My research last week in my post "What is Insulin Resistance?" led me to look at what is and how to use the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.
The Glycemic Index what is it? Is it important?
According to Wikipedia, the simplified definition of the Glycemic Index is “a number from 0 to 100 assigned to a food with pure glucose arbitrarily given the number of 100. Which represents the relative rise in the blood glucose level two hours after consuming that food”
According to facty.com/conditions/diabetes/what-is-the-glycemic-index, the Glycemic Index is a tool for measuring how different foods affect blood sugar levels. It was invented in 1981 at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by David Jenkins. He invented this index to help people with Diabetes control their blood sugar levels. Since then hundreds of foods have been tested.
At the beginning of the test, the food must have 50 gms of carbs. I have looked at the number of grams of carbs in many foods and found the recommended portion size often does not contain 50 gms of carbs. Some examples are: Quaker Oats with Flax seeds and quinoa 1 serving size is ⅓ cup and 20g of carbs. Next example 1 Large Egg with Omega 3 has 1 gm of Carbs., and last on my list is canned black beans with a serving size of ½ cup or 250 ml., This is just under half of 540 ml can, the carbs are 35 gms. The other thing if you look at the food labels, the DV% gives you another clue as to how much you should be having for your daily total of carbs.
The Health Canada Website canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/carbohydrates.html/ states that “ Carbohydrates are an important nutrient for your health. They are the body’s main source of energy (calories). The main types of carbohydrates are fibre, starch and sugars.” Did you know that on the Nutritional Facts Table on labels Starch is optional?
How can you make healthier choices?
Fibre is a nutrient you may want more of.
- Use the %Daily Value (%DV) in the Nutrition Facts Table
- Remember 5 %DV or less is a little and 15 %DV or more is a lot for all nutrients.
- Choose foods with more fibre and less added sugars. Read the ingredient list to find added sugars.”
The canada.ca website gives you a list of the added types of sugar in foods at Sugar Information.
*See my “The Sweet Sugar Facts” blog to see how to find sugar on food labels.
“But the glycemic index tells just part of the story. What it doesn't tell you is how high your blood sugar could go when you actually eat the food. To understand food’s complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly it makes glucose enter the bloodstream and how much glucose per serving it can deliver.”
The Glucose Load or GL measure does both. Different websites list many conflicting ideas about following Gi and GL diet plans.
The Live Healthy section of the Houston Chronicle website chron.com has a simple low GI meal plan, livehealthy.chron.com/sample-lowgi-meal-plan this provides a general meal plan however it does not give portion sizes, nor a complete list of the GI value of the foods in the eating plan. Therefore you would still have to look up the GI values.
One of the better GI diets is The G.I. Diet Clinic: by Rick Gallop. This book uses green, yellow and red food lists. However, it is still difficult to know what foods you should combine. The other problem I found is that new research on items like eggs and butter contradict his usage of liquid eggs and margarine. A newer version The GI Diet Tenth Anniversary edition is available through Amazon. This version has an added section on how your personality affects how you eat. I have not been able at this time to look at the food lists to see if there are any changes. Overall the findings show that you can lose weight and regulate your blood sugar on this diet and he provides many helpful hints about following and staying on this eating plan.
What is the GL Diet?
The GL or Glycemic Load diet is a low carbohydrate diet designed to lower your blood glucose levels. According to the Everyday Health website everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/glycemic-load.aspx .The carbohydrates you eat are controversial when it comes to diets these days. My research shows that every food you eat may react differently in the body of one person and another. For instance, if you are over or underweight; or if you have insulin resistance, or high HDL or LDL levels, and even if you have a heart condition.
The Everyday Health website states: The glycemic load is a classification of different carbohydrates and measures their impact on the body and blood sugar.” The glycemic load index takes into account not just how much glucose gets into your system but takes in all the different factors found in food - such as the nutrients, the protein, starch and fats. It is a totally different number from the GI system.
The low Glycemic food list foods below 10, the medium food list is 11-19, and the high food list is over 20.
Following the Glycemic Load Diet can help with your health in a variety of ways. These include helping to control your blood sugar levels, and how quickly your blood sugar levels rise. Any food above 20 should not be eaten on its own but may be combined with a low food number to help slow down the rate the glucose enters your system.
Other ways that this diet plan helps is with weight loss and weight management. If you need to lose weight you should try to stick to foods with a number under 20 and eat more foods under 10. However, you can combine higher number foods with lower number foods. However, this will slow down your weight loss. From my research and training in diet planning and weight management and as a life coach, I know that staying away from the food from the higher level food lists is very difficult. I would recommend you choose these foods for special occasions. Or if you really can’t stay away from sweet or starchy foods, plan to eat them only one day of the month, or twice a month. However, it is important to go right back on your diet plan the very next time you consume food snack or meal. This may slow down your weight loss, but it will make it easier for you to reach and maintain your weight loss goal.
If you need to gain weight the same principles apply. Don’t overdo the sweet foods. Instead, concentrate on eating healthy foods rich in fats starch and fibre.
The other areas that I would like to mention from my research are that following the GL Diet Plan helps prevent heart disease and helps to keep your HDL and LDL within normal ranges. According to the Patrick Holford /www.patrickholford.com/advice/how-to-lower-your-cholesterol-without-drugs website, the GL Diet Plan is the best plan for lowering your cholesterol. “The low Glycaemic Load diet is the key Official diet advice is that we should eat lots of starchy carbohydrates such as bread, rice and potatoes. But it is exactly these high glycaemic load foods that raise your blood sugar and cholesterol levels; examples include the bread and cakes made from refined flour that rapidly releases glucose into the bloodstream. As a way of lowering the risk of heart disease, this is far from ideal. Because they make blood sugar levels soar, high glycemic foods cause more of the fat-storing hormone insulin to be released, as well as boosting production of the stress hormone cortisol”.
From the Everyday Health website, I have pasted the GL Diet and The Effect on your Health, as well as the GL Diet Favourite food list. This is not a complete list. However, you can research GL Diet Plan Lists on the internet if you want more information.
Glycemic Load and Diet: The Effect on Your Health
Foods with a low glycemic load keep blood sugar levels consistent, meaning that you avoid experiencing the highs and lows that can be caused by blood sugar that jumps too high and quickly drops — the candy bar effect.
Watching the glycemic load of the foods you eat can have a big impact on your health in many ways. A diet focused on foods with a low glycemic load can:
- Make it easier to lose weight and avoid the dreaded diet plateau
- Keep blood sugar levels more consistent
- Burn more calories
- Help prevent insulin resistance and diabetes
- Lower heart disease risk
Glycemic Loads in Favorite Foods
It's tough to figure out on your own if a food has a high or a low glycemic load, but as a general guideline, the more fiber a food has the better. Here is a glycemic load reference list with many common foods to let you know which are low, medium, and high.
Foods with a low glycemic load of 10 or less:
- Kidney, garbanzo, pinto, soy, and black beans
- Fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, like carrots, green peas, apples, grapefruit, and watermelon
- Cereals made with 100 percent bran
- Cashews and peanuts
- Whole-grain breads like barley, pumpernickel, and whole wheat
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Tomato juice
Foods with a medium glycemic load of 11 to 19:
- Whole-wheat pasta and some breads
- Rice cakes
- Barley and bulgur
- Fruit juices without extra sugar
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Graham crackers
Foods with a high glycemic load of 20 or more:
Sweetened fruit juices
French fries and baked potatoes
Low-fibre cereals (high in added sugar)
Macaroni and cheese
Raisins and dates
I hope you find this information useful. Remember to check with your Dr. and/or your dietician before starting any new diet plan.