New Research

During the holidays, the temptations of sugary snacks spell trouble for anyone trying to eat a healthy diet. But not all sweet treats are created equal. A study just published by St. Michael’s Hospital researchers in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes suggests that substituting dried fruit for other starchy ingredients could cut dangerous blood-sugar spikes.

If you have diabetes, you are probably aware that spikes in blood sugar after a meal increase your risk of heart disease or other complications. Even if you don’t have diabetes, the refined sugar in processed foods hits the bloodstream so fast that you don’t feel full, no matter how many calories you’ve eaten (the chocolate box is empty before you know it!). That’s why eating foods that result in a slower rise in blood sugar – low-glycemic-index foods – is a good choice.

The Nutrition and Diabetes study, by Drs. John Sievenpiper and Cyril Kendall of St. Michael’s Hospital, compared the blood-sugar spike caused by four dried fruits – dates, apricots, raisins and sultanas – with processed white bread in 10 healthy participants and found that the fruit had a lower glycemic index than white bread. Most importantly, when half the carbohydrates in the bread were replaced with an equivalent amount of carbohydrates from dried fruit, the blood-sugar spike was much lower.

“People often worry about sources of sugar, and fruits being one of them, but most fruit – in particular tender fruit – has a low glycemic index. What we’re showing here is dried fruits also have a lower glycemic index, so they don’t raise your blood sugar very much,” said Dr. Sievenpiper. 

This is great news for healthy eaters everywhere, especially during the holidays. 

“This study finds people can use dried fruits as a low-glycemic-index food source to replace higher glycemic-index foods, so as a snack food, for example. Dried fruit is preferred to a grain-based cracker or snack,” said Dr. Sievenpiper.

Dr. Sievenpiper said longer and larger randomized trials will be needed to confirm whether dried fruit can contribute to sustainable improvements in glycemic control, and whether other dried fruits have a similar GI.

This work received funding from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council Foundation and the National Dried Fruit Trade Association. All study foods were provided by the National Dried Fruit Trade Association.

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