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Why “glycemic load” matters more than “glycemic index”

Posted May 16 2012 11:00pm
Most of the time when you tell people you don’t eat grains, they lose their mind and say – where are you going to get your fibre from? Fibre is...

Most of the time when you tell people you don’t eat grains, they lose their mind and say – where are you going to get your fibre from? Fibre is very important, however, the fiber argument doesn’t go very far because fruits and veggies have plenty of it and A TONNE more nutrient content than any grain out there!  I have yet to hear about someone suffering from “grain deficiency” – but you hear plenty about mineral and vitamin deficiency – and this is the point…we need to focus on nutrient dense, and nutrient rich foods.  Grains are just not the top of the list when it comes to this criteria.

There also seems to be some confusion about Glycemic INDEX and Glycemic LOAD. 

Glycemic INDEX is the sugar in the food and how fast it gets into the blood stream - it measures the carbohydrate “quality”, but not the ”quantity”.  The LOAD is the product of the Glycemic Index (GI) and the dietary carbohydrate content of the food.  The glycemic load (GL) is more reflective of what happens to the foods we consume and their effect on our bodies.  The load is a measure of the “quantity” – the higher the GL, the greater the expected elevation in blood glucose and in the insulinogenic effect of the food (the famous sugar and insulin spike, and subsequent energy crash).

INDEX and LOAD are two things.

For example:  A kiwi has a high glycemic , but a relatively low glycemic !  Lots of sugar in the fruit that gets into our blood stream (high INDEX), but its LOAD is low per portion of the food.  A piece of white bread on the other hand has a high INDEX AND a high LOAD.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  has these listed out in a chart which is a great reference.  The AJCN also links high GL diets to type II diabetes and heart disease.  It just so happens that our dietary recommendations are a low GL diet.  Hmmmm… maybe the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is onto something – maybe this Paleo thing is not so gastly bad after all.  Low GL, Nutrient rich, Balanced Nutrient Content, Vitamin Sufficient and Vitamin Rich, Anti Inflammatory, and the list goes on…

Of course every rule has its exception – and our high GL high insulin response falls victim to this.  Dairy, has a low glycemic LOAD, BUT it has an insulin response similar to that of white bread!  So we give a general rule of low LOAD foods, but it is because of the insulin spike.  So there are some rule breakers to the LOAD rule, and thus we have to default to insulin spike if needed.

I hope this clarifies some of the confusion.

When we talk about foods, remember that we never look at one aspect of the food – we look at as much as possible.  A piece of white bread has some “fibre”.  But it also has antinutrients, has gut irritants (celiac or not), high in omega 6, high glycemic LOAD and insulin response, has to be fortified with synthetic vitamins since it is so nutrient poor, and is usually used as a delivery system (meaning you hardly eat it on its own…you usually have a spread with it, or sauce, or other food products hows that for a rule…if you can’t eat it on its own, don’t bother…or if you can’t find it in nature, then its better left off your platehow many loaves of bread do you see running around in nature or falling off trees?)


Happy Eating!

Dr. R

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