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Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load: What are they?
Friday, August 20, 2004 7:37 pm Email this article
Hormel Foods website defines glycemic index and glycemic load as follows.
“In 1981 researchers David Jenkins and Thomas Wolever of the University of Toronto published a study suggesting that the “glycemic index” of foods be used to classify carbohydrates rather than the traditional “simple” and “complex” system.”
“Contrary to traditional belief, the study found that complex carbohydrates were actually digested faster than simple carbohydrates. Therefore, complex carbohydrates increased blood sugar much faster than simple carbohydrates.”
“Glycemic index is a ranking of how fast a given food triggers a rise in the blood sugar level. The developers of the glycemic index used pure glucose as the standard, giving it a rating of 100. Therefore, the closer a particular food is to 100, the higher its glycemic index.”
Glycemic Index: Calculated from 50 grams of carbohydrates
“All foods that are ranked by glycemic index are based on 50 grams of carbohydrates, regardless of how much of that food it takes to reach 50 grams. Publications are available with the glycemic index ranking of particular food types.”
- High Glycemic index of 70 or more
- Moderate Glycemic index of 56 to 69
- Low Glycemic index of 55 or less
“When high glycemic index foods are consumed, the pancreas detects that rapid rise and quickly pumps out a high level of insulin to balance the blood sugar levels. The result is a sudden “crash” in blood sugar. This sudden “crash” of blood sugar level is thought to create cravings for more carbohydrates, resulting in a vicious cycle of abrupt ups and downs and over eating.
“Low glycemic index foods are digested slower, therefore there is a gradual rise and descent of blood sugar when insulin is released from the pancreas lessening carbohydrate cravings.
Glycemic Load: A better way to measure food than glycemic index
“Although the glycemic index ranks how rapidly a particular food turns into sugar, the serving amount is not clear. The glycemic load is a ranking of how much a standard serving of food raises your blood sugar. The lower the glycemic load, the less a serving of food will trigger your blood sugar to spike.
- High Glycemic Load of 20 or more
- Moderate Glycemic Load of 11-19
- Low Glycemic Load of 10 or less
Glycemic Load: How it is calculated
“The glycemic load of a particular food is calculated by multiplying the amount of carbohydrate in a serving by the glycemic index and dividing that number by 100. For example:
How Glycemic Load is Calculated: Example #1
If 1 serving contains 12 grams of carbohydrate (carbs less fiber)
and the food item has a glycemic index of 40*
then the glycemic load of the food is: 12 X 40 / 100 = 4.8 (rounded to 5)
This food has both a low glycemic index and a low glycemic load.
How Glycemic Load is Calculated: Example #2
If 1 serving contains 56 grams of carbohydrate (carbs less fiber)
and the food item has a glycemic index of 45*
then the glycemic load of the food is: 56 X 45 / 100 = 25.2 (rounded to 25)
“Although this food item has a low glycemic index of 45, the glycemic load is high at 25, an indication that you should be careful with portion size and how frequently you eat this food item.
“The examples above help to explain why the glycemic load value of a food is a better tool than the glycemic index value of a food when evaluating the foods you eat.
Factors That Alter Glycemic Value
- Cooking process
- The amount of processing the food has undergone
- Amount of fiber present in the food
- The addition of fat/oil to food will lower values
- The addition of acid (such as lemon juice) will lower values
- The addition of vinegar will lower values
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