Glycemic index vs. glycemic load

Why the difference means carrots won't make you gain weight

By Laina Shulman

What does glycemic index mean?

I know what you're thinking. You understand how to balance your carbohydrates, proteins and fats and you are beginning to understand the glycemic index. You then hear a friend mention how important it is to know the glycemic load of the foods you eat as well. Now you're confused. What's the difference between a particular food's glycemic index and its glycemic load? Let's clear that up.

Both the glycemic index and the glycemic load rankings refer to carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are digested, sugar enters the bloodstream. The glycemic index ranks how quickly sugar (glucose) enters the bloodstream after a particular carbohydrate is eaten.
Here is why it is significant:

• If blood sugar rises too quickly, your brain signals your body to secrete a greater amount of insulin.

• Insulin helps bring sugar out of the bloodstream, primarily by converting the excess sugar into fat and storing it in your body.

• A greater rate of increase in blood sugar leads to a greater insulin release, more storage of fat and then a drastic lowering of blood sugar levels. This is what leads to an energy rush followed by lethargy and hunger after eating a candy bar.

• This is significant because excess insulin secretion can result in various ill health effects such as fatigue, weight gain and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.

For ranking purposes, the glycemic index is divided into three categories: low, medium and high. Food is categorized from low to high on a scale of 0 to 100, depending on its effect on blood sugar levels. Foods that are lowest on the glycemic index have the slowest rate of glucose entry into the bloodstream, and therefore have the lowest insulin response. The categories are:

• Low (up to 55)
• Medium (56 to 70)
• High (over 70)

Read about 9 ways to add healthy fat to your diet.

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