Blog Entries, Fundamentals of Wellness, Weight Loss

Glycemic what?

fruits.veggiesUnless you live in a cave, I’m sure by now you’ve heard the words glycemic load and glycemic index.  But, what do they mean?  I’ll try and explain.  These are REALLY IMPORTANT numbers if you are someone who has trouble losing weight, loses it but it comes right back, or your doctor has told you that your triglycerides, cholesterol and blood sugar are high.  This combination of lab abnormalities is known as metabolic syndrome.  It is the precursor to Type 2 Diabetes, and our diet is why most of us have this syndrome.  So, let’s talk about how EATING DIFFERENTLY CAN REVERSE THIS PROCESS.

Why should you pay attention to Glycemic Index and Load?

The higher the rise in glucose in the blood stream, the more insulin your body cranks out to store it. Over time this can lead to higher circulating insulin levels that can result in inflammation, weight gain and resistance to insulin’s ability to store sugar. The end result can be the progression to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.  When your insulin levels are high, you are HUNGRY ALL THE TIME.  Sound familar?  If so, read on.  It isn’t your fault, and you do NOT lack willpower.

MYTH:  Obese People are Weak.  No, they are not.  Obese people, for a variety of reasons, have a metabolic predisposition to higher fasting and circulating insulin levels.  You honestly ARE hungry all the time!  You aren’t crazy.  I remember watching my thin husband, who basically weighs the same as the day I married him 33 years ago, get full before me eating the same meal.  I’m 5’2″ and he’s 5’11”.  WTF?  Well, when we finally looked at fasting insulin levels, his were 7.5 and mine?  Mine was a whopping 20.  And that does NOT make me the winner, it makes me the loser.  The only thing you don’t lose with a fasting insulin that high is weight.

What to do?  You have to reset your metabolism and LOWER your fasting insulin.  To begin, when you decide to cut out most carbs from your diet, it helps to know the SCIENCE behind it.  It isn’t easy at first, but your BRAIN changes as your fasting insulin comes down.  I’m dead serious.  After 35+ years of always feeling hungry, or eating until I was too full, I finally “got” what a normal person felt like at the table.  And at that point, my fasting insulin had only gone from 20 to 13.  Can you imagine what would happen if I could get it down to 10?  7?  5?  It makes all the diet changes much easier to tolerate, and if you pay attention to your body’s signals, it actually is a trend you can watch.  Sanity returns, or arrives for the first time in decades.

So, here’s the lowdown on Glycemic Index and Load, and the beginning of getting healthier!  Remember, fat is NOT the enemy, carbs are!

Glycemic Index: GI

The glycemic index of a food refers to the effect the food has on the body’s blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels increase after you eat food, especially those containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches). Various carbohydrate-containing foods affect blood sugar levels differently. The glycemic index is what happens to an average person’s blood sugar after eating a particular food compared to a baseline food (the sugar, glucose). Glucose is a very basic sugar and not the same as table sugar.  For comparision’s sake, glucose is considered the baseline, which has an index of 100.  Most natural foods are WAY lower than this.  (Apple = 39)

Glycemic Index Ranges: High Glycemic Index 70-100     Moderate Glycemic Index 50-70     Low Glycemic Index <50


Glycemic Load:  GL – the new “Conventional Wisdom”

The glycemic load is an even more accurate to assess the impact of eating carbohydrates. It gives a more complete picture than does glycemic index alone because it includes the amount of carbohydrate in a serving. A GI value tells you only how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. It doesn’t tell you how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food as does GL. You need to know both things to understand a food’s effect on blood sugar. That is where the glycemic load value is crucial to understand.  The carbohydrate in watermelon, for example, has a high GI. But there isn’t a lot of sugar in a serving of watermelon, since most of it is fiber and water. Thus water-melon’s glycemic load is relatively low.  Foods that have a low GL almost always have a low GI. Foods with an intermediate or high GL range from very low to very high GI.  Knowing how they will behave after you injest them is crucial to understanding how to reverse diabesity, or losing weight.

The formula for calculating GL is straightforward: multiply the GI value of a food by the amount of carbohydrate per serving, less the fiber, and divide the result by 100.

Glycemic Load:

>20      High             11-19   Medium               < 11     Low

For the most complete research, the University of Sydney’s website is amazing.  You can even look up specific foods.  They also have a really great e-newsletter.


  1. The higher the glycemic level- the more insulin you produce,which makes weight loss tougher- Great article!

  2. Pingback: A calorie is not just a calorie… | Time 2 Thrive

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