Carbohydrates turn into sugar in the body. No matter what, all carbs increase the blood sugar, but glycemic index and load give more information about HOW certain foods affect blood sugar. Let’s clarify the 2 terms first:
1. Glycemic INDEX: change in blood sugar after eating 50 g of carbohydrate from a specific food.
2. Glycemic LOAD: change in blood sugar after eating a normal portion of a specific food (better indicator of how a snack/meal affects blood sugar)
***These terms do not tell how FAST the blood sugar responds, but rather how MUCH the blood sugar rises. High glycemic index foods = higher blood sugars when compared to low glycemic index foods.
High glycemic index does not, necessarily, mean high glycemic load. For example, carrots have a high glycemic index; but, not many people eat over 4 cups of carrots at a time (the amount providing 50 g of carbohydrates for measuring glycemic index). 1 cup of carrots (12 g carb) is a usual serving, and has a low glycemic load.
Choosing foods with a low glycemic load makes sense; but, research is inconsistent and tells us that the most important factor in glucose response is still: total carbohydrates eaten at a time. “Carb counting” is the best way to anticipate blood sugar changes.
Since foods with low glycemic load don’t raise blood sugar as much, picking these foods while also managing total carbohydrate intake may slightly improve A1c (average blood sugar) levels; but, the more important of the 2 is carb counting. For those interested in glycemic index and load, take a look at this chart from Harvard Medical School:
Are you managing blood sugars? Do you have questions about carb counting? Contact me for more information and to schedule an appointment.