Glycemic Load Food List | How To Select The Right Carbohydrates To Eat

What Is Glycemic Load?

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.

What Is The Difference Between Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?

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 fibre 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.

Glycemic Load Diet Considerations

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 Glycemic Load Foods Today

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

The Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load 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 www.glycemicindex.com 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:

ClassificationGlycemic IndexGlycemic Load
High70 or more20 or more
Intermediate55-6911-19
Low54 or less10 or less

Glycemic Load List Of Common Foods

1. Breakfast Foods

2. Rice and Pasta

3. Snacks

4. Breads

5. Fruits and Vegetables

6. Lentils and Legumes

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.

Fibre & Psyllium Husk Products

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. It also binds with fatty acids helping to reduce the absorption of fats. It reduces cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels. 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. Sometimes, your health care provider may recommend the use of a supplement like psyllium husk to treat common digestive problems like constipation. As 11g of Psyllium husk has 3 grams of dietary fiber; compared to 11g of oats which contains 1g of fiber, it is a good source of soluble fibre. However, it can interfere with absorption of certain medications, so only use it with a doctor's advice. Remember, the best way to obtain your fiber is directly from food sources. See this list of high fiber foods as a guide.

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