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Tallying Your Glycemic Load

Portion Control Counts


As we have learned, the glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers; the higher the number, the greater blood sugar response. But to accurately track your blood sugar, you must add in a second factor – the glycemic load (GL). The simple reason for this is “portion control”.


The glycemic load is a relatively new way to assess the impact of carbohydrate consumption that takes the glycemic index into account, but gives a fuller picture. While the index does give you the numerical count (very important), the load will adjust this figure up or down depending on the portion of your serving.


Let’s consider for example, watermelon – a very high GI number. But there isn’t a lot of it in a normal portion, so watermelon’s glycemic load is relatively low. A GL of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium, and 10 or less is low. Foods that have a low GL almost always have a low GI. Foods with an intermediate or high GL range from very low to very high GI. Therefore, we need both figures to calculate our blood sugar.


How deadly important is all this calculating to your particular situation; if you are already a diabetic or borderline, it is most important to avoid the dangers of this problem. Some nutritionists use the following for a diet’s glycemic load:

  • Low glycemic load - less than 80 points per day

  • Medium glycemic load - 80-120 points per day

  • High glycemic load - over 120 points per day


Some examples of the glycemic load when calculating GI plus GL:

  • 2 oz peanuts = 1

  • 1/2 large grapefruit = 3

  • 1 cup orange juice = 12

  • 2 cups popcorn = 7

  • 1 cup corn flakes = 21

  • 1 cup brown rice = 23

  • 1 cup white rice = 33

  • 1 baked potato, 3" in diameter = 28

  • 1 tablespoon of honey = 9


This shows a sampling of GI numbers relative to its portions. Are you satisfied with 2 cups of popcorn? If you saved 10 points by eating brown rice instead of white rice, would that encourage you to make a change? There are many complete food lists of glycemic loads on the Internet and it would be helpful to print these and keep them handy for reference.


There are so many effects of diabetes that to understand how simple it is to avoid it altogether might seem mundane, but not enough people bother until it’s too late. Learn to keep your blood sugar healthy by adopting sound GI and GL numbers. We don’t need the government to show us the difference between a donut and an apple. We truly are what we eat.


Esther Smith, author

Smith is well versed in nutrition and the path to a healthy lifestyle. For more information on glycemic load index check out:

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