Tag: glycemic index

Coconut Sugar: Is It Healthier Sweet Stuff?

Coconut Sugar

Coconut Sugar?  What do you get when you cross my 4-year-old, four-legged furry kid with sweetener? 

You get my very own sweet sugar baby – my dog Coconut!

Coconut Sugar: Is It Healthier Sweet Stuff?

Sorry for being corny—again. 

But in all seriousness, one of the most common questions I get asked as a certified nutritional therapist and creator of The Chef V Organic Cleanse is this: Is coconut sugar healthier than regular sugar?

Let’s dive in and find out what the research says…

Coconut Sugar: Is It Healthier Sweet Stuff?

What Is It?

Actually, before we follow the science on coconut sugar, let’s cover some basic facts on the natural alternative sweetener. 

It does not come from the meaty white flesh of the nuts. It’s also not produced from the husky shell. And it’s not made from the liquid within the nut (coconut water). 

So what is it made from? It’s made by dehydrating the sap contained in the flower bud of the stem of coconut palm trees. You could say that the sap is the circulating life force or the blood of the tree. And just like the blood circulating through your veins contains minerals and trace minerals that are vital for energy, coconut sap is rich in minerals. But we’ll get to that in a bit…

Coconut blossom sugar, is all-natural. Although it comes from the coconut palm tree, do not confuse it with palm sugar. Regular palm sugar is sourced from a different type of tree than coconut sugar. 

True coconut sugar resembles granulated raw brown sugar. And if you’re an animal lover or vegan, there’s one big plus about using it instead of regular table sugar. 

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), table sugar is sometimes whitened with bone char. What’s bone char, you ask? It’s charred cattle bones. Think about that next time you sweeten your coffee at your favorite diner. And according to PETA, brown sugar can also be processed with bone char. Brown sugar, which is not healthier than table sugar (it’s just as refined) is colored with molasses, so don’t get fooled by regular brown sugar. 

But coconut sweetener is a healthier brown sugar that is not refined and therefore does not get processed with bone char. 

below, bone char pills made from burning beef and pig bones

Bone char

Benefits

I found an interesting study published in Food Science & Nutrition, co-authored by researchers from Malaysia, a country thought to be the first to commercialize it for the U.S. market. 

The researchers concluded “Coconut sap could be served as a potential healthier sugar source compared with sugar palm and sugarcane as it carries more minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins.”

Another reason the researchers think it is a healthier alternative to refined sugar is that it has a lower glycemic index. The GI ranks the rise in blood glucose after the consumption of carbohydrates on a scale from 0–100.  A food with low GI raises blood glucose less than that of the food with high GI. 

Coconut sugar’s GI ranks about 35, which is only 10 points higher than fructose from whole fruits. In comparison, refined sugar has a GI that’s almost twice as high as coconut sugar. 

For this reason, the researchers suggest that coconut palm nectar (another way to say coconut sugar) can be part of the solution in curtailing the diabetes and obesity epidemic. 

Vitamins & Minerals

The researchers detected vitamin C, B1, B3, B4, B2, and B10 in samples. Of those, vitamin C, B3, B4, B2, and B10 in coconut nectar were significantly higher than in table sugar. In addition, coconut sugar contained higher levels of three important electrolytes: potassium, sodium and magnesium. Many Americans are deficient in magnesium, a mineral that’s important for helping to relax muscles. 

By the way, you can also get the benefits of these minerals from coconut water, which is why I use both coconut sugar and coconut water in several of my recipes. 

And in comparison to regular sugar, coconut nectar is relatively high in other minerals such as zinc, calcium and iron. 

Coconut Water

For Gut Health?

Another reason to swap regular table sugar for coconut is that it contains a type of fiber called inulin. This special fiber acts like fertilizer for a type of friendly bacteria in your gut called bifidobacteria, which is a common live culture added to yogurt. 

Inulin is considered a post-biotic fiber. Postbiotics are the healthy short-chain fatty acids released by probiotics. Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut and immune system, but it’s actually the postbiotics that make the magic happen!

Is It Healthier: Chef V’s Verdict

Now don’t get me wrong … even though I think it is healthier than regular table sugar, I don’t rely on it to get my daily dose of essential minerals and trace minerals. The dark leafy greens in Organic Green Drink provide me with an excellent low-sugar source of minerals without spiking my blood sugar. 

If you have type 2 diabetes, don’t get fooled into thinking that it is a miracle sweetener. It may have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar but that doesn’t mean it gives you a free pass to go crazy with it. 

So don’t use it as a multivitamin, antioxidant supplement or probiotic. Instead, just like all other sweeteners, use it sparingly. But when I do use the sweet stuff, I reach for COCONUT and a little coconut sugar. 

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load: Know the Facts!

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load: Know the Facts!

Glycemic index and Glycemic load: Know the Facts.  Understanding will help you choose the healthiest foods and avoid  the traps of false advertising. Chef V explains. Vital information for people with diabetes and those who want to avoid getting it.

image with permission diabetesmealplans.com

Just the facts/bottom line:
Pick foods with a Glycemic index under 60
and a Glycemic Load under 15.
Look for lower numbers.

I feel sorry for carrots. Watermelon, too. You see, these two healthy foods are often vilified by health extremists for supposedly having too much sugar. They argue that carrots and watermelon rank very high on the glycemic index.

Before I come to the defense of carrots and watermelon, let me explain what the glycemic index is….

What is it and can it help manage diabetes

Put simply, the glycemic index is a ranking of foods (and drinks) with carbs. A score of 70 or greater is high. And a score of 56-69 is medium on the glycemic index (GI). A low score is 55 or less. The higher the number, the more quickly the carbs in foods converts into sugar in your blood. Veggies like broccoli have a score of 0. Watermelon ranks 72. And raw carrots is almost at the top of the charts: 93. Considering that a croissant ranks 95, does that mean having a carrot is almost as bad as indulging in a French pastry?

No, it doesn’t. While the GI can be a useful tool for managing diabetes, it does have some shortcomings.

top 5 ways to use Green Drink #1

But it has Limitations

The Glycemic Index measures the potential effects of carbs on your blood sugar within a two-hour window after eating. What’s the problem with this? Well, if you have diabetes, eating carb-rich foods can affect your blood sugar levels for up to four hours.

Second, the GI often does not take into account the precise amount of carbs eaten at one time. When the GI was established in the early 1980s, the researchers created it to analyze the effect of carbs on blood sugar (glucose) like a bell curve. In other words, it’s not scientifically very accurate. And not just because it’s only a two-hour window. But also, because it measures the food following a 12-hour fast. Moreover, the amount of carbs that it tests to rank it on the GI scale is approximately 50 grams. Thus, depending on the food, even though it might rank high on the GI, it doesn’t mean it’s going to spike your blood sugar.

A more accurate measure to use is the glycemic load. The glycemic load takes into account how much carbohydrate is eaten in one sitting. That’s the biggest and most important difference between glycemic index and glycemic load.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values for Selected Foods

FoodGI
(Glucose=100)
Serving SizeCarbohydrate* per Serving (g)GL per Serving
Russet potato, baked
111
1 medium
30
33
Potato, white, boiled (average)
82
1 medium
30
25
Puffed rice cakes
82
3 cakes
21
17
Cornflakes
79
1 cup
26
20
Jelly beans
78
1 oz
28
22
Doughnut
76
1 medium
23
17
Watermelon
76
1 cup
11
8
Soda crackers
74
4 crackers
17
12
Bread, white-wheat flour
71
1 large slice
14
10
Pancake
67
6″ diameter
58
39
Rice, white, boiled
66
1 cup
53
35
Table sugar (sucrose)
63
2 tsp
10
6
Dates, dried
62
2 oz
40
25
Spaghetti, white, boiled (20 min)
58
1 cup
44
25
Honey, pure
58
1 Tbsp
17
10
Pineapple, raw
58
½ cup
19
11
Banana, raw
55
1 cup
24
13
Maple syrup, Canadian
54
1 Tbsp
14
7
Parsnips, peeled, boiled
52
½ cup
10
5
Rice, brown, boiled
50
1 cup
42
20
Spaghetti, white, boiled (average)
46
1 cup
44
20
Whole-grain pumpernickel bread
46
1 large slice
12
5
All-Bran™ cereal
45
1 cup
21
10
Spaghetti, whole-meal, boiled
32
1 cup
37
14
Orange, raw
42
1 medium
11
5
Apple, raw
39
1 medium
15
6
Pear, raw
38
1 medium
11
4
Skim milk
33
8 fl oz
13
4
Carrots, boiled
33
½ cup
4
1
Lentils, dried, boiled
29
1 cup
24
7
Kidney beans, dried, boiled
28
1 cup
29
8
Pearled barley, boiled
28
1 cup
38
11
Cashews
25
1 oz
9
2
Peanuts
18
1 oz
6
1
*Amount of available carbohydrates in a food serving that excludes indigestible carbohydrates, i.e., dietary fiber.

Why the glycemic load is more accurate

You can consider the glycemic load as the glycemic index 2.0. And the three tiers of the glycemic load (GL) you should be familiar with are 0-10, which is low; 11-19, medium; and 20 and above which is high.

Unlike the glycemic index, If a certain food ranks high on the glycemic load scale, it’s safe to assume it’s not good for diabetes management. The GL is figured out by taking the amount of grams of carbs in a food and multiplying that by the food’s glycemic index score. Then, you take that number and divide by 100.

But you know what, don’t worry about potentially confusing diet math right now. What’s more important is understanding this biggest difference between glycemic index vs load. And let’s use as an example the one veggie and fruit that often get a bum rap. I’m referring of course to carrots and watermelon.

Remember, watermelon ranks high on the GI at 72. But it’s glycemic load is low, only 7. And carrots, despite having a potentially blood-sugar spiking score in the 90s only has a GL score of 1. Yes, that’s not a typo. In other words, according to the glycemic load score, carrots have little risk of converting into blood sugar.

How can this disparity exist? Isn’t it really confusing if you’re trying to manage your diabetes? The answer to the second question: yes, totally. I feel your pain. When I was studying for my certified nutrition therapy coursework, I was confused by the difference between the glycemic index vs load. But, again, the simple difference between the two is that the glycemic index does not take into account serving sizes. That means if you only eat one large raw carrot, that carrot may have a negligible effect on your blood sugar.

Carrots: Glycemic Index VS Load: Why the glycemic load is more accurate

More reasons why the index isn’t the holy grail of diabetes management

The reason why the glycemic load of watermelon and carrots is so low is that both of them contain no fat and protein. Foods that contain fat and protein have a lower glycemic index. Because theoretically, protein and especially dietary fat can reduce the effect of carbs converting into sugar. This is why peanut butter M&Ms have a relatively-low score on the GI: 33. Does that mean you should eat more peanut butter M&Ms and less watermelon and carrots? Of course not. This exemplifies how the glycemic index isn’t always a great tool for managing diabetes.

In addition, the glycemic index as well as the glycemic load do not take into account the cooking methods of a particular food. For example, did you know that al dente pasta has a lower glycemic load than soft, mushy noodles? That’s because your digestive system has to work harder to break down al dente pasta. Also, the indexes don’t account for how ripe or raw a food is. Take bananas, for example. Green-tipped bananas (eaten with nothing else) will cause less of an insulin response than a really ripe banana.

That’s why yet another index, the insulin index, might be an even better determinant of the effect of a food on your blood sugar level. According to the insulin index, pasta really isn’t that bad for you. That’s not to say if you have diabetes and you’re doing your best to reverse it, you should eat it. But one small serving of it, especially if you drizzle it with olive oil and have a lean, small portion of meat on the side, is relatively low on the insulin index. How can this be? Well, it takes longer than white bread and other starchy carbs for pasta to break down into sugar.

Insulin Index of Common Foods

Index VS Load: conclusion

As always, the emphasis on eating should focus on foods rich in fiber (which also slows down the conversion of carbs into glucose), especially leafy green and cruciferous veggies (such as those in Certified Organic Green Drinks). And if you’re trying to normalize your blood sugar levels, your meals should satisfy you enough so that you can go several hours in between meals without feeling hungry. That means you need enough dietary fat and protein to balance out the carbs.

And this is a topic for another blog post about diabetes management, but in general, you can safely eat a moderate amount of fruit without worrying about it skyrocketing your blood sugar. Try to eat a handful of nuts along with the fruit. The protein and fat in the nuts will further slow down any potential for the fruit sugar converting to sugar in your blood.

But also keep in mind that if you eat a huge portion of meat, some of that protein can be converted into blood sugar. This is another limitation of the glycemic index. According to the index, meat ranks 0. That’s because meat doesn’t have any carbs.

Another reason the glycemic index isn’t a panacea for weight loss and diabetes management is two completely different foods can rank the same on the GI. But one of those foods can produce an insulin response that skyrockets your blood sugar level whereas the other food can have a much lesser insulin response.

My predictions 2021 – Health & Wellness

Sample Code

My predictions 2021 – Health & Wellness

Chef V New Years

Sample Code

Food trends usually quickly come and go. I remember about a decade ago, exotic superfruits like acai, goji berries and mangosteen were all the rage for a couple years. Then it seemed like overnight, coconut oil was king. Fast forward even more recently and fermented drinks like kombucha flooded farmers markets and supermarket chains. Even alcoholic kombucha surged in popularity.

But I think the biggest health trends of 2021 will be less fly-by-night and won’t be dictated by more youthful market drivers like kombucha (“booch”) and fast food vegan burgers. Instead, next year’s trends in nutrition and wellness will be more permanent and predicated on people’s motivation to stay healthy during the pandemic.

So scoot your boot, booch, and make room for things that are going to exert a more positive impact on immunity and overall wellness.

Sample Code

high versus low glycemic index

Sample Code

#1: Low-Glycemic Diets

Back in the summer, even though the pandemic was only a few months old, it seemed like things were a lot less critical compared to now.

That’s because in the summer, people spend more time outdoors and aren’t challenged by viral infections nearly as much as in the winter.

But during the summer, I cautioned that it’s critical to pay attention to blood sugar levels and eat a low-glycemic diet so that your immune system stays strong in the transition to fall, which is when people get hit the hardest by viruses.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing a dramatic manifestation of that with Covid infections spiking.

Research shows that the virus that causes Covid-19 makes copies of itself by feasting on sugar. That’s not surprising as many viruses use sugar to reproduce. Data also shows that people with type 2 diabetes who have high blood sugar levels (in other words, those who have diabetes and aren’t controlling their blood sugar) are more at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms and dying from it.

Despite the promise of a Covid vaccine, many natural health-minded people realize that a vaccine alone does not provide an injection of wellness. I predict that more people will commit to eliminating added sugars from their diet.

I don’t know if the prediction will come true. I hope it does, obviously. Maybe I should retitle this post, Chef V’s Top Hopes For 2021. Nah, let’s stick with the prediction. I’m optimistic more people are going to experience a wake-up call and start taking charge of their health!

#2: Symbiotics For Gut Health

You don’t have to be a psychic to predict that probiotics will remain a major nutrition and wellness trend. But not everybody is as well informed about natural health as you are. Think about the millions of people who still are unaware of the link between gut health and immunity, mood stability, sleep quality, and a long list of other wellness factors.

I wrote about the importance of having good gut health a few years ago. But my thinking and knowledge about gut health has evolved since then. I no longer think that the secret to obtaining gut health is as simple as popping a probiotic pill. Not that I really ever thought that; I know that you can’t eat junk food and think that taking a probiotic pill will miraculously wipe out the harmful effects of a nutrient-poor diet.

But what I didn’t realize back when I wrote the post is that there are certain foods that are the cream of the crop for feeding the good bacteria in your gut. These foods contain prebiotic fiber, and I revealed them here.

I predict that in 2021 and for the next several years, symbiotic supplements are going to become a household name. Symbiotic supplements contain both prebiotic fiber and probiotics.

The reason you can’t achieve good gut health if you eat lots of processed food, even if you take a probiotic supplement is that without prebiotic fiber, your good bacteria has nothing to feed on; your gut’s friendly microorganisms won’t be able to flourish.

As more people delve into the inner workings of gut health, knowing that achieving it is essential for a healthy immune system, I expect symbiotics to be a booming business.

By the way, green leafy veggies like the 7 different kinds in my Organic Green Drink (delivered to your home for your convenience) are excellent sources of prebiotic fiber!

Sample Code

#3: Mushrooms

As a certified nutritional therapist, I’ve been aware of the therapeutic benefits of edible mushroom for years. Many people, however, equate mushrooms with a squishy, tasteless pizza topping or afterthought in a stir-fry dish. But mushrooms are already a big trend, and I expect fabulous fungi to get placed even higher on the superfood A-list.

The pandemic has more people seeking out foods that have anti-viral, immune-boosting capabilities. And mushrooms are all that and more. Some nutrition brands are making a killing peddling mushroom powder. I prefer to eat whole mushrooms but some people may prefer taking a mushroom powder supplement; eating fleshy, earthy-tasting mushrooms can be an acquired taste.

Obviously, eating mushrooms or taking mushroom powder is no guarantee for Covid prevention. But mushrooms truly are an immune-boosting superstar. If you’re not including them in your diet, start doing it now.

Sample Code

#4: Vitamin D

One year after the pandemic started making headlines, most people are aware of the connection between vitamin D and the severity of Covid symptoms. People whose lives have been tragically cut short by Covid are more likely to be vitamin D deficient. The alarming thing is that 9 out of 10 people may at the very least have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.

I talked about the connection between Vitamin D and the immune system earlier this year. (Read about it here.) The big takeaway from the article, in regards to Covid is that having enough vitamin D is an easy and effective way to reduce your risk of developing a respiratory infection.

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if you need to take a supplement is to get a vitamin D blood test. You can either get it from your doctor or order one online.

Vitamin D research organizations recommend taking more D than what the federal government recommends, which is 400 – 800 IUs per day. Instead, aim for 4000 to 5000 IUs, especially in winter when it’s next to impossible to synthesize enough active vitamin D from the sun.

The importance of vitamin D has been well documented for years. But because of the pandemic, it’s going to be at the forefront of many people’s minds for months if not years to come.

Sample Code

Sample Code

#5: Adapting to Stress

Right before Thanksgiving, I recommended doing these 5 things everyday to stay healthy during the holidays. One of them was supplementing with adaptogenic herbs. And I’m here to remind you to take adaptogens every single day.

In addition to balancing the immune system, and regulating blood sugar levels, adaptogens help the body get back in balance by neutralizing the harmful effects of stress. Adaptogenic herbs are the very best therapeutic plants Mother Nature has to offer.

They may not magically eliminate the stressors from your life, but they help your body and mind and even your spirit cope with stress. Adaptogens can improve stamina, libido, concentration, and sleep quality, all while helping you feel more relaxed and calm.

Conclusion

The toll that the pandemic is taking on people’s mental health is staggering. I realize that those who have lost jobs might not be able to afford to supplement with adaptogenic herbs, probiotics, vitamin D, not to mention vitamin C and zinc, all of which contribute to a healthy immune system.

But at the very least, eating a diet consisting of real food with no added sugars, and maintaining a daily meditation or deep breathing practice can help keep you healthy. Hopefully, these healthy habits will not only be trending in 2021, but will endure for the long haul.

© 2021 Chef V, LLC.