Just when you think you’ve got a handle on cutting back on your sugar and carb intake, in comes the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL)!  The GI measures how much, on average, a person’s blood sugar rises in response to specific carbohydrates (two hours after consumption), with the value of 100 on the index representing pure glucose and, the lower the number, the longer said carbs take to break down and get absorbed through the blood. A glycemic index value over 70 is considered high, 56-69 is considered medium, and below 55 is considered low.

But since the index is based on average responses, your individual responses could be quiet different, and if you want to be precise in your diet, it may be worth testing your responses to certain foods so you can tailor your strategy.

The folks I’ve met with type 2 who have done self-testing use this knowledge to adjust their diets accordingly. I myself would love to possess such knowledge but I still have not incorporated this practice into my strategy As I result, I still struggle with the theoretical implications of the glycemic index, e.g. would I do better eating 7 grams of sugar in dark chocolate (mostly fat) over eating bread with no sugar but 2-3 times the carbs? What if I am comparing each based on the exact same number of carbs… do the detriments of pure sugar cancel out those of glucose-acting wheat? In my world, the chocolate usually wins, but it wouldn’t it be nice to have real time information?

This is where glycemic load, a more composite indicator, can help. If the index, showing how fast things get absorbed, married “total carbohydrates consumed” you would get the glycemic load (GL). It’s less abstract than the index because it assesses blood sugar impacts based on an actual amount of food you might eat. It will thus show you in stark terms why a small, white potato is worse for you than a small apple (allowing you to compare apples to oranges—so to speak.)  Per serving of food, a GL of 10 is low and a GL greater than 20 is high (you can calculate the load using the formula: GL = GI/100 x Net Carbs).

Using the GI and GL may not be as accurate as self-testing. Still—and even if you don’t consult them at every turn—they make fantastic guideposts. After reviewing a GI and/or GL chart a number of times, you will likely be able to place foods somewhere on the sugar spectrum from memory. You’ll gain an intuitive sense of how to tilt your diet towards good carbs, which you can combine with tactics that slow carb absorption. For example, I rarely eat white rice anymore (beloved, and very high on the GI)  but when I do, it’s at the end of the meal, following on protein, fiber and fat that lowers its glycemic impacts. Keeping GI or GL info. handy can also remind you of the worst offenders—and why you broke up with sugar in the first place.