Carbohydrate consumption can be controversial and there are a ton of low to no carb fad diets out there which promise quick weight loss. But really you shouldn’t be afraid of carbs, that is if you’re eating the right type. What distinguishes the good from the bad, is your foods’ glycemic load, which influences your blood sugar levels.
To understand glycemic load, you also need to know about a food’s glycemic index (GI). This is an assigned numeric score from 0-100 based on how drastically it makes your blood sugar rise based on how quickly they are digested and taken into the bloodstream. The lower a foods GI the slower blood sugar rises after consumption. Generally, the more processed a food is, the higher its GI score and the ore fiber a food has the lower its GI score. However, the glycemic index doesn’t tell you the full story of foods effect on blood sugar, specifically the number of carbohydrates in a food, and that’s why we really more on food’s glycemic load score.
Glycemic load (GL) gives us a more accurate picture of food real-life impact on your blood sugar because it takes into consideration how quickly a food makes glucose enter the bloodstream, and how much glucose per serving it delivers. Every component of a food as a whole is taken into consideration which means the same food can have a high glycemic index but a low glycemic load making it better for you than you originally might have thought. A good example of this is watermelon. It has a high glycemic index (80), but a serving of watermelon is mostly water and little actual carbohydrates, so its glycemic load is only a 5. Foods with a low GL score (under 10) have little impact on your blood sugar, while foods with high GL scores (above 20) cause blood sugar spikes. Low GL foods have little effect on blood sugar levels. Foods that cause your blood sugar to spike causes insulin to be released in your blood to help control levels. If this goes on a regular basis your body may develop insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.
How it Affects your Health
So how seriously should we consider foods Glycemic Load? Well, some evidence suggests that GL and GI diets can benefit overall health, lower cholesterol levels, and help prevent chronic diseases and cancer. Some dietitians suggest that focusing too much on GI and GL can be a little complicated, but everyone can benefit by just having a general awareness of foods GL. Just keep in mind the general rule that the more processed a food, the higher its GL, and foods higher in fiber typically has a lower GL.
Here’s a general list of commons foods Glycemic Load and Index: