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Glycemic load food list

The glycemic load food list can be considered a refinement of the Glycemic Index Chart, which tells us how easily carbohydrate foods are digested and how how quickly they raise the blood sugar level.

As we saw in the Part I of this article on the glycemic load food list and glycemic index theory, the theory has some serious flaws because it looks at only a very narrow aspect of health - how quickly sugar from carbohydrate foods enters the blood.

Yet even within this narrow view, it does not give a meaningful, complete picture. An example that is commonly cited is that of watermelon. This is a fruit with a relatively high glycemic index of 72, meaning that when you eat watermelon, the sugar it contains enters your blood quite quickly.

BUT... watermelon does not have all that much sugar anyway. As its name implies, watermelon is mainly water! So even though the sugar enters your blood quickly, the total amount of sugar that enters your blood is not a lot.

No worries :)

The idea of glycemic load, with an accompanying glycemic load food list, thus provides a more meaningful picture of what goes on when you eat certain carbohydrate foods.

On the glycemic load food list, the load values are calculated by considering the glycemic index as well as the amount of carbohydrate present in a typical serving. In other words, it considers both the quality and quantity of carbohydrates present in food.

The formula for calculating glycemic load (GL) is this:

GL = GI multiplied by the amount of available carbohydrates divided by 100.

Taking again the example of watermelon, we have:

Glycemic Index = 72
amount of carbohydrates per typical 120 gram serving = 6 grams
Glycemic load = 72 x 6 / 100 = 4 (approximately)

In contrast, a Mars Bar chocolate has a slightly lower glycemic index than watermelon. Yet it has a very high glycemic load, even though the serving size is only half as much:

Glycemic Index = 68
amount of carbohydrates per typical 60 gram serving = 40 grams
Glycemic load = 68 x 40 / 100 = 27

Glycemic load food list - examples

The following glycemic load food list show how different foods compare in terms glycemic index and glycemic load. All combinations are possible. Foods with high glycemic index can have either high or low glycemic load. Likewise, foods with low glycemic index can also have high or low glycemic load.

Here, we see for example that eating potato, sweet potato or yam makes little difference, even thought there are big difference in their glycemic index values:

Food Glycemic Index Glycemic load
Potato 86 22
Sweet potato 70 20
yam 54 20

So do we need to consult the glycemic load food list? In real life situations, people in Europe or America might eat potatoes while those in the tropics might eat sweet potato or yam. They simply eat what is available and are no better or worse of than each other in terms of glycemic load.

With fruits, the values in the glycemic load list are also not surprising. Banana, being a starchy fruit, has a much greater glycemic load than, say, applies and pineapples.

Dried fruits like dates and raisins, being highly sweet as they contain concentrated sugars, have even higher values. This is so even though the typical serving size for dried fruit is just 60 grams, compared with the typical size for fresh fruit at 120 grams:

Food Glycemic Index Glycemic load
Watermelon 72 4
Pineapple 66 5
Apples 39 6
Banana 62 16
Dates 42 18
Sultanas 57 25
Raisins 64 28

Some surprising numbers, however, do occasionally show up, such as in the case of the glycemic load food list for rice.

Food Glycemic Index Glycemic load
Long grain white rice 56 14
Basmati white rice 57 22
Jasmine fragrant rice 89 37

Why should there be such big differences in the glycemic index as well as glycemic load for difference types of rice? It is not as if the types of rice are radically different. All three types above are long grain and all contain roughly the same amounts of carbohydrates. All are polished white rice.

I cannot think of any reason why they should behave so differently. And seriously, I don't think I will feel much different after eating a serving of jasmine rice, versus basmati rice versus another unnamed variety of long grain rice.

For all it is worth, I have serious doubts about the value of the glycemic index and glycemic load theories. Most articles on this subject merely repeat the same advice - eat mainly low glycemic index and low glycemic load foods, avoid or minimise foods that are high only the glycemic index and the glycemic load food list.

My advice is different - don't pay too much head to these new fangled food theories. Rely instead on traditional wisdom and eat a diet based around whole grains, vegetables, beans and fruits.

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