Counting Carbs? Understanding Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load

Learn how the Glycemic Index can help you control your blood sugar levels (and lose weight)!

Have you ever wondered, 'Just what is the Glycemic Index?' The Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load may sound like complicated food-ranking systems, but when applied to your diet, they are an effective way of controlling your glycemic response – the way your body handles an increase in blood sugar.  

What's the difference between the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?

The Glycemic Index has been used for years as a standard for measuring carbohydrates, ranking them on a scale from zero to 100,based on how quickly your body turns a carb into glucose. The longer a food item takes to break down in your body, the lower its ranking on the Glycemic Index. Why? Because the faster a carb breaks down in your body, the higher your blood sugar spikes. Foods that your body can break down quickly, like refined sugars and starchy, bleached flour, have a higher glycemic index than foods that take longer for your body to break down, such as whole grains.

The Glycemic Load was popularized in 1997 by a Harvard scientist, who found that your body's glycemic response is dependent on both the type and the amount of carbohydrate consumed. The Glycemic Load builds on the Glycemic Index, by calculating the glycemic index value of a food in conjunction with daily total intake.

How can the Glycemic Index help you lose weight?
By identifying the foods that cause the greatest spike in your blood sugar, like simple sugars and refined carbs, you can reduce your intake of these foods. Your body functions best when your blood sugar is maintained at a steady rate. Choose complex carbs to achieve a lower ranking on the Glycemic Index. Generally, your daily GL shouldn't exceed 120.

How do I get started?
It may sound confusing, but with a little practice, you can use the Glycemic Index to your advantage. See examples of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load values for some common foods here, or calculate your own at Nutrition Data. By consuming low-GI foods, and restricting your intake of carbohydrates, you can control your weight loss efforts from the inside out!

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