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Glycemic Index and Load and the influence on your bloodsugar

Glycemic Index

Have you ever noticed that when eating a certain type of food your sugars ends of different than expected? And why the recommend glucose or fruit juice when your having a low? That's right, that has to do with the Glycemic index.

What is it? And what can you do with it to positivily affect your bloodsugar?

English version below & Nederlandse versie hier: Glycemische Index.

What is it?

The Glycemic Index, GI in brief, gives an indication of how quickly the blood sugar level rises if you take carbohydrates.
Carbs which are broken down quickly release their sugar faster and thus make the blood sugar rise fast(er). Carbs with a low GI are more gradual in the release of their sugar, which results in a slower and, often smaller, rise in the blood sugar.

Food with a high GI has a number of 70 or higher. A low GI is less than 55.
Fast simple carbs and slow complex carbs
The type of carbs affects how quickly the sugar is release. Slow carbs have a complex structure. Remember the molecules at science class? Complex carbs are not that easy to break down and process, it takes time. Products like an apple and dairy fall into this catagory. Fast carbs with a simple structure are a lot easier to prcess, like rice or glucose.

That's the reason why you want to eat glucose or drink a box of juice when your sugar is low, rather than a candybar. Glucose is the purest form and has the simplest structure.

Still got the hang of this? Good, let's move on with the Glycemic Load.

Glycemic Load

The GI only covers the product itself, nothing else. But do you eat a slice of bread? Or just cereal? No, you eat cheese or jam with your slice of bread, a dairy with the cereal. Also, the GI doesn't tell you anything about the portion.

The structure and the preparation of the food affacts the GI. Fat and proteins take more time to process and it slows down the intake of glucose. Maybe you noticed this when you ate chips/fries. If I eat it and directly give insulin my sugar will drop (and even too low) before the glucose in the fries is taken in. I usually eat half my fries first before I give insulin.

So how do you calculate the GL?
The glycemic load takes the amount of carbs and the portion into account. You can calculate the GL by diving the amount of carbs in your portion, times the GI and then divide by 100.

Glycemic load: Amount of carbs * GI / 100

A high GL is equal or bigger than 20, but a low GL is smaller or equal of 10. A banana has a GI of 62, but with the amount of carbs and portion into account, the GL is only 16. White bread has a GI of 75, but a GL of 13.

What can you do with the GI and GL?

If you are aware that chocolate sprinkles (a lot of sugar, no complex structure) and white bread (GI: 75) is a combination that makes your blood sugar rise, it might be better to not eat this for breakfast. A lot of people have a peak in their sugar after breakfast. If you are on them, you could try to eat a slice of wholegrain bread and some cheese. There are no carbs in cheese and the fat in it slowes down the intake of carbs.

Need something to get trough the night? You might benefit of something with a low GI and GL more like a banana. Or what about exercise? A steady intake of glucose could be better.

Where can I find the GI and GL of products?
Harvard has a nice list of more than 100 foods: Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods Keep in mind that different sources may have different numbers!

Yours truly is not a doctor, please consult a specialist if you need assistance. Every diabetic has it's own things that do and do not work. The reaction  on fast or slow carbs is different for each person.  If you have no issues with the GI, good for you. This article is meant only as a guideline for those who might use this.

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