What is Glycemic Load?

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Every food a person consumes will affect the body in some way and will have an effect on blood sugar and energy levels. Glycemic load is a term used to classify different carbohydrates and it measures how they impact blood sugar and the body as a whole. It details how many carbohydrates are contained in a food, as well as its glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measurement tool used to determine impact on blood sugar. A food’s glycemic load looks at both components so one food can have an overall low glycemic load, but a high glycemic index, making the food healthier than it actually appears.

Effects on Health

Low glycemic load foods are able to keep blood sugar at a consistent level allowing people to avoid the candy bar effect. This effect is characterized by the highs and lows produced by blood sugar that rises too high and then plummets quickly. Keeping an eye on the load of foods consumed has a significant impact on a person’s health in a variety of ways. When a person focuses his or her diet on a low load, it can:

  • Ensure blood sugar levels stay at more consistent levels
  • Help in preventing diabetes and insulin resistance
  • Help make it easier to avoid plateaus in dieting and make weight loss easier
  • Burn more calories
  • Lower the risk of heart disease

Using a glycemic load allows a person to eat several foods together instead of just single foods alone. This gives people the complete picture of what and how they eat which will make it easier to make any necessary dietary changes.

Food List

It can be difficult to determine if a specific food has a low or a high load, but as a general rule, the higher the fiber content, the better the food. The following lists of foods that are commonly consumed will help provide an idea of what has low, medium and high loads that are commonly found in the American diet.

Common foods with a low load of 10 or less include:

  • Beans: pinto, black beans, garbanzo and soy
  • 100 percent bran cereals
  • Peanuts or cashews
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Vegetables and fruits rich in fiber: examples include green peas, watermelon, carrots and grapefruit
  • Lentils
  • Whole-grain breads, such as pumpernickel, barley and whole wheat
  • Milk
  • Tomato juice

Common foods with a medium load of 11 to 19 include:

  • Some breads and whole wheat pasta
  • Rice cakes
  • Fruit juices that do not contain any extra sugar
  • Sweet potato
  • Oatmeal
  • Bulgur and barley
  • Brown rice
  • Graham crackers

Common foods with a high load of 20 or more include:

  • Candy
  • Couscous
  • White pasta
  • Low-fiber cereals
  • Pizza
  • High-sugar beverages
  • Sweetened fruit juices
  • White rice
  • Baked potatoes and french fries
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Dates and raisins

Focusing on the load of a food can be especially beneficial to a person with diabetes because it can help him or her keep blood sugar levels in check. However, anyone can benefit from monitoring and understanding their diet’s glycemic load.

Resources

Oregon State University. (2005). Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from Oregon State University: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/grains/gigl.html

Harvard Medical School. (2011). Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm

Self Nutrition Data. (2011). Estimated Glycemic Load. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from Self Nutrition Data: https://nutritiondata.self.com/help/estimated-glycemic-load