Glucose is a simple sugar that travels in the bloodstream and provides your cells with a source of energy. Blood glucose levels are controlled by insulin, which is released from your pancreas. Too much or too little blood glucose leads to behavioral changes and health problems. Some foods are quickly metabolized into glucose, which can lead to spikes in insulin release and fluctuating blood glucose levels, whereas others are broken down slower and cause less imbalance. The impact a compound has on blood glucose levels is measured by a glycemic index. Palm sugar has a relatively low glycemic index, which makes it a healthier choice for diabetics. Consult with a dietitian about how foods impact blood glucose levels.
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The glycemic index is a comparative measure of how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into glucose. It takes into account the quality of the carbohydrate in a food and ignores its quantity. The glycemic load is a different measurement that considers the quality and the quantity of carbohydrate content in a particular food. In general, foods that have a low glycemic index value usually have a low glycemic load, whereas foods with an intermediate or high glycemic index value can range from a very low to a very high glycemic load, depending on the quantity you eat. The glycemic index is useful for comparing the impact that different sweeteners and foods have on blood glucose levels.
The glycemic index is a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the impact of eating pure glucose. As such, lower numbers represent less impact on blood glucose levels and generally characterize carbohydrates that are slower to metabolize. Index values of 55 or less are considered to have low impact on blood glucose levels and insulin release; values between 56 and 69 are considered to have a moderate impact, whereas index values of 70 or greater represent substantial impact. Food and sweeteners with low glycemic indexes are recommended for diabetics and obese people.
Palm sugar and syrup is derived from the sap of a certain species of palm trees. It is made by collecting the sap from the palm tree, reducing it by boiling, then letting it dry into granules. Palm sugar is not coconut sugar, which is made from the flowers of the coconut palm. Palm sugar is popular in Polynesian and Southeast Asian countries and noted for its health benefits. According to the book “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach,” palm sugar has a glycemic index value of 35 and is a source of many essential minerals. Some sources rate palm sugar a little higher, up to 41, but some varieties are mixed with cane sugar and are not pure.
Compared to many other sweeteners, palm sugar has a relatively low impact on blood glucose levels and is more appropriate for diabetics, who either do not produce enough insulin or are insulin resistant. For comparison, regular table sugar has a glycemic index value of 68 and honey is rated at 55. Furthermore, compared to brown sugar and table sugar, palm sugar is higher in potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, nitrogen and sodium. But, just because palm sugar impacts blood glucose comparatively less, does not mean that there should not be limits on its consumption. Eating excessive amounts of palm sugar at a time would raise blood glucose levels too high, so moderation is the key.
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
- Human Metabolism: Functional Diversity and Integration; J. Ramsey Bronk
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw et al.