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Low carb glossary

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Low carb language

Learning the low carb lingo can help you better understand the success of the low carb diet. Here's our low carb glossary!

Low carb glossary

Carbohydrates: Compounds that supply calories to the body. Some have a more simple chemical makeup (sugars), while others are referred to as "complex" (vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and other plant foods). One gram of carbohydrate provides about four calories.

Glycemic index (GI): A 0 to 100 ranking of carbohydrates based on how fast they affect the level of glucose in the bloodstream (commonly referred to as the "blood sugar" level). Glucose has a GI of 100, meaning it enters the bloodstream immediately; this is the reference point against which other foods are compared.

Carbs that break down more slowly and release glucose gradually into the bloodstream have low GIs. The Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS) offers comprehensive information on GI and GL (see below) at www.glycemicindex.com.

Glycemic load (GL): Builds on the glycemic index (GI) to provide a measure of total glycemic response to a food or meal. While the glycemic index measures how high a food raises blood sugar levels, glycemic load measures how much sugar is actually in the food.

To calculate glycemic load, multiply the grams of carbohydrate in a serving of food by that food's glycemic index. Low-GI foods also have a low GL. Some high-GI foods, however, have low or medium GLs. Food that are mostly water or air -- such as watermelon, for example -- may have a high GI value, but they do not cause a steep rise in blood sugar because they have a low GL value.

Insulin resistance: As defined by Atkins Nutritionals Inc, "reduced sensitivity of the body to insulin's effect on blood sugar. When there is ongoing intake of excessive carbohydrates, there is a corresponding flow of insulin responses; over time, the receptors become less sensitive and can no longer transport the excess glucose, resulting in fat buildup, insulin resistance and ultimately type 2 diabetes."

Ketosis: Blood glucose is the body's first choice for fuel. When dietary carbs are dramatically reduced, sufficient glucose is no longer available to meet the body's energy needs. The body then begins burning fat for energy instead, turning it into a source of fuel called ketones.

Ketones: Ketones are produced whenever body fat is burned, and the resulting condition is known as ketosis lipolysis (ketosis for short). Excess ketones are discarded in the urine. Dietary ketosis is a normal, beneficial part of human metabolism. It is sometimes confused with ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition associated with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes but doesn't occur in individuals who have even a small amount of insulin.

Lipolysis testing strips: Small test strips that are dipped into urine to measure the number of ketones excreted. Depending on how many ketones you excrete, the strips change to pink or purple. A darker color indicates a greater degree of ketosis and tells you that your body is in an active state of fat-burning. The strips are commonly available at drug and grocery stores as well as online.

Net effective carbs: Also known as net impact carbs and effective carb count (ECC), but most commonly seen on labels as "net carbs." Theories abound regarding how to count net carbs, but as of this writing, the FDA has no approved method. The common approach is to start with a food's total carb count and then subtract the carbs that (theoretically) do not impact blood sugar levels.

Conventional wisdom holds that dietary fiber and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate can be safely subtracted. More controversial are the roles of sugar alcohols (such as maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol, xylitol and erythritol) in elevating blood sugar levels.

Many people claim no response, while others experience a spike. To be on the safe side, some experts recommend taking the middle ground and counting each gram of sugar alcohol as at least one-half gram of carbs.

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