Glycemic Index is a term you will have come across repeatedly during your research into Candida overgrowth. It’s commonly used when we discuss how the carbohydrate content in foods affects your blood sugar levels. Glycemic Index is usually quoted on a scale of 0 to 100, but did you know that these numbers can be misleading?
In this post I’m going to tell you how the Glycemic Index is calculated, what it actually means, and some crucial information on how to interpret it. And lastly I’ll explain why Glycemic Load is actually a much better indicator for Candida sufferers.
Defining The Glycemic Index
Here’s a basic definition for Glycemic Index.
The Glycemic Index measures the rise in a person’s blood glucose level after consuming a single gram of the available carbohydrates (total carbohydrate minus fiber), relative to the rise caused by a gram of pure glucose.
Most foods sit in a Glycemic Index range between 40 and 70. This means that the carbohydrates in those foods cause 40-70% of the change in blood sugar that pure glucose does. In general, the higher the number, the more likely the food is feed a Candida overgrowth.
In real terms, what the Glycemic Index tells us is how quickly the carbohydrates in a food are processed. That’s why white bread, which is full of refined carbohydrates that break down easily, has a high Glycemic Index. While vegetables, which are on the foods to eat list and contain complex carbs that are tougher to break down, have a low Glycemic Index.
The Problem With The Glycemic Index
Where does this get confusing? Well, the Glycemic Index does not take into account the typical portion size for each food. In fact it only looks at the effect of a single gram of those carbohydrates.
Beans are a great example. You might be surprised to hear that beans are mostly classified as low Glycemic Index foods. This is because a single gram of the complex carbohydrates in beans does not break down easily and so does not have a large effect on your blood sugar.
However, beans typically come in large portions that contain a significant amount of those carbohydrates. Even though a single gram might not affect your blood sugar, the total effect of the beans on your blood sugar is much greater.
What does this mean for Candida sufferers looking to make sensible dietary choices? Although the Glycemic Index is a useful guide, you certainly can’t rely on completely because it doesn’t take into account the total carbohydrate content of the portions that you eating. A much more useful measure is Glycemic Load.
Key Points About The Glycemic Index
- GI is calculated using “available carbs”, not total carbs. This means that fiber (which is not digested) is not included in the calculation.
- GI is calculated per gram. So a food can contain lots of available carbohydrates, but still be low-GI. Equally, a food can contain few carbs but qualify as high-GI. This is why Glycemic Load is a more useful measure.
- Harvard Medical School has built a list containing the Glycemic Index for 100 common foods. A more detailed list was published in 2008 and contains almost 2,500 food items.
What Is Glycemic Load?
What is the difference between Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load? The key difference is that Glycemic Index looks at a single gram of the carbohydrate in a food, whereas Glycemic Load looks at a typical serving of that food. This makes Glycemic Load a much more realistic way of examining the impact of a food on your blood sugar levels.
Glycemic Load clears up much of the confusion that is created by the Glycemic Index. The typical example is watermelon. The carbohydrate in watermelon has a high Glycemic Index, but a regular serving actually contains few carbohydrates so the Glycemic Load is fairly low (note that this is just an example of how glycemic Load works – watermelon is limited on the diet).
Even using Glycemic Load won’t give you the entire picture though. The method of cooking and preparation is just as important. Boiling or juicing your foods can make them much more easily digestible, and much more likely to raise your blood sugar. And you should always check the ingredients/nutrition label, no matter what the Glycemic Load might be for a food.
The best way to build a list of foods to eat is to take into account all of these factors. Eating a low-sugar diet is one of the three key elements in any Candida treatment plan, and being fully aware of what you are eating will make your treatment much more effective.