Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels. Although some people may have blood sugar levels that are slightly higher than normal, it has to reach a certain level for it to be considered diabetes. However, this is an early sign of a person’s risk of developing the disease. People with this condition have to live with the disease all their lives, and thus have to make several adjustments in their lifestyles to manage the symptoms and complications brought on by their condition. In this article, we’ll be discussing if sugarcane should be a part of the diet for patients with diabetes or prediabetes.
1. What is Sugarcane?
Sugarcane is a subtropical/tropical grass that originated in Papua, New Guinea and spread throughout Southeast Asia, India, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the southern United States because of human migration and the slave trade. The juice from the sugar cane’s stalk is highly prized and is the source of 70 percent of the world’s sugar. Sugarcane is mainly used to make sugar. Because it is used to make 70 percent of the world’s sugar supply, many sugarcane species have been bred to be high-yielding. Along with making sugar, sugar cane roots and stems are used to treat skin and urinary tract infections. One folk remedy combines sugarcane juice with dry ginger to stop hiccups, another uses equal parts sugar and yellow soap to treat boils. Sugarcane is also used to prepare a host of industrial chemicals as well as hair-removing products, skin exfoliators and soap.
2. Benefits of Sugarcane
Sugarcane and its derivatives have several known health benefits when consumed in moderate quantities. Chewing on sugarcane or consuming sugarcane water or syrup can help treat urinary tract issues and provide a boost of antioxidants, along with providing benefits to pregnant women and diabetic patients. It actually has diuretic properties that can help remove excess salt and water to help the kidneys function properly. Sugarcane is also full of antioxidants that are essential to building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Antioxidants help combat free radicals (molecules that cause damage to cells) that can worsen several medical problems like diabetes, malaria, myocardial infarction, and skin cancer. Although sugar is often associated with weight gain, consuming some sugarcane can boost your metabolism and moderate weight gain in pregnant women.
3. Sugar in Sugarcane
Diabetic patients are urged to choose direct sugarcane derivatives over refined sugars to help regulate their glycemic index. Sugarcane molasses concentrate has been found to lower glucose and inhibit the production of insulin. Sugarcane can also be consumed as a purgative to help treat high blood pressure. Although it provides several nutrients, sugarcane juice remains high in sugar and carbs:
A 1-cup (240-mL) serving offers:
Protein: 0 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Sugar: 50 grams
Fiber: 0–13 grams
4. Sugarcane and Diabetes
As you can see, just 1 cup (240 mL) contains a whopping 50 grams of sugar. That’s about 12 teaspoons! This is significantly more than the 9 teaspoons and 6 teaspoons of total sugar per day that the American Heart Association recommends for men and women. While sugarcane juice has varying amounts of fiber, it’s still best to get fiber from plant foods rather than a sweet beverage. If you want a beverage with fiber, it’s best to choose a powdered fiber supplement without added sugar and mix it with water. Sugar is a carb that your body breaks down into glucose. Some high carb foods and beverages may raise your blood sugar excessively, especially if you have or are at risk for diabetes. Thus, people with diabetes should watch their sugar intake carefully.
Healthy Diet for Diabetes Patients
A healthy type 2 diabetes diet includes healthy carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains; low-fat dairy; heart-healthy fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines; and good fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil. But feeling your best when you have diabetes isn’t just about choosing the right foods, it’s also about limiting or avoiding foods that can spike your blood sugar and increase your risk of complications. You want to eat a balanced, healthful diet, and avoid refined carbohydrates, which can raise blood sugar.