What You Need to Know about the Glycemic Index

Article by Pamela Wilson, May 2006.

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What You Need to Know about the Glycemic Index

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient and a significant part of a balanced diet. Experts generally encourage people to build their diets around nutrient-dense carbohydrates, incorporating a moderate amount of protein and some fat. Exercise and weight control are key elements of a healthful lifestyle to help reduce risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

What is the Glycemic Index?

Almost all carbohydrates (sugars and starches), regardless of the form in which they are consumed, are digested to glucose which enters the bloodstream, causing a temporary rise in blood glucose levels. This glycemic response is influenced by many factors, including how much food is eaten, the amount and type of carbohydrate in the food, how the food is processed, or how it is prepared.

What Is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) is a related concept that considers both the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrate in a typical serving of food, giving a somewhat more accurate picture of a food’s effect on blood sugar. For example, carrots have a relatively high glycemic index because the carbohydrates in carrots are mostly sugars. But a serving of carrots contains a low amount of carbohydrate compared to high GI foods such as bread and potatoes. To calculate glycemic load, you multiply the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of food by that food’s glycemic index. Carrots, which have a glycemic index of 71, have 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving and are assigned a glycemic load of 6 (8 x 0.71).


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