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Glycemic Load And The Glycemic Food Index

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Carbohydrates and the Glycemic Load

rolled-oats The glycemic load (GL) is an alternative way of measuring the effect of carbohydrate on blood sugar levels, compared to the traditional glycemic index (GI) scale. Carbohydrates are made up of a combination of starches, sugar and fiber, and are an essential part of our diet, as they break down into glucose, the energy source of the body. Carbohydrates that break down quickly in the body and are rapidly converted into glucose, are known as high GI carbohydrates. On the other hand, carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually are known as low GI carbohydrates. Foods that have a low GI have important health benefits. The glycemic food index is a good way of identifying low glycemic carbs for inclusion in a healthy diet.

While the glycemic index (GI) tells you how rapidly a carbohydrate is converted into glucose, the glycemic load gives a better view as it takes into account the amount of carbohydrate in the food as well. Foods that are low GL are also known as "complex carbohydrates", and are the better type of carbohydrates to eat. Processed foods have a high GL, as most of the fiber has been removed from them, to make cooking easy. Frosted cupcakes and white bread are examples of high GL foods. These are very quickly broken down in the body into sugar and cause a spike in insulin levels, resulting in a craving for more carbohydrates. Foods with a low GL on the other hand, such as whole grains and lentils are broken down more slowly and keep blood glucose and insulin levels from sharp fluctuations.

The modern Western diet is largely based on the consumption of huge amounts of simple sugars and refined starches, as many foods are processed to make cooking easy. White flour for example has all the fiber and bran removed from it, so when it is consumed, it is rapidly converted into sugar. Over time this can lead to weight management problems and health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Eating high GL foods is addictive and breaking this habit is the secret to sustainable weight loss.

Make the switch to low GL today

  • Choose whole grains over refined, starchy or sugary foods
  • Substitute whole grain bread, brown rice, bulgar and barley in place of white bread and potatoes at meals
  • Eat more high fibre foods such as vegetables, oats, barley, lentils and legumes
  • Start the day with oats or whole grain cereal
  • Cut back on high GL foods such as pastries and desserts
  • Limit the quantities of fruit juice and have whole fruit instead. Eat smaller portions of high GL fruits.
  • Avoid fast food takeouts such as french fries

The Glycemic Load and Glycemic Index Scales

The glycemic index was originally invented to help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels, but is now used in weight management programs as a tool to help people improve eating habits by choosing foods that will reduce cravings and control appetite. The University of Sydney has a searchable database at that has a comprehensive listing of GI and GL values of thousands of different foods.

The glycemic index of a food tells you how fast it is converted into sugar. A food that has a high GI will raise your blood sugar and insulin levels faster than a food with a low GI. However, this value does not tell you how much carbohydrate the food has. For example, watermelon has a high GI of 72, but it only contains a little carbohydrate, so therefore it has a low GL of 4. White rice in comparison has a GI of 69, but a GL of 29. So, in actual fact, watermelon, despite having a higher GI, is the better food choice. Foods that have a low GL usually also have a low GI, but foods with a high or intermediate GL can range from high to low GI. In general the following classification is used:


A comparison of Glycemic Loads of some common foods

The table below compares the glycemic load values of some common types of food. The benefit of choosing low GL foods over high GL foods is that your body will digest these foods slowly, keeping hunger at bay, and allow you to feel full on less calories.

Breakfast Foods Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Oat bran 10 50 2.5
Rolled oat porridge 250 42 8.5
Meusli 30 66 11.2
Cornflakes 30 72 18
Rice and Pasta Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Lasagne Sheets 50 55 20
Boiled pasta 180 45 20.2
Brown rice (USA) 150 50 23.9
White rice (basmati) 150 69 39
White rice (jasmine) 150 109 45
Snacks Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Peanuts 50 13 0.6
Cashews 50 25 3
Digestive biscuits 25 55 9.7
Potato crisps (plain) 50 57 13.6
Sponge cake 63 46 16.8
Breads Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Mixed grain bread 30 34 4.3
Wholegrain bread 30 47 5.4
Wholemeal (wholewheat) bread 30 65 7.4
White bread (wheat flour) 30 71 9.5
Fuits and Vegetables Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Carrots 80 16 0.7
Strawberries 120 40 1.3
Sweet potato (boiled) 150 61 11
Baked white potato 150 60 12.2
Banana 120 58 13.9
Lentils and Legumes Serving(g) Glycemic Index Glycemic Load
Red Lentils 150 18 2.7
Broad Beans 80 79 4.1
Kidney beans 150 23 5.5
Baked beans 150 40 6.7
Chickpeas 150 36 8.6

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The difference between Wholemeal and Wholegrain

Confused between these terms? Many people are. Bread is made from flour, which comes from cereal grains such as wheat, oats, barley or rye. A kernel of grain is made up of an outer husk of bran, an inner endosperm of starch and protein, and a germ seed which contains antioxidants and vitamins. Whole grains contain the full grain, in contrast to refined grains such as white flour that have had the bran and germ removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Whole meal flour is made from ground up whole grains, and therefore, wholemeal foods are also wholegrain. However, be careful to read the label when buying wholemeal bread, as sometimes these contain a mixture of wholemeal and refined flour. Wholegrain bread contains the whole grain and is also very high in fiber, making it the best choice.


Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested. Fiber is present in all fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains. While some types of fiber are partially soluble in water, such as oats, other types of fiber are insoluble, such as celery. Soluble fiber is digested slowly by the body, and therefore helps fill you up. Insoluble fiber passes through the system undigested, and helps rid your body of waste.

Fiber has an important effect on your health, and can reduce the risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, constipation and diverticular disease. The current recommendation is that you should eat least 20 grams a day of fiber.

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