Both Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) measure how fast sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, which is important for diabetics to know. Carbohydrates are complex sugar molecules that the body breaks down into its simplest sugar, called glucose.
The composition of a food determines how easily the carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Since not all carbohydrates are digested or absorbed at the same rate, the Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Those foods that have their sugar molecules enter the bloodstream more slowly have a lower GI than foods whose sugar molecules enter the bloodstream more quickly. So low GI foods are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore insulin levels. Foods that contain large amounts of fiber, resistant starch, and slowly digestible starch have low GIs as they take a longer time to be absorbed.
GI vs. GL
What’s missing from the GI number is how much of the food it refers to; for example a cup of carrots vs. a quart of carrots. Glycemic Load (GL) is a measure of both the quality (the GI value) and quantity (grams per serve) of a carbohydrate in a meal. It’s the more practical number because it considers the amount of food eaten in a serving as well as how fast its sugar will enter the bloodstream. A food’s glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate the food contains in each serve and dividing by 100. GL is a useful number for comparing typical serving sizes of different foods.
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