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May 25, 2018  |  Login
Glycemic Load
By James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.
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One study found a 50 percent reduction in people's white blood cell activity (good immune cells) for two hours after they ingested a sugar solution. Studies have found that this negative effect can last for five hours or more.


Recently, doctors and researchers have placed more value on the glycemic load (GL) value of foods. The glycemic load takes into account the amount of carbohydrates in one serving of a particular food.

The glycemic index tells us how quickly a carbohydrate turns into blood sugar, but it neglects to take into account the amount of carbohydrates in a serving, which is important. The higher the glycemic load value, the higher the blood-sugar level and the resulting stress on insulin levels. This value is derived by multiplying the amount of carbohydrates contained in a specified serving size of the food by the glycemic index value of that food, and then dividing by 100.

For example, an apple has a GI of 40, compared to that of glucose, which is the baseline at 100, but the amount of carbohydrates available in a typical apple is 16 grams. The GL is calculated by multiplying the 16 grams of available carbohydrates times 40 and then divided by 100, to arrive at a decimal number of approximately 6. Compare this to a serving of Rice Krispies, which has a glycemic index of 82 and 26 available carbohydrates and has a glycemic load of 21. And a serving of macaroni and cheese has a glycemic load of 32.

  • A GL of 20 or more is considered high.
  • A GL of 11 to 19 is considered medium.
  • A GL of 10 or less is considered low.

Complex carbohydrates should be the dominant type of carbohydrates in the diet. They provide a longer-lasting energy source, help us to feel fuller, maintain our blood-sugar balance, contain fiber that helps us with elimination, and contain more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than simple carbohydrates do. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains (such as whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads and cereals, and oatmeal), beans, brown rice, peas, and most root vegetables.

Consuming carbohydrates along with protein, fiber, and fat (good fats) helps to smooth out their effect on blood-sugar levels. This is another reason why a balance of all the nutrients is so important.

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