There is a lot of talk about low glycemic carbohydrates , but that term is still surrounded by many myths and doubts. With the wave of low-carb diets , this theme has become even more apparent.

Therefore, it is very pertinent to understand how this food group works in the body and what are the differences between low-glycemic and high-glycemic carbohydrates .

Summary and FAQs about carbohydrates

  1. What is the glycemic load? The glycemic load (GL) ranks carbohydrates according to the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrates in the food.
  2. What is the glycemic index? The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise your blood glucose level.

First of all, we know that carbohydrates are the largest suppliers of energy for the human body, but if consumed in excess, they can lead to obesity and possible related diseases.

Although they belong to the same food group, carbohydrates can have different digestion and absorption times, depending on their composition and other factors.

Complex carbohydrates, for example, are absorbed slowly, that is, they slowly release glucose into the cells.

Simple carbohydrates are easily absorbed and increase blood sugar (blood sugar) more quickly.

When a carbohydrate is digested more slowly, we can say that it is a low-glycemic carbohydrate. Do you want to better understand how this works?

Glycemic index (GI) of foods

Blood sugar (blood glucose level) after meals is mainly regulated by the rate at which carbohydrates are released into the bloodstream, the action of insulin, and the sensitivity of cells to the action of insulin.

This means that the quality of the carbohydrate directly influences the glycemic response, that is, the time that glucose is absorbed.

The glycemic index can be defined as the rate at which carbohydrate is absorbed and therefore glucose passes into the bloodstream and can be fast or slow.

This absorption rate can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Interaction : for example carbohydrate + fat = slower absorption. Carbohydrate from another nutrient in the same product, for example milk, which increases insulin secretion and therefore slowly absorbs glucose.
  • Gelatinization of starch : for example, cooked macaroni – slows absorption rate.
  • Acidity : for example, adding vinegar to a high-glycemic food.
  • Fibers : soluble fibers gel and slow absorption.
  • Changes in the physical form of food : mashed potatoes and whole potatoes. Mashed potatoes are absorbed more quickly.
  • Processing : Grinding, grinding or cooking food can increase the rate of glucose absorption.

What are low glycemic carbohydrates?

For comparison purposes, the glycemic index can be classified into:

  1. Low glycemic carbohydrate: 55 or less
  2. High glycemic carbohydrate: 70 or more

The reference to this classification is glucose, that is, the intake of a carbohydrate source feed x glucose has been compared and the absorption rate of this carbohydrate in relation to glucose has been observed.

List of foods and their glycemic indices:

  • Special grain bread: 53
  • Corn: 52
  • White spaghetti: 49
  • Whole-wheat spaghetti: 48
  • Rice Macaroni: 53
  • Flaked oats: 55
  • Apple: 36
  • Orange: 43
  • Banana: 51
  • Handle: 51
  • Apple juice: 41
  • Orange juice: 50
  • Cooked carrot: 39
  • Vegetable soup: 48
  • Chocolate: 40
  • Fructose (fruit sugar): 15

Benefits of consuming low glycemic carbohydrates

Among the advantages and the consumption of foods with a low glycemic index, we can mention:

  • Control of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and prevention of complications from diabetes in general.
  • Prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Prevention of insulin resistance .

Studies and research link diabetes to excessive consumption of foods that have high-glycemic carbohydrates.

However, high and moderate glycemic index foods are important for those who exercise with the goal of increasing lean mass. That is because they are used as a source for the formation of muscle glycogen.

Muscle glycogen, in turn, is the source of energy for the muscle during physical exercise.

It should be remembered that the consumption of this carbohydrate must be associated with protein for hypertrophy to occur.

A widely used strategy is the consumption of a high glycemic carbohydrate source along with whey protein .

These two components together are great for promoting muscle hypertrophy and recovery.

Even under different names, current diets have one thing in common: consume low-glycemic carbohydrates or exclude them from the diet entirely.

Diets that are based on low glycemic carbohydrates

Among the diets that have these recommendations can be cited:

  • Low carb diet (low carb diet )
  • Atkins diet
  • Ketogenic diet

However, it is already known that weight loss is perfectly possible for those who consume carbohydrates in a balanced way.

It is also important to note that the ideal is for carbohydrates to be introduced into the diet while respecting personal characteristics.

Also, distributing the types of carbohydrates in a way that optimizes the results can be a good strategy.

Like, for example, leaving the consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates until after training and consuming foods sources of healthy fats or protein when consuming low glycemic carbohydrates.

Glycemic index by glycemic load

In addition to the glycemic index, there is also the glycemic load. But what is the difference?

While the glycemic index represents the rate of absorption of a certain carbohydrate in relation to glucose, the glycemic load is the relationship between the quality (GI) and the amount of carbohydrate in the food.

Therefore, we can say that the glycemic load is more relevant compared to the glycemic index, since it represents the effect of carbohydrate as a whole in the body.

Watermelon, for example, has a high GI (76), but has almost no effect on plasma insulin concentrations.

This can be explained by the small amount of carbohydrate in watermelon (6 g of carbohydrate in 120 g of watermelon), which means that it has a low glycemic load.


First of all, you have to understand that no single food is capable of generating benefits.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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