Glycemic load is a measurement that combines a food's glycemic index with the amount of that food consumed. The glycemic index of a food is a measurement of the quality of carbohydrates in a food. When this figure is combined with how much of the food is eaten, it provides better information on how the food will affect blood glucose levels. Glycemic index and glycemic load are important numbers for those people needing to monitor the amount of carbohydrates they consume.
The glycemic index is a ranking system for how fast the carbohydrates in a food raise blood glucose levels. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and raise blood glucose levels quickly. Potatoes, white bread, and white rice are examples of high glycemic index foods. Most fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grain foods have a low glycemic index. There are many sources, both online and in print, that list the glycemic index for many popular foods.
The equation for determining the glycemic load for a serving of food is the number of grams of carbohydrates in a serving of food multiplied by the food's glycemic index and divided by 100. For example, a cup of cornflakes cereal with 26 grams of carbohydrates and a glycemic index of 81 has a glycemic load of 21 (26 x 81 / 100). A baked potato, with a glycemic index of 75 and 28 grams of carbohydrates, also has a glycemic load of 21. A load measure of 20 is considered high, and a measure of 10 or less is considered low.
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Glycemic load is a useful measurement for helping to maintain a person's health. Weight control is an important factor in avoiding heart disease and other diet-related health issues. By eating foods with a low glycemic load, people can better control the intake of carbohydrates and therefore are more successful at controlling their weight.
One of the most important benefits of knowing the glycemic load of particular foods is in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. High spikes in blood sugar levels can occur when a person ingests a diet of high-glycemic-load foods. When these spikes are frequent or sustained, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases. For those people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, the glycemic index is a useful tool for choosing the right foods and avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels.