My last article was about the glycemic index and focused on how low and high glycemic foods affect your body; particularly your glucose levels. Make sure you read that piece first since most of today’s information builds off that background knowledge. While it is vital to understand how certain types of foods affect the body, it is critical to examine how foods work together. You can’t fully understand how the body will respond to foods unless you look in more depth at the significance of the glycemic load.

The glycemic load refers to the quality and quantity of the carbohydrates in a meal. The quality would refer to the value of the food on the glycemic index. The quantity is the serving size or the grams in a serving.  To calculate the glycemic load, you would multiply the food’s glycemic index by the serving size and then divide by 100.  Here is an example of the glycemic load of an apple for you to see. It can be tricky to do at first and a little time consuming because you will most likely have to look up the food on the glycemic index. However, if you are diligent and consistent, you will know most of the foods you gravitate towards in no time!

The glycemic load might be even more important than knowing what is considered high and low on the glycemic index. Remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal. The glycemic load takes that into account. The glycemic load is also categorized by being low, medium or high. A low glycemic load is 10 or less. A medium glycemic load is 11-19, and a high glycemic load is 20 or more. Optimally, you would want to eat foods that have a lower glycemic load. This would be less likely to cause spikes in blood sugars. You want to keep your glucose levels stable and avoid spikes and crashes. So what should your glycemic load be for a day? An ideal target to use as a benchmark would be to keep your daily glycemic load to 100 or less.

Also, the glycemic load takes into account which foods you’re eating together. It is very rare that you eat just one item at a time. Most likely you will have a main dish and then sides or a couple of snack items together. It all comes down to which foods you pair together. It is that pairing that will determine how fast your blood sugar will rise. Foods that are paired with fats and proteins slow down higher carbohydrate/glycemic foods. This is important to keep in mind if you have insulin resistance or diabetes; always pair a carbohydrate with a protein or fat. It’s not just about what you eat but also how you combine your foods.

As you can see, the glycemic index and glycemic load can be a little complicated, but beneficial if understood and used correctly. It is imperative to remember that the glycemic load has more of an impact and effect on the body and how the body will use your glucose for energy.