In answering the question what carbs are the healthiest and least inflammatory, it is helpful of having an objective means of judging carbohydrates.   The glycemic index and glycemic load of a certain food are ways of doing just this!

Glycemic index is a measure of how fast the food raises the blood sugar after it is eaten. White bread and glucose cause the fastest and most dramatic rises in blood sugar (or blood glucose)  levels, so one of them is typically assigned a value of 100, the highest index possible. All other foods are then assigned proportionately lower values, based on how they affect blood sugar  in comparison.

Glycemic load takes the concept of glycemic index a step farther.  It takes into account not only for how rapidly a food’s carbohydrates are converted to sugar but also the relative amounts of carbohydrate the food contains. Glycemic load is a more accurate way of measuring a foods effect on the blood sugar release than the Glycemic Index

In general, foods with a low glycemic index tend to have a low glycemic load too. However,some foods with a high glycemic index may have a low glycemic load (and can therefore still be considered ‘healthy carbs and not inflammatory).  For example, the carbohydrates in watermelon are rapidly converted to sugar, so the water- melon glycemic index is high, at 72. However, because watermelon is primarily made up of water and is relatively low in calories, its glycemic load is relatively low, at a value of 4.

A good rule of thumb for these ‘exception’ foods (i.e. that have a low glycemic load even though their glycemic index may be high) is that these foods are usually low calorie items such as fruits and sweeter veggies (not processed snack foods for example, which have high glycemic loads and glycemic indexes!)

Using glycemic load to guide dietary choices has been found to have several benefits. High-load foods lead to blood sugar lows and then general fatigue, a very common problem in North America.  When people start to eat a low glycemic load diet, they find their appetite decreases, their food cravings go away and they have  more energy than they ever thought possible before changing their diets.

They don’t get the extreme sugar lows that stimulate food cravings, overeating, fatigue and decreased immune function. Diets of primarily high glycemic load foods have been associated with an increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes.


Rakel and Rindfleisch. Inflammation: Nutritional, Botanical, and Mind-body Influences. Southern Medical Journal. Volume 98, Number 3, March 2005 303-310

Dr Dani Gordon MD
Dr Dani Gordon MD

Dr Dani is a double board certified medical doctor, integrative medicine physician and world leading expert in CBD, cannabis medicine and brain wellness. She is a leading advocate for evidence based natural medicine and mindbody medicine and her mission it to help you thrive in modern life.