Glycemic Load vs. Glycemic Index: What's the Difference?

You might have heard of these terms or maybe they just sound familiar. Either way, they are easily confused and sometimes not fully understood by all. We're here to help educate on why these are important terms and how to apply them to every day life.

Different foods affect your blood glucose levels differently. This is important for many people, but extremely important for those living with diabetes. So to help better understand the affect that a specific food, especially a carbohydrate rich food, two terms have been coined and used: glycemic index and glycemic load.

Glycemic index came first and assigns a numerical value to a food, ranging from 0 to 100. The lower the number, the less impact that food will have on your blood sugar. Typically, a highly processed and sugary carb will be closer to 100, where as a less processed food higher in fiber and fat will be closer to 0. 

However, that doesn't help us too much, because it doesn't take into consideration how much of that food we're eating. Here is where glycemic load enters. Glycemic load helps to better understand the impact on blood sugars as it takes into account the quality and quantity of carbohydrate consumed. The glycemic load does require some math as it is calculated by multiplying the quality of carbohydrate in a given food (GI) by the amount of carbohydrate in a serving of that food.

So all this to say that, there is more to a food's glycemic index than we might hear or read about. It is important to pay attention to portion size and understanding the glycemic load, but every person is different and different needs should be taken into consideration too. So all of these terms might be overbearing and complicated for some, but it could also provide some education around various food. The best bet is to keep a food journal to track how you're feeling after meals and speak with your healthcare provider on a regular basis.



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