Sugarcane for diabetes, good or bad?

We are all rather familiar with this sugary sweet food that is beloved in homes across the country known as sugarcane. Sugarcane is a tall, perennial grass that is native to the warm temperate and tropical regions of India, Southeast Asia, and New Guinea. Sugarcane is used for the production of sugar, and it is common knowledge that sugar is absolutely not good for people who are diabetic. However, is that the case for sugarcane as well? Diabetics are often advised to eat fruits, so being a natural product can sugarcane be consumed by diabetics as well? In this article, we will be discussing if sugarcane for diabetes is good or bad.

Common uses of sugarcane

Sugarcane (Saccharum) plants are two to six meters tall and have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks. These stalks are rich in sucrose which accumulates in the stalk inter-nodes. Sugarcane accounts for 79% of sugar produced globally. About 70% of the sugar produced comes from Saccharum officinarum and its hybrids. All sugarcane species can interbreed, and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

  • Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar is extracted from sugarcane in specialized mill factories.
  • It is also processed to make cane sugar, brown sugar, molasses, and jaggery.
  • It is also fermented to produce ethanol.
  • It is used to make rum. In Brazil it’s fermented and used to make a liquor called cachaça.
  • In some regions, people use sugarcane reeds to make pens, mats, screens, and thatch.
  • In some places of South-East Asia, the young, non-expanded flower head of Saccharum edule (duruka) is eaten raw, steamed, or toasted, and prepared in various ways.
  • The plant is also grown for bio-fuel production
  • It is used to produce a juice that is considered to be very good to battle dehydration.

Nutritional facts about sugarcane

Proximate principles and dietary fibre:

  • Moisture (Water) – 85.54 ± 0.99 g
  • Protein (PROTCNT) – 0.16 ± 0.03 g
  • Ash – 0.23 ± 0.02 g
  • Total fat (FATCE) – 0.40 ± 0.05 g
  • Dietary fibre- Total – 0.56 ± 0.09 g
  • Insoluble fibre – 0.40 ± 0.05 g
  • Soluble fibre – 0.16 ± 0.05 g
  • Carbohydrate – 13.11 ± 0.93 g
  • Energy – 242 ± 18 KJ

Starch and individual sugars:

  • Total Available CHO – 12.85 ± 0.80 g
  • Fructose – 0.55 ± 0.22 g
  • Glucose – 2.27 ±0.49 g
  • Sucrose – 10.03 ± 0.33 g
  • Total Free Sugars – 12.85 ± 0.80 g

Organic Acids:

  • Citric Acid – 3.55 ± 1.01 mg
  • Mallic Acid – 2.04 ± 0.49 mg
  • Quinic Acid – 132 ± 6.2 mg
  • Succinic Acid – 459 ± 5.4 mg

Is sugarcane healthy for diabetes?

A 1-cup (240-mL) serving offers:

  • Calories: 183
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 50 grams
  • Fiber: 0–13 grams

Just 1 cup (240 mL) contains a whopping 50 grams of sugar. This is equivalent to almost 12 teaspoons. As per Harvard studies, most adult women should not consume more than 100 calories per day- which is about six teaspoons or 24 grams- from added sugar. At the same time, most men should not consume more than 150 calories per day from added sugar. This adds up to about nine teaspoons or 36 grams. This is also the amount recommended by American Heart Association.

Sugarcane juice boasts up to 13 grams of fibre per cup (240 mL).

Sugar is a carb that the body breaks down into glucose. Some high carb foods and beverages may raise the blood sugar excessively, which is obviously not ideal for those with diabetes. Thus, people with diabetes need to watch their sugar intake carefully.

Although sugarcane juice has a low glycemic index (GI), it still has a high glycemic load (GL) . This means that it would have an outsized impact on the blood sugar levels. GI measures how quickly a food or beverage raises blood sugar. However, GL measures the total amount of blood sugar rise. Thus, GL gives a more accurate picture of th effects of sugarcane juice on blood sugar levels.

So, is it advisable for diabetics to consume sugarcane?

Like most other food items that have high amount of sugar, it is not advisable to eat sugarcane or drink the juice if someone has diabetes. The massive amount of sugar present in it could increase the blood sugar levels drastically.

Some test-tube studies on sugarcane extract suggest that it has polyphenol antioxidants which may help the pancreas to produce more insulin, which is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar. However, this research is preliminary. It cannot be assumed that it is okay for diabetics to consume sugarcane based on this research.

Sugarcane juice is nutritious and provides instant energy and iron. This does not really make it a diabetic-friendly drink. However, it is a great substitute for packaged juices. It is could be especially beneficial for those with Type 2 diabetes if they feel hypoglycemic.

People with diabetes can benefit greatly by consuming sugarcane or sugarcane juice if their blood sugar drops all of a sudden, that is they feel hypoglycemic. People with type-2 diabetes are prone to hypoglycemia especially if they do not consume enough calories after taking insulin. Sugarcane juice can be very beneficial in those cases.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that even if it is not as bad as manufactured or artificial sugar, moderation is the key when it comes to consuming sugarcane or its juice.

Depending on the severity of diabetes, it is advisable for diabetes patients to consume pieces of sugarcane rather than juice. The maximum benefits and fiber can be extracted in the form of pieces without even having to consume large amounts of it.

Risks of consuming excessive sugarcane

It is well known that excess of anything is bad. Similarly, over-consumption of sugarcane can also have adverse effects on health.

  • Sugarcane contains policosanol that causes insomnia, indigestion, dizziness and headaches, and weight loss.
  • Sugarcane oxidises very quickly. Consuming oxidised sugarcane can lead to food poisoning.
  • Sugarcane causes thinning of blood. If somebody is on blood-thinners, consuming sugarcane can cause complications.

Other health benefits of sugarcane

  • Due to the high amount of sugar level, sugarcane juice is great at hydrating the body and being an energy booster for non-diabetes patients.
  • The calcium and phosphorus present in sugarcane help in overcoming deficiencies and tooth decay.
  • It can reduce fatigue and prevent diseases such as urinary infections, constipation, or stomach infections.
  • As per Ayurveda, the antioxidants in sugarcane juice treat jaundice and boost the immune system.
  • Mixing it with aloe vera gel to make a face mask can reduce acne and make skin more radiant.

Diabetes Friendly Drinks Using Sugarcane Juice

Although it is best to consume natural sweeteners occasionally and in moderation, you can consume sugarcane juice even with diabetes. A couple of simple healthy recipes are:

Sugarcane and Ginger Iced Mocktail- 2 Servings

Ingredients

  • Ginger Juice: ⅓ tbsp
  • Sugarcane Juice: 1 ⅔ cup
  • Powdered Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Lemon Juice: ⅛ tbsp
  • Black salt: ⅛ tsp

Method 

  • Combine all the ingredients in a jar/bowl and mix well. Ensure that there are no salt particles or any lumps.
  • Pour the mixture into a mould to be frozen.
  • Freeze the mixture for 2- 3 hours.
  • Now, blend your frozen juice in a mixer until it is slushy.
  • Enjoy your homemade iced mocktail!

Tropical Sugarcane-Coconut Mocktail-2 Servings

Ingredients

  • Sugarcane Juice: 2½ cups
  • Black salt: ½ tsp
  • Coconut Water: 1 ½ cups
  • Mint: 2-4 leaves
  • Lemon slices: 1(optional)

Method

  • Take sugarcane Juice and Coconut Water into any closed jar and shake well.
  • Keep it in the fridge and let it chill.
  • Add black salt to the mixture and mix well.
  • Pour mocktail into glasses and add mint leaves and lemon slices.
  • Your summer mocktail is ready; serve it cool.

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