Why Added Sugar is Not the Whole Story
As you gaze into a bakery or vending machine, I don’t need to tell you that tempting treats such as cake, doughnuts, or candy or not good for you. But did you know that a bagel, white rice, and apple juice may be just as harmful? That is, at least when it comes to their effects on your blood sugar.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar, you may be aware that certain foods cause a spike in blood sugar which, in turn, can cause insulin spikes. You may even understand that over time, overconsumption of these foods may lead to type 2 diabetes. How much a particular food raises the blood sugar level is measured by the glycemic index (GI), and higher glycemic index foods tend to spike blood sugar while lower ones do not. This chart
shows that white rice has a higher glycemic index than a doughnut.
So, No More Rice?
To be clear, as a health coach I am not prescribing a diet. Not only would that be outside my scope of practice, but also diet and metabolism are highly individual, so no one diet is right for everyone. Instead I provide information to help others make sense of the conflicting dietary information out there and make their own, informed decisions about what diet and lifestyle changes may be appropriate to improve health and well-being. You should also, of course, consult your doctor.
In this vein, I have gathered some information from reputable sources to help you decide if you would like to experiment with food choices based on glycemic index (GI) or a more interesting measure, glycemic load (GL), and if so, how you might do so.
What is Glycemic Load?
Glycemic load of a food equals the glycemic index multiplied by the number of carbohydrates per serving, divided by 100. The result is a number indicating not only how quickly will a food elevate blood sugar, but also the size of the effect. You would think that measure would make both the glycemic index diet advocates and low carb diet promoters happy. In theory, anyway.
What difference does Glycemic Load make?
Scientists, diabetes specialists, and dietitians have come to different conclusions about which is most important in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes: counting carbohydrates, eating low glycemic index foods, or eating foods with a low glycemic load. So…no, they don’t agree.
From my reading and my own perspective, a measure that takes both glycemic index and number of carbs into account at once can be a useful number in considering whether or not to consume a particular food. Indeed, the Linus Pauling Institute at the Oregon State University, considering multiple studies, supports
the use of glycemic load in prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.
What is the Glycemic Load of Your Favorite Foods?
Check out how your diet stacks up. Here is a chart of glycemic load
of common foods from Oregon State University. As you look through these numbers keep in mind:
- >10 GL: Foods with a glycemic load (GL) under 10 are labeled as low-GL foods. These foods do not significantly raise blood sugar levels.
- 10-20 GL: Foods with a GL between 10 and 20 are considered moderate-GL foods which have a more significant impact on blood sugar.
- 20+ GL: Foods above 20 GL are high-GL foods which tend to cause blood sugar spikes.
Some Strategies for lowering the Glycemic Load of Your Diet
(from the same article
from Oregon State)
- Eat more whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables.
- Eat fewer starchy moderate to high GL foods such as potatoes, white rice and white bread
- Limit consumption of sugary treats such as cookies, cakes, candy and soft drinks
Could You Use Some Help in Changing Your Diet or Lifestyle?
As a health coach I’m here not only to provide you with information, but also to help you implement changes to improve your health and well-being. If you think you might benefit from support as you embark on your journey towards a healthier, happier you, contact me today to set up a free no-obligation initial consultation.
Links to Further Info on GI, GL, and Carbohydrates
- The American Diabetes Association’s take on GI and carbohydrate intake.
- Harvard Medical School’s “lowdown” on GI and GL
- Article from Huffington Post on GI vs GL
- A scholarly look from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, at the evidence for GI vs GL in treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes