Most folks who have heard these terms probably first heard them in a doctor’s office, often in discussion with diabetes. Others may have heard it from nutritionists in consultations to make healthier food choices.
Glycemia is defined as the presence of glucose (a specific kind of sugar) found in the bloodstream.
This sugar provides energy to all the cells in our body. Our bodies acquire these sugars by breaking down the carbohydrates in the foods that we eat. Our bodies work very diligently to maintain an equilibrium to keep us functioning properly and healthfully. While our bodies let us know when we need more energy, we all have different nutrition requirements and health conditions that can affect the amounts and types of carbohydrates we can consume; and therefore the amount of sugars our bodies can process.
This is where the glycemic index and the glycemic load factor in.
The Glycemic Index is a system that ranks food based on how fast that human body converts it carbohydrates into glucose. Foods are ranked on a scale from 1 to 100.
Researchers in Canada, Australia, and other sites around the world, independently measured the glucose levels of many test subjects. These glucose levels were measured multiple times before, during, and after the consumption of 50 grams of a single food item, such as 50 grams of red grapes. The glycemic index number assigned to the food based on the average increase in blood glucose levels. Food is generally classified as follows:
The lower the glycemic index, the slower the food is digested, absorbed, and metabolized by the body; causing a slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels. These less drastic changes help the body sustain an internal balance.
The Glycemic Index changes when the food is cooked or processes in some way; and is based on the natural sugars.
But how often do we eat 50 grams of anything? Let alone by itself?
Granted, visiting the local farmer’s market or U-pick farm may make you want to consume a whole carton of freshly picked blueberries or strawberries right there on the spot.
In truth, our meals are a smorgasbord of different food items often prepared together in a single dish, then often combined with other dishes also made of other multiple food items.
Calculating your Glycemic Index per meal suddenly becomes much more complicated, and the numbers seem daunting.
Glycemic Load to the rescue!
Glycemic Load takes the Glycemic Index of a food and multiplies it by the quantity (grams per serving). These numbers are much smaller because you don’t normally eat 50 grams of something in one sitting.
Like the Glycemic Index, the Glycemic Load also has a classification system:
These numbers are a lot less intimidating. You would then add the glycemic load of everything on your plate to determine your total sugar intake per meal. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation , you should aim to keep a your daily glycemic load under 100 for optimal health.
Knowing this, as well as following general portion control guidelines, will help you make better food choices.
Contact the experts at Metabolic Medical Center to discuss how to manage your nutrition and your daily glycemic intake.