Coconut palm sugar was determined by the Phillipine Food and Nutrition Research Institute to be a low glycemic index (GI) food. To determine the GI, the researchers gave 50 grams of coconut sugar to human subjects, then collected blood samples periodically over the next 2 hours. They analyzed the blood for glucose levels and used that data to calculate GI. Using this procedure, they determined the GI of coconut sugar was 35.
What are glycemic index and glycemic load?
Glycemic index (GI) is a measurement of the actual effects carbohydrates have on the body. Thus, it looks at the type of carbohydrates consumed and how it affects blood glucose levels, rather than simply focusing on the amount of carbohydrates consumed. GI informs as to how quickly a carbohydrate is converted to sugar instead of focusing on the quantity. Foods with a GI less than 55 are considered low-GI foods; 56-59 is considered the range for a medium GI food; 70 or higher is indicative of a high-GI food. Glycemic load, on the other hand, considers both the amount and type of carbohydrate consumed.
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Foods that are low GI also have low glycemic load, but foods with higher GI can have anywhere from a low to high glycemic load. Thus, eating foods low on the GI is the best way to control glucose levels. This makes it a preferable diet for those with type II diabetes. A low-GI diet has also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce weight gain.
The benefit of low GI foods
Coconut sugar has a GI of 35, making it a low GI food. Low-GI foods can help prevent and treat a number of health complications. For example, by replacing high-GI foods with low-GI foods, one can help to manage blood glucose levels, which is especially important for those with diabetes. Many countries use low-GI foods as part of medical treatment. In fact, eating a low-GI diet can reduce one's chances of developing type II diabetes.
High insulin levels have been shown to increase one's risk for cancer. A number of studies have also found links between glycemic load, sugar intake, and cancer. Thus, eating a low-GI diet can reduce your risk of a number of cancers, such as prostate, breast, colon, and pancreatic.
Heart disease risk is also increased by eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and high-GI foods. High insulin levels increase blood pressure, raise triglyceride levels, and reduce levels of HDL (the healthy form of cholesterol). All of these factors make blood clots more likely to form. Eating a low-GI diet can prevent hypoglycemia, which occurs due to excessive insulin levels after eating. These high levels cause the body's cells to take sugar from the blood to the point where the blood is sugar-deficient. Because low-GI foods cause a more gradual increase in blood insulin, it reduces the risk of blood sugar dipping to hypoglycemic levels.
Low-GI foods also reduce the risk of obesity. They allow your body to feel satiated for longer after eating, because they don't cause a rapid spike and then a quick fall in blood glucose levels. They are digested slowly, allowing for a long, sustained increase in blood sugar.