What about the Glycemic Load?

The Glycemic Index is a great tool for sensible weight loss diets. You can benefit from this easy to understand measure for a healthier and better you.

However, the glycemic index is a guide and not the be all and end all. The reasons are that the index is calculated using a small portion of food, and if you eat more, the impact is greater. As a result, it may lull you into thinking that you can eat certain low GI foods in excess. But, if it is high in available carbohydrates, then the impact may not be beneficial. On the other hand it steers you away from low available carbohydrate foods that may has a higher index rank, and you may miss out on eating other healthy and tasty foods.

To complicate matters further, other variables such as how a food is grown, how it is processed or even cooked can change the glycemic index numbers.  Additionally, food responds in a different way for each individual depending on the amount eaten, as indicated earlier, and also that person’s metabolic rate and other foods eaten at the same time.   

As a result, some nutritionists felt the need to go beyond the glycemic index, and came up with an additional measure to allow for a better way to determine the glycemic affect of various foods.

This new measure is the Glycemic Load (GL), and it takes the GI as a starting point. It divides the GI by 100 and multiplies it by the grams of carbohydrate in the serving size. The resulting Glycemic Load takes the amount of available carbohydrates into account, since carbohydrates such as starch and sugar provide energy, but do not provide fiber.

Just like the GI, the GL is also categorized as high, medium and low, with low being better. 

Glycemic Load Ranking


20 and greater


11 to 19


10 and less

The best example to illustrate the value of the GL is watermelon. Watermelon has a high GI of 72. Now, if you eat about 120 grams, it will have 6 grams of available carbohydrates per serving.  So using the calculation for GL, divide 72 by 100, multiply the result by 6, which is rounded to 4.  So while the GI for watermelon is high, the GL is low. The reason is that the carbohydrate in watermelon ranks high on the glycemic index but, the glycemic load in watermelon is low because there isn’t a lot of it.   

Many are now recommending that the GL should be used to determine the kind of foods to eat instead of the GI. The primary reason is that it considers the amount consumed and what other foods are eaten at the same time, a more real world view.

While you cannot go wrong with using the GI for every day diet decisions, the GL provides a refinement that allows a better insight to the foods you are eating. However, given that it takes the amount consumed and requires knowledge of available carbohydrates in it, it may not be practical to use for the average individual.

Therefore, the glycemic index is a great tools and easy to use, and for most a better approach then to other approaches such as counting carbs and points etc. Even though the glycemic index is not ideal, it provides a valuable guide on how to use the knowledge that a foods impact on sugar levels can be a critical component in losing or gaining weight and in making you feel better and healthier.

Understanding and embracing the concept of the glycemic index and how it can help you lose weight and improve your energy levels may just be what you need to stop failing your diets and finally start losing weight sensibly.

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