absorb sugar and starch, and they become glucose, the sugar we measure when we’re looking at our blood sugar. Also called blood glucose.

Simple carbs contain sugars that our bodies break down quickly, rapidly boosting the amount of sugar in our blood, which gives us a flash of energy. These are also called “fast carbs.”

Simple or fast carbs include:

  • White rice
  • Fruit Roll-ups®
  • Russet potato
  • Cream of Wheat™

Complex carbs contain sugars (starches) that take longer to break down in the body. They don’t rush out and spike our blood sugar level like simple carbs do. They’re called “slow carbs.”

Complex or slow carbs include:

  • Quinoa
  • Berries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Almonds

The Glycemic Index looks at how fast a particular food raises our blood glucose level.

Foods are ranked from 0 to 100, with pure glucose = 100 on the Glycemic Index.

  • A food with a number of 70 or higher is considered high.
  • A food with a number between 56 and 69 is considered moderate.
  • A food with a number 55 or less is considered low.

The numbers suggest how quickly or slowly a food raises our blood sugar levels.

Slow is good.

Now, what about Glycemic Load?

The Glycemic Load looks at how quickly or slowly a food affects blood sugar levels, and how much sugar per serving it delivers.

  • A food with a GL of 20 or higher is considered high.
  • A food with a GL between 11 and 19 is considered moderate.
  • A food with a GL 10 or less is considered low.

For instance, two cups of plain air-popped popcorn has a Glycemic Index of 72 (high), but a Glycemic Load of 5.7 (low).

A Snickers candy bar has a Glycemic Index of 55 (low), but a Glycemic Load of 22.1 (high).

Low is good.

Now you know the basics of GI and GL.

And bonus, we found this online GI and GL calculator:

You may opt to embrace this approach to choosing foods, or you may go with the keep-it-simple approach.

As long as it works for you, that’s what matters.

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