Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The Glycemic Index/Load: What is the Difference?

The glycemic response is defined as the rate, magnitude and duration of the rise in blood glucose that occurs after a particular food or meal is consumed. It is affected by the amount of carbohydrate amount and type and the fat and protein in the food. Refined sugars and starches generally cause a greater glycemic response than unrefined carbohydrates that contain fiber. The presence of fat and protein also slows stomach emptying. For example, ice cream is high in sugar, but also contains fat and protein, so it causes a smaller rise in blood glucose than sorbet high in sugar but with less fat or protein.

This response can be quantified by its glycemic index (GI) defined as a ranking of the effect on blood glucose of a food of a certain carbohydrate content relative to an equal amount of carbohydrate from a reference food such as white bread or glucose.

The glycemic load (GL)  is a method of assessing the glycemic response that takes into account both the glycemic index of the food and the amount of carbohydrate in a typical portion. To calculate the GL, the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of food are multiplied by that food’s GI expressed as a percentage. For example, watermelon has a high GI of 70, but a much lower GL of 4.  The use of the glycemic load gives us a more true measure of its impact on the glycemic response. This tool is not very practical to use daily; however,  the concept is useful to understand  the impact of carbohydrate foods on blood glucose levels.

A glycemic load of:

  • 20 or more is high,
  • 11 to 19 is medium
  • 10 or under is low


Source: Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrtiion, Science and Applications, Third Edition.

For a list of the GI and GL of 100 foods, CLICK HERE.





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Green Tea and Weight Loss?

All forms of tea are probably the most consumed beverage in the world, next to water. Tea contains an abundance of a class of phytochemiclas called polyphenols considered to be powerful antioxidants.  Polyphenols protect cells from what is referred to as “oxidative stress” caused primarily by an overproduction of  free radicals that have the potential of cell and DNA damage, implicated in the most common “killer” diseases of civilization namely heart disease and cancer.

There is some research on the benefits of green tea in weight loss; however, the results are mixed. Whether green tea plays some role in weight reduction or not, nearly everyone would benefit from tea consumption whether it is black, white, red, or green varieties.

Check out a previous post on the topic of polyphenols HERE.


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Maple or Agave? Which is Best?

A good article on which sweetener is the best for health, thanks to Fooducate. Click on the link for agave in the article. Keep in mind that all sweeteners (natural or artificial) are primarily “empty calories.” In this case, I would bet on maple syrup as a bit “healthier” due to some research that suggests that fructose found in agave may causes some health problems as discussed in a previous post HERE.


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Sodium and Potassium Ratio

The Standard American Diet (SAD) has it all wrong when it comes to sodium and potassium.

The typical daily intake of sodium in the U.S. is about 3400 mg.

The AI (Adequate Intake) is 1500/day. The Tolerable Upper level (UL) is 2300 mg.

The AI for potassium is 4700 mg/day, a level that will lower blood pressure and reduce the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The problem: Few Americans currently consume these amounts of potassium. The sodium/potassium ratio should be 1:2,  but actually approaches the opposite of about 2:1, so you can easily see the problem.

The U.S diet is high in sodium and low in potassium. The reason is that we eat a lot of processed foods, generally high in sodium and low in potassium and added during processing and manufacturing.    About 77% of the sodium we eat comes from these sources and not due to the salt shaker.


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Here’s to Health?

Everyone wants to eat “healthier.”  The hype is often promoted by the food industry with heath claims on all their products they can possibly get away with. But what is the truth? No one knows for sure, but there are some foods that have gained this reputation with some degree of respect. Here they are.