Sugarcane and Diabetes
As a person with diabetes, understanding different types of food and how much of each you consume is essential for keeping the condition under control. Like many other sugar-rich foods, sugarcane is considered a poor choice for persons with diabetes. But can you combine the intake of sugarcane and diabetes management?
This article provides an outlook on the possible benefits associated with the intake of sugarcane and its derivatives, as well as potential health risks that could arise when diabetics consume it.
Nutritional Content of Sugarcane
Sugarcane offers a variety of nutrients. You get the following nutrients from a 3.5-oz serving of sugarcane juice:
- 375 calories
- 100 g of carbohydrate
- 100 g of sugar
- 0 g of protein
- 0 g of fat
- 0 g of fiber
Although high in carbs and calories, sugar cane juice lacks protein, fiber, and fat. However, some brands pack as high as 13 g of fiber per cup. More worrisome is its high sugar content of 100 g per 3.5 oz serving — 20 teaspoons. This is significantly higher than the American Heart Association's daily recommendations of six and nine teaspoons for women and men, respectively.
Sugarcane's “Potential” Health Benefits for Diabetes
Sugar cane and its derivatives are very high in sugar and are not advised for consumption by people with diabetes where possible. However, when consumed in small amounts, research on sugarcane and diabetes has proven this plant to possess several tentative health benefits, as we would see below. One of such is in managing hypertension—a prevalent diabetes complication—when taken as a purgative.
- Packs Antioxidants
Sugarcane is high in antioxidants, which are necessary to form and sustain a healthy immune system. Specifically, antioxidants aid in the fight against free radicals that can exacerbate several medical conditions, including diabetes.
- Regulates Blood Sugar
To better manage their blood glucose concentration, people with diabetes should consume direct sugarcane derivatives rather than refined sugars. Sugarcane molasses concentrate has been proven to reduce blood sugar levels and limit insulin production.
- Boosts Body Metabolism
Although sugar is frequently associated with weight gain, sugarcane consumption can enhance your metabolism and help pregnant women maintain a healthy weight gain — essential if they have diabetes. Sugarcane juice combined with ginger has been shown to help pregnant women avoid morning sickness while strengthening their immune systems.
- High in Carbohydrates and Other Minerals
Another key health benefit of sugarcane is that it is high in healthy carbs, iron, potassium, calcium, and other essential elements, which are critical for people with diabetes. Moreover, it aids the replenishment of plasma and bodily fluids, as well as the alleviation of dryness and weariness.
- Low Glycemic Index
Sugarcane has a low glycemic index (GI) of 30–40. However, the GI has a drawback in that it only estimates the ‘pace’ at which the food in question raises the blood sugar content. The glycemic load (GL), on the other hand, is a better indication of the total blood sugar increase that accompanies the intake of the said food.
Since sugarcane has a high GL, it would considerably impact the body’s sugar levels. However, it’s still a better option compared to refined sugar. Nonetheless, you should seek your doctor’s advice before taking it.
- Contains Polyphenols
Polyphenols, including anthocyanins, catechins, and flavins, are commonly found in sugarcane polyphenol extract (SPE). These compounds can restore insulin synthesis in impaired beta cells while inhibiting intestinal uptake of glucose and fructose.
The Downsides of Consuming Sugarcane if You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, sugarcane, like other high-sugar foods, is a poor choice. Even though sugarcane contains more nutrients than refined sugar, too much of it might have negative consequences. A high-sugar diet is associated with several problems, including the following:
- Weight gain: Sugarcane has a high-calorie content, leading to weight gain if consumed excessively; thus, it should be taken in moderation, especially by people with diabetes.
- High blood pressure: Even though sugarcane packs more nutrients than refined sugar, excessive consumption can cause high blood pressure.
- Heart disease: The risk of heart disease rises as a result of high-sugar diets.
- Sugarcane contains policosanol, which can cause dizziness, stomach trouble, sleeplessness, and migraines when ingested in high quantities.
Although sugarcane contains natural sugar and offers potential health benefits to diabetes, it is still sugar in the end. If you have diabetes, your best bet would be to steer clear of sugarcane and its derivatives like sugarcane juice.
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