After someone has been diagnosed with diabetes, their lives drastically change around one question: “What can I eat now?” The answer to that question is not the same for everyone with diabetes. For many, the answer lies in understanding the importance of both the glycemic index and glycemic load.

What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a number assigned to a food that measures how drastically that food affects your blood sugar. In other words, it measures how quickly the carbohydrate converts into sugar. These numbers are measured on a score from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest score. While GI is a very useful way to measure the effect that a food can have on a diabetic person’s blood sugar, GI does not paint the entire story.

What is Glycemic Load?
The glycemic load (GL) measures how much carbohydrate is in a particular food. The formula for measuring GL is the GI multiplied by the amount of carbohydrate in a food. Low GL measurement is a score of anything less than 10. A medium GL is 11 to 19, while a high GL is considered anything more than 20.

What is the Difference Between GI and GL?
While both the GI and GL measure how much a food can affect an individual’s blood sugar, they have very different practical applications. A food’s GI will indicate how quickly the insulin levels will spike in order to keep up with the sudden flood of sugar into the body. But the GL indicates how long that blood glucose will stay high. Foods low in GL do not tend to keep the blood sugar of a person with diabetes up for long, while a high GL indicates that the food will keep the blood glucose elevated for a long time.

GI, GL and The Diabetic Diet
Some healthcare professionals believe that diabetic individuals are best served by looking at foods that are low in both GI and GL. Additionally, serving carbohydrate-rich foods with proteins, fiber, and fats can have a drastic reduction in the ability of the GI and GL of a food to affect a diabetic’s blood sugar. While these are general tips that may serve someone with diabetes well, it is always better to consult with a doctor before making any significant changes to a diabetic diet plan.