Blood Sugar and Glycemic Load

glycemic load

A big player in good health and feeling great is managing blood sugar levels. There are many side effects when blood sugar levels spike too high or dip too low. If you’re experiencing regular drastic peaks and drops in your blood sugar there are also long term consequences like disease. Unstable blood sugar levels can cause weight gain, inflammation, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, an inability to focus, cravings, sleepiness, and put you at risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity.

Glucose (sugar) provides the body with energy. However, when consumed in excess it can do some damage and is not fully utilized as energy. After eating a meal that drastically spikes your blood sugar, your body quickly responds to high sugar levels by releasing an excess of insulin, trying to lower blood sugar as fast as possible. Insulin’s job is to help get glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it can be properly utilized. Insulin “knocks” on the cell saying “hi, I have glucose here for you.” In response, the glucose enters the cell. When cells are full, leftover glucose goes to the muscle and liver for storage. Whatever does not fit in storage gets converted to fat. Since the body responds quickly to rapid, high spikes in blood sugar, it often overcompensates and blood sugar drops too low (leading to moodiness, sleepiness and cravings an hour or two after a meal). In response to the drastic drop, your body secretes stress hormones to help increase blood sugar. These stress hormones can lead to further weight gain. Over time, with constant large spikes in blood sugar levels cells can become insulin resistant. This means the cell no longer answers insulin’s “knock” and glucose cannot properly enter the cell, depriving the body of energy and leading to conditions such as diabetes.

Thus, controlling blood sugar is a major player in good health, weight loss, stable moods and more. Instead of large, fast spikes of blood sugar levels we want to aim for “rolling hills.” This means mild increases and mild dips of blood sugar around a midline. Our food choices make all of the difference here! For example, eating meals high in refined sugars and refined carbohydrates will wreak havoc on your blood sugar where having a balanced meal that includes some fiber and fat can help slow digestion and control your blood sugar levels.

Some tips to help control blood sugar:

Avoid/limit refined sugar and refined grains.

Eat foods that are higher in sugar with healthy fat, fiber, or protein. These help to control and slow insulin spikes.

Add cinnamon to foods like fruit that are higher in sugar. It is an insulin mimicker and will help to control blood sugar levels.

If it is time to get super serious about blood sugar control, for example in the case of diabetes or weight loss, you can use the glycemic load to control the amount your blood sugar is spiking with each meal.

What is the Glycemic Load (GL)?

To understand the glycemic load, we first must consider the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index is a measurement of whether a food is fast or slow releasing for its effect on blood sugar. This means it is a “quality” measure (Holford, 83). While the glycemic load gives you an idea of how fast blood sugar is effected, it does not take into account the quantity of carbohydrates and thus is an incomplete picture. If something raises blood sugar quickly but is present in a small amount in a food, the effect on blood sugar will be lower. Whereas a food with a moderate glycemic index may be high in carbohydrates and have a higher net effect on blood sugar levels. This means only looking at the glycemic index (quality measurement) or only considering the number of carbohydrates (quantity measurement) is an incomplete picture. We must consider both quality and quantity to really understand the effect a food has on blood sugar levels. This is exactly what the glycemic load does. Glycemic load equals the glycemic index multiplied by the number of carbs, divided by 100. A glycemic load below 10 is considered to be “low” and over 20 is considered “high.”

When aiming to lose weight or control blood sugar for health issues, a good rule of thumb is to aim to eat no more than 40 glycemic loads a day. That is 10 glycemic loads per meal and 5 glycemic loads for two snacks. (Holford 83) This means that leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables become your best friends – they are low carb, low GL, high nutrient foods. Eat as many as you’d like and you’ll have a hard time passing your GLs for a meal.

You can take calculating the approximate glycemic load of your food into your own hands. There are many resources online stating the glycemic index of foods. Using this, along with the number of carbs in the portion you plan to eat (found on label or nutrition calculator online) you are all set to go:

Glycemic Index  x  # of carbs = Glycemic Load

Below is a wonderful table to help you get an idea of the glycemic load of different foods. This table is taken directly from “The Optimum Nutrition Bible” by Patrick Holford. This book is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to naturally improve their health and wellness as it teaches you how to take your health into your own hands.

The bottom line is controlled blood sugar = better health and lower risk of disease. We hope this helps get you started!

Item

Serving Size (g)

GLs per serving

10GLs

5GLs

5GLs

BAKERY PRODUCTS          
Muffin – apple, made without sugar 60g 9 1 muffin Half muffin 33g
Muffin – apple, made with sugar 60g 13 1 small muffin ½ small muffin 23g
Crumpet 50g 13 1 crumpet ½ crumpet 19g
Muffin – apple, oat, sultana, made from packet mix 50g 14 1 small muffin ½ small muffin 18g
Muffin – bran 57g 15 ½ muffin ¼ muffin 18h
Muffin – blueberry 57 17 ½ muffin ¼ muffin 17g
Muffin – banana, oat and honey 50g 17 ½ muffin ¼ muffin 15g
Muffin – carrot 57g 20 ½ muffin ¼ muffin 15g
Banana cake, made without sugar 80g 16 1 small slice ½ small slice 25g
Croissant 57g 17 ½ croissant ¼ croissant 17g
Doughnut 47g 17 ½ doughnut ¼ doughnut 14g
Sponge cake, plain 63g 17 ½ slice ¼ slice 19g
           
BREADS          
Rye Kernel 30g 6 2 slices 1 slice 25g
Sourdough rye 30g 6 2 slices 1 slice 25g
Volkenbrot, wholemeal rye bread 30g 7 2 slices 1 slice 21g
Rice bread, high-amylose 30 7 2 small slices 1 small slice 21g
Rice bread, low-amylose 30g 8 2 thin slices 1 thin slice 19g
Wholemeal rye bread 30g 8 2 thin slices 1 thin slice 19g
Wheat tortilla (Mexican) 50g 8 1 ½ tortillas Less than 1 tortilla 31g
Chappatti, white wheat flour, thin, with green gram 50g 8 1 ½ chapattis 1 chapatti 31g
White, high-fiber 30g 9 1 thick slice 1 thin slice 17g
Wholemeal (whole wheat) wheat flour bread 30g 9 1 thick slice 1 thin slice 17g
Gluten-free fiber-enriched 30g 9 1 thick slice ½ thick slice 17g
Gluten-free multigrain bread 30g 10 1 slice ½ slice 15g
Light rye 30g 10 1 slice ½ slice 15g
White wheat four bread 30g 10 1 slice ½ slice 15g
Pita bread, white 30g 10 1 pitta ½ slice 15g
Wheat flour flatbread 30g 11 1 slice ½ slice 14g
Gluten-free white bread 30g 11 1 slice ½ slice 14g
Corn Tortilla 50g 12 1 tortilla ½ tortilla 21g
Middle Eastern flatbread 30g 15 2/3 slice 1/3 slice 10g
Baguette, white, plain 30g 15 1/20 baton 1/40 baton 10G
Bagel 70g 25 ½ bagel ¼ bagel 14g
           
BREAKFAST CEREALS          
Porridge made from rolled oats 30g 2 As much as you like 1 very large bowl 75g
Get Up & Go with strawberries and ½ pint of milk (E) 30 5 ½ pint drink ¼ pint drink 5fl oz/150ml
All-Bran TM 30g 6 2 small servings 1 small serving 25g
Muesli, gluten free 30g 7 2 small servings 1 small serving 21g
Muesli (Alepn) 30g 10 1 serving ½ serving 15g
Muesli, Natural 30g 10 1 serving ½ serving 15g
Raisin Bran TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 12 1 smalls serving 1/3 serving 13g
Weetabix TM 30g 13 2 biscuits 1 biscuit 12g
Bran Flakes TM 30g 13 1 small serving 1/3 serving 12g
Sultana Bran TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 14 1 small serving 1/3 serving 11g
Special K TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 14 1 small serving 1/3 serving 11g
Shredded Wheat 30g 15 1 biscuit 1/3 serving 10g
Cheerios TM 30g 15 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 10g
Frosties TM, sugar coated cornflakes (Kellogg’s) 30g 15 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 10g
Grapenuts TM 30g 15 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 10g
Golden Wheats TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 16 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 9g
Puffed Wheat 30g 16 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 9g
Honey Smacks TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 16 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 9g
Cornflakes, Crunchy Nut TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 17 1 very small serving 1/3 serving 9g
Coco Pops TM (Cocoa flavoured puffed rice) 30g 20 ½ serving ¼ serving 8g
Rice Krispies TM (Kellogg’s) 30g 21 ½ serving ¼ serving 7g
Corn Flakes 30g 21 ½ serving ¼ serving 7g
           
CEREAL GRAINS          
Semolina 150g 6 A very large serving Small serving 125g
Taco Shells, cornmeal-bases, baked (Old El Paso) 20g 8 2 shells 1 shell 13g
Quinoa 150g 8 1 ½ cups 2/3 cup 94g
Cornmeal 150g 9 A very large servings Small serving 83g
Kamut (E) 150g 8 1 ½ cups 2/3 cup 94g
Pearl Barley 150g 11 1 serving ½ serving 68g
Cracked Wheat (bulgar/bourghul) 150g 12 1 serving ½ serving 63g
Brown basmati rice 150g 13 1 small serving ½ serving 58g
Buckwheat 150g 16 1 small serving 1/3 serving 47g
Rice, brown 150g 18 1 small serving 1/3 serving 42g
Long grain, white, pre-cooked microwaved 2 min (Express Rice Uncle Ben’s) 150g 19 ½ serving ¼ serving 39g
Basmati, white Boiled 150g 22 ½ serving ¼ serving 34g
Couscous 150g 23 ½ serving ¼ serving 33g
Rice, white 150g 23 ½ serving ¼ serving 33g
Long grain, boied 150g 23 ½ serving ¼ serving 33g
Millet, porridge 150g 25 ½ serving ¼ serving 30g
           
CRISPBREADS/CRACKERS          
Oatcake 25g 8 4 oatcakes 2 oatcakes 16g
Digestive 25g 10 1 biscuit ½ biscuit 13g
Cream Cracker 25g 11 2 biscuits 1 biscuit 11g
Rye Crispbread 25g 11 2 biscuits 1 biscuit 11g
Water cracker 25g 13 2 biscuits 1 biscuit 11g
Puffed Rice Cakes 25g 17 2 biscuits 1 biscuit 7g
           
DAIRY PRODUCTS AND ALTERNATIVES          
Plain yogurt (no sugar) 200g 3 3 small pots 1 ½ small pots 333g
Non-fat yogurt (plain, no sugar) 200g 3 3 small pots 1 ½ small pots 333g
Milk, full-fat 250g 3 833ml 416ml 416ml
Milk, skim (Canada) 250g 4 625g 312g 312g
Soya yogurt (Provameal) 200g 7 2 small pots 1 small pots 150g
Soy milk (no sugar) 250g 7 2 small cups 1 small cup 178ml
Custard, home made from milk 100g 7 1 small cup ½ cup 71ml
Ice Cream, Regular 50g 8 2 scoops 1 scoop 31ml
Soy milk, (Sweetened with apple juice concentrate) 250g 8 2 small cups 1 small cup 156ml
Soy Milk, reduced fat (1.5%), 120mg calcium 250g 8 2 small cups 1 small cup 156ml
Soy Milk (sweetened with sugar) 250g 9 1 ½ cups 2/3 small cup 138ml
Low-fat yogurt, fruit, sugar (Ski TM) 200g 10 1 ½ small pots 2/3 of small pot 100g
Rice milk, E 250g 14 1 small cup ½ cup 90g
Milk, condensed, sweetened (Nestle) 50g 17 1 tsp ½ tsp 14g
           
FRUIT AND FRUIT PRODUCTS          
Blackberries E 120g 1 2 large punnets 1 large punnet 600g
Blueberries E 120g 1 2 large punnets 1 large punnet 600g
Raspberries E 120g 1 2 large punnets 1 large punnet 600g
Strawberries, fresh, raw 120g 1 2 large punnets 1 large punnet 600g
Cherries, raw, NS 120g 3 2 punnets 1 punnet 200g
Grapefruit, ra 120g 3 1 large 1 small 200g
Pear, raw 120g 4 2 large pears 1 large pear 150g
Melon/Cantaloupe, raw 120g 4 1 small melon ½ small melon 150g
Watermelon, raw 120g 4 2 big slices A big slice 150g
Peaches raw (or canned in natural juice) 120g 5 2 peaches 1 peach 120g
Apricots, raw 120g 5 8 apricots 4 apricots 120g
Oranges, raw 120g 5 2 large 1 large 120g
Plum, raw 120g 5 8 plums 4 plums 120g
Apples, raw 120g 6 2 small 1 small 100g
Kiwi fruit, raw 120g 6 2 kiwis 1 kiwi 100g
Pineapple raw 120g 7 2 thin slices 1 this slice 85g
Grapes, raw 120g 8 20 grapes 10 grapes 75g
Mango, raw 120g 8 ½ mango 1 slice 75g
Apricots, dried 60g 9 6 apricots 3 apricots 33g
Fruit cocktail, canned (Delmonte) 120g 9 1 small can ½ small can 66g
Paw paw/papaya, raw 120g 10 ½ small papaya 1 slice 60g
Prunes, pitted 60g 10 6 prunes 3 prunes 30g
Apple, dried 60g 10 6 rings 3 rings 30g
Banana Raw 120g 12 1 banana ½ banana 50g
Apricots, canned in light syrup 120g 12 Less than 1 small tin 1/3 small tin 50g
Lychee, canned in syrup and drained 120g 16 ½ can ¼ x 200g can 37g
Figs, dried, tenderised, Dessert Maid brand 60g 16 2 figs 1 fig 19g
Sultana 60g 25 20 10 12g
Raisins 60g 28 20 10 11g
Dates, dried 60g 42 2 dates 1 date 7g
           
JAMS/SPREADS          
Pumpkin seed butter E 16g 1 3 large pots 1 ½ large pots 765g
Peanut butter (no sugar) E 16g 1 3 large pots 1 ½ large pots 765g
Blueberry spread (no sugar) E 30g 4 6 dsp 3dsp 21g
Apricot fruit spread, reduced sugar 30g 7 4 dsp 2 dsp 21g
Orange Marmalade, (Australia) 30g 8 4 dsp 2 dsp 17g
Strawberry jam 30g 10 3 dsp 1 heaped dsp 15g
           
LEGUMES AND NUTS          
Hummus (chickpea dip) 30g 1 4 large tubs 4 small tubs 765g
Soya beans 150g 1 6 cups 3 cups 750g
Peas, dried, boiled 150g 2 3 cups 1 ½ cups 375g
Pinto beans, boiled in salted water 150g 4 2 cups 1 cup 187g
Borlotti beans, boiled, canned 150g 4 1 ½ cans ¾ can 187g
Lentils 150g 5 2 cups 1 cup 150g
Butter Beans 150g 6 1 ½ cups 2/3 can 125g
Split peas, yellow, boiled 20 min 150g 6 1 ½ cups 2/3 cup 125g
Baked Beans, canned 150g 7 ½ tin ¼ tin 107g
Kidney Beans 150g 7 ¾ tin 1/3 tin 107g
Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans, Bengal gram), boiled 150g 8 1 ½ cups 2/3 cup 94g
Chickpeas, canned in brine 150g 9 ¾ tin 1/3 tin 83g
Chestnuts, cooked E 150g 8 1 ½ cups 2/3 cup 94g
Flageolet beans, canned in brine E 150g 8 ¾ tin 1/3 tin 83g
Haricot/Navy beans 150g 12 ½ tin ¼ tin 62g
Blackeyed beans, boiled 150g 13 1 cup ½ cup 58g
           
PASTA AND NOODLES          
Ravioli, durum wheat flour, meat filled, boiled 90g 7.5 ½ packet 1 small serving 60g
Vermicelli, white boiled 90g 8 A large serving ½ large serving 56g
Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled 90g 8 A large serving ½ large serving 56g
Pasta, wholemeal, boiled 90g 8 A large serving ½ serving 56g
Fettucine, egg 90g 9 1 serving ½ serving 50g
Spirali, durum wheat, white, boiled to al dente texture 90g 9 1 serving ½ serving 47g
Spaghetti, white, boiled 90g 9 1 serving ½ serving 47g
Instant noodles 90g 9 1 serving ½ serving 47g
Spaghetti durum wheat boiled 10-15 min 90g 10 1 serving ½ serving 43g
Gluten-free pasta, maize starch, 90g 11 1 small serving ½ small serving 41g
Macaroni, plain 90g 11 1 v. small serving ½ v. small serving 39g
Rice noodles, dried, boiled 90g 11 1 v. small serving ½ v. small serving 39g
Udon noodles, plain, (buckwheat/wheat) 90g 15 2/3 serving 1/3 serving 30g
Corn pasta, gluten free (62.5g serving size) 90g 16 1 small serving ½ small serving 28g
Gnocchi 90g 16 1 v. small serving ½ small serving 27g
Rice pasta, brown, boiled 16 min 90g 17 1 v. small serving ½ small serving 26g
           
SNACK FOODS (SAVOURY)          
Olives, in brine E 50g 1 4 cups 4 cups 270g
Peanuts 50g 1 1 large pack 1 large pack 250g
Cashew nuts, salted 50g 3 1 ½ small packs 1 ½ small packs 83g
Popcorn, salted, no sugar 20g 8 1 small pack 1 small pack 12g
Potato crisps, plain, salted 50g 11 1 ½ small packs 2/3 small packs 23g
Pretzels, over-baked, traditional wheat flavour 30g 16 8 4 35g
Corn chips plain, salted 50g 17 13 chips 7 chips 25g
          12g
SNACK FOODS (SWEET)         18g
Fruitus apple cereal bar E 35g 5 2 bars 1 bar 15g
Rebar fruit and veg bar E 50g 8 1 bar 1/2 bar 18g
Museli bar containing dried fruit 30g 13 Less than 1 bar Less than ½ bar 15g
Chocolate, milk, plain (Mars/Cadburys/Nestle) 50g 14 Less than ½ bar Less than 1/4 bar 18g
Apricot fruit bar (dried apricot filling in wholemeal pastry) 50g 17 1 bar ½ bar 15g
Twix ® Cookie bar, caramel (M&M/Mars, USA) 60g 17 1 stick ½ stick 18g
Snickers bar ® 60g 19 2/3 bar 1/3 bar 16g
Polos – peppermint sweets 30g 21 8 4 7g
Jelly beans assorted colour 30g 22 4 jelly beans 2 jellybeans 7g
Pop Tarts TM, double chocolate 50g 24 21g (approx.. 2/5 of a pop tart) 10g 10g
Mars Bar® 60g 26 ½ bar ¼ bar 13g
           
SOUPS          
Tomato soup 250g 6 1 can ½ can 208g
Minestrone 250g 7 1 can ½ can 179g
Lentil, canned 250g 9 2/3 can 1/3 can 139g
Split Pea 250g 16 1/2 can ¼ can 78g
Black Bean 250g 17 1/2 can ¼ can 74g
Green Pea, canned 250g 17 1/2 can ¼ can 74g
           
SUGARS          
Xylitol 20g 2 6 tbsp 3 tbsp 50g
Blue Agave cactus nectar (liquid sweetener in drinks) 20g 2 100ml 50ml 50g
Fructose 20g 4 3 tbsp 5 tsp 25g
Sucrose 20g 14 3 tsp 1 ½ tsp 7g
Honey 20g 16 2 tsp 1 tsp 6g
Glucose 20g 20 2 tsp 1 tsp 5g
Maltose 20g 22 2 tsp 1 tsp 5g
           
VEGETABLES          
Tomato E 70g 2 5 medium 2 ½ medium 175g
Broccoli E 100g 2 5 handfuls 2 ½ handfuls 250g
Kale E 75g 1 10 handfuls 5 handfuls 375g
Avocodo E 190g 1 10 5 950g
Onion E 180g 2 5 medium 2 ½ medium 450g
Asparagus E 125g 2 5 handfuls 2 ½ handfuls 315g
Green beans E 75g 1 10 handfuls 5 handfuls 375g
Carrots 80g 3 2 carrots 1 carrot 133g
Green peas 80g 3 5 tbsp 2-3 tsp 133g
Pumpkin 80g 3 267 1 ½ servings 133g
Beetroot 80g 5 4 small 2 small 80g
Swede 150g 7 ½ swede 1 small serving 107g
Banana/plantain, green 120g 8 1 small ½ small 75g
Broad beans 80g 9 2 tbsp 1 tbsp 44g
Sweet corn 80g 9 1 serving ½ serving 44g
Parsnips 80g 12 1 small ½ small 33g
Yam 150g 13 1 small serving ½ small serving 58g
Boiled potato 150g 14 2 small 1 small 53g
Microwaved potato 150g 14 2 small 1 small 53g
Mashed potato 150g 15 2 tbsp 1 tbsp 50g
New potato unpeeled boiled 20 min 150g 16 4 very small 2 very small 47g
Instant mashed potato 150g 17 88g 1 dsp (desert spoon) 44g
Sweet potato 150g 17 1 small ½ small 44g
Baked potato white, baked in skin 150g 18 83g 2/3 medium 42g
French fries 150g 22 68g 4-5 34g
Baked potato, baked without fat 150g 26 ½ medium ¼ medium 29g
           
DRINKS          
Tomato juice, canned, no sugar 250g 4 625 ½ pint 315
Yakult® fermented drink with lactobacillus casei 65g 6 108 2/3 65ml bottle 30
Smoothie drink, soy, banana 250g 7 357 2/3 250ml carton 175
Smoothie drink, soy, chocolate hazelnut 250g 8 313 3/5 250ml carton 150
Carrot juice, freshly made 250g 10 250 1/5 pint or 1/3 cup 125
Grapefruit juice, unsweetened 250g 11 227 1/5 pint or 1/3 cup 115
Apple juice, pure, unsweetened 250g 12 208 1/6 pint or 1/3 cup 105
Orange juice 250g 13 192 1/6 pint or 1/3 cup 95
Cordial, orange, reconstituted 250g 13 192 1/6 pint or 1/3 cup 95
Smoothie, raspberry 250g 14 179 2/5 250ml carton or 1/3 cup 90
Pineapple juice, unsweetened 250g 16 156 ¼ pint or ½ cup 80
Cranberry juice drink, Ocean Spray® 250g 16 156 ¼ pint or ½ cup 80
Coca Cola®, soft drink/soda 250g 16 156 1/5 330ml can 80
Fanta® orange soft drink 250g 23 109 1/6 pint or ½ cup 50
Lucozade®, original 250g 40 63 1/8 pint or ¼ cup 30

(E = estimated)

Source:

Holford, Patrick. The Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Patkus.1997.