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When first diagnosed with diabetes, my clients often tell me that they’ve changed to using Basmati rice, new potatoes, and sourdough bread as lower GI options. This is the first step towards better glucose control, but the next step is to consider the serving size, even of these lower GI choices. This is because the overall rise in our blood glucose levels is a combination of the GI and the amount of carbohydrate we’ve eaten. This is what’s known as the glycemic load, or GL.

To illustrate this, I’ve chosen some common main meal starchy staples to compare in terms of their GL. They are listed below in order from highest to lowest GI and I’ve used the common serving sizes that my clients would often report. Notice the difference in GL across the foods – see how high it is for a 1 cup serving of cooked Basmati rice?

A low GI food will always contribute less to the GL of your diet than a similar sized serve of a high GI food, but to keep the GL of your diet in check, look for low GI carbs and watch your serving sizes.

For the foods I’ve listed below, these are the serves with around the same GL:

1 medium potato = ½ cup Basmati rice = ¾ cup spaghetti pasta = 1 cup quinoa

For people with diabetes
To those of you who count your carbohydrate intake in grams, exchanges or portions, we have included the details for each of these. 15g carbohydrate exchange – a serve containing 12-18g carbohydrate. 10g carbohydrate portion – a serve containing 7.6-12.5g carbohydrate.
Potato, boiled
Average GI: 73
Serving: 1 medium potato (175g/6oz)
Energy Available carbohydrate Exchanges Portions Glycemic load
464kJ/111Cal 22g 1.5 2 16


Basmati rice, boiled or steamed
Average GI: 60
Serving: 1 cup of cooked rice (190g/6.5oz)
Energy Available carbohydrate Exchanges Portions Glycemic load
1247kJ/298Cal 66g 4 6.5 40


White spaghetti pasta, boiled
Average GI: 47
Serving: 1 medium plate full, 1-1.5 cups cooked spaghetti (dry weight 80g/3oz)
Energy Available carbohydrate Exchanges Portions Glycemic load
1200kJ/287Cal 58g 4 6 27


Quinoa, boiled or steamed
Average GI: 53
Serving: 1 cup of cooked (190g/6.5oz)
Energy Available carbohydrate Exchanges Portions Glycemic load
845kJ/202Cal 33g 2 3 16

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Kaye Foster-Powell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who has worked with people with diabetes for 30 years. She was co-author of the original series of international, best-selling books on the glycemic index. She conducts a specialized private practice for people with diabetes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia.

Contact: Via her website.