Carbohydrate Counting, Glycemic Index, and Glycemic Load: Putting Them All TogetherFriday, March 23, 2012
Successful meal planning to control blood sugar includes considering both the glycemic index and amount of carbohydrates in each meal. People with diabetes try to match their pre-meal insulin dose to the number of carbohydrates in a meal to manage their blood sugar. Knowing the glycemic index of carbohydrates can help more accurately assess the impact on blood sugar. Most packaged foods have labels with total grams of carbohydrates, and many Web sites provide carbohydrate counts for whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Some restaurant chains also will provide this information on their Web sites. Generally, people should aim for 30 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per meal, depending on their activity level, health status, weight, and age. Foods are listed on a glycemic index from one to 100, which also can be found on the Internet. Foods with a glycemic index of 55 of lower are considered low-glycemic foods. Some foods have little to no effect on blood sugar levels, such as nonstarchy vegetables like asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Other "free foods" include cooking spray, artificial sweeteners, black coffee, spices, mustard, and broth. Proteins are low glycemic foods, but most proteins also contain fat, such as meat, fish, and dairy products, and some also contain carbohydrates, such as nuts and beans. Combining fats and proteins with carbohydrates tends to lower their glycemic index. If a person has a high pre-meal blood glucose level, the glycemic index of the food they eat would be lower than normal, and if it is low, the glycemic index would be higher. Eating high glycemic foods is associated with increased blood cholesterol levels, and a higher risk of heart disease. Eating diets rich in low glycemic foods is associated with better blood glucose control in people with diabetes and fewer long-term diabetes complications.