The Glycemic Index’s Clever Twin Brother

Over the past few weeks we looked at the theory behind the Glycemic Index (GI) and we specifically noted its importance in designing an anti ADD-ADHD diet. This can be found in the fact that the Glycemic Index measures the release of energy into the bloodstream. People with ADD-ADHD are often subject to wild swings in terms of their energy levels and ability to focus. Paying attention to GI and choosing Low-GI foods that provide steady energy release can go some way to alleviate this. Over the next few weeks we will start to look at the practicalities of designing an ADD-ADHD busting diet. Before we can do that however we will have to look at one last foundational concept related to GI namely that of Glycemic Load.

In a previous article I explained how the GI value of food is measured and how different foods are ranked as High GI, Medium GI and Low GI based on these measurements. It is perhaps easy to draw the conclusion from this that all you have to is to concentrate on eating Low GI foods and then everything will be fine. The problem is however that it is possible that energy release into the bloodstream from a very large quantity of Low GI food can still cause some very significant spikes. In a case like this it would perhaps have been better to eat a small quantity of High or Medium GI foods.

The concept of Glycemic Load was developed as a way to take both the GI values of foodstuffs and portion sizes (with specific emphasis on the amount of carbohydrates it contains) into account. It therefore asks not only what the GI values of what you are eating are, but also how much of it you are eating. It is calculated by multiplying the GI value of a food with the amount of active carbohydrates in the serving that you are consuming.

Taking GL into account can sometimes change our perception of how foods will affect our energy levels. For example, the carbohydrates in watermelons release energy into the bloodstream very rapidly. This makes watermelons High GI. There are however very few active carbohydrates in watermelons. This means that you will have to eat huge portions to experience a ‘proper’ blood sugar spike. This fact will not be picked up by simply using GI. Adding GL, with its consideration of active carbohydrates, to the mix will therefore give you a much fuller picture of the effects of the foods that you are eating.

Nutritionists recommend that the total GL value of what we eat do not exceed 100 a day. Food portions range from High GL (more than 20), Medium GL (10-20) and Low GL (less than 10). Knowing GL values of specific foods means that you can calculate with quite accurately what a certain plate of food will ‘cost’ you in terms of your daily allowance. It is therefore a great tool in terms of dietary planning. It will specifically help you not to overeat simply because you believe that Low GI values mean that you do not have to worry about portion sizes. As with the Glycemic Index the Glycemic Load can therefore be a valuable tool in battling both weight gain and the onset of type-2 diabetes.

For the person with ADD-ADHD one of the most important nutritional considerations is whether energy is supplied to the brain on a consistent and regular basis. This means that the simple GI concept will often be enough to determine whether or not to eat a particular food. The development of GL means that this decision can be further refined by also taking the effects of portion sizes and amounts of active carbohydrates into account. All of this may sound very technical but I can assure you that it will be more than worth your while to spend a little time determining both the GI and GL values of the foods that you regularly eat. You can do this by using one of the many websites that lists both these values for a vast array of different foods (Lists will also be published here on 3StepsADD in due course).


After doing a bit of initial research, keeping your diet in line with GI and GL principles shouldn’t be too much of a technical struggle since the concepts make a great deal of sense once you stop to think about them a bit. It may however be a different story when you start to encounter the emotional and willpower struggle. You can overcome this by just constantly reminding yourself that proper nutrition is one the most important keys to beating your ADD-ADHD (or that of your child). Investing a little bit of emotional effort and willpower in achieving this victory will certainly be worth your while!