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Glycemic Index of Prunes
By Dr. Renae Norton

I love prunes, really, really love them.  In fact, I cannot stop eating them.

Yum, organic unprocessed divinely sweet prunes.  I simply can’t get enough.

I was beginning to think I might really have a problem. I assumed that because prunes are so sweet and juicy, they were also very high in sugar. 

 I was so wrong!

Turns out that in addition to being magic little morsels of deliciousness, prunes actually have a very low glycemic index/load, which means that they do not raise blood sugar levels enough to throw you out of Ketosis. What? How is that possible, and more importantly, how did I not know this? 

What is Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?

Before I explain, let’s define a few terms. First, remember what causes weight gain?  Not fat! Sugar. Or more specifically, blood sugar levels. The glycemic index of a particular food is a simple way of telling us how much of an impact the sugar in a food will have on our blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, i.e. typically 70 and above, the more likely it is to raise our blood sugar levels sufficiently for us to gain weight. By consuming foods with a lower glycemic index, say 55 or lower, we are less likely to gain weight, as low glycemic foods do not provoke a quick rise in blood sugar. 

Say it with me, “Sugar causes weight gain, not fat.” That’s why people on Keto who are eating 70% of their calories in fat lose weight.

Please note, most vegetables are lower in their sugar content than fruits.  Duh, right? Many are also higher in their fiber content, making them even lower in terms of GI/GL and the potential for weight gain.  But we are not talking about vegetables today, we are talking about prunes.

Guess what the glycemic index of the prune is? According to Harvard Medical School reports [1], the glycemic index for one serving of prunes (60 grams, or about six prunes) is 29. What? Keep in mind that this glycemic index is for unprocessed, unsweetened, dried prunes.  Don’t even think about buying the commercially sold prunes that are artificially sweetened, flavored and/or processed, as they have a much higher glycemic load.  Your prunes should have one ingredient, prunes.

What is the glycemic index?

The glycemic index (GI) tells us how quickly our foods containing carbohydrates raise our blood sugar levels when eaten by themselves. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) [2], GI scores are rated as follows:

  • Low: 55 or below
  • Moderate: 56 to 69
  • High: 70 and above

The lower the GI score, the more slowly the rise in blood sugar, which can help the body better manage post-meal changes, preventing glucose spikes, and ultimately weight gain.

Glycemic Load

A more useful estimation of the food-blood sugar effect is the glycemic load (GL), which includes not only the GI, but also how much of the food you ate. In other words, this calculation takes into account the GI, plus the grams of carbohydrates of the food based upon how much of it you are eating.  This gives us an even better estimate of the impact of a particular food.  Makes sense if you think about it.  For example, the food with the highest glycemic index is rice.  But if you only eat a tablespoon of it, it will have a far less damaging impact on your GL than if you eat a bowl of it. (Who are we kidding, whoever eats a tablespoon of rice?)

I typically have 6 prunes as a part of my wholesome, healthy breakfast every morning. Breakfast includes coffee or tea (I alternate), raw 100% grass-fed cow’s milk, a 100% grass-fed beef stick (warmed in hot water) and an organic, hard-boiled 100% pastured egg (also warmed in a cup of hot water) and of course, the prunes.  

Let’s do the math on my beloved prunes using these levels for evaluating GL:

  • Low: 0 to 10
  • Moderate: 11 to 19
  • High: 20 and above

A serving of prunes = 6 and is 60 grams of carbohydrate.  If we multiply this by a GI of 29 we get 1740, and divide by 100, we get a GL of 17.4. This puts me in the moderate range for glycemic load at breakfast.  Well that does not sound very good….Not so fast.

Turns out there are other things which can bring the GI of a food down, one of which is eating fat with the carb.  My beef sticks have 5 grams of fat.  I also use a tablespoon of coconut oil in my coffee/tea which has 14 grams of fat and I drink 2/3 cup of raw milk which has 7 grams of fat, plus another ½ cup of almond milk in my coffee for another 1.75 grams of fat, totaling 27.5 grams of fat.  When I eat the prunes with a moderate GL along with the fat in the rest of the meal, the GL drops down into the low range. All right!

I would also point out that after breakfast, I generally never eat more than 2 prunes, and usually only 1 at a time, for the rest of the day.  The problem is that I do that 4 or 5 times a day, and it isn’t “planned.”  Even though I am eating a very healthy lunch and dinner snacking on the prunes feels very addicting. Still in terms of blood sugars, for 2 prunes which are 20 grams of carbohydrate multiplied by 29 which equals 580 divided by 100, the GL is 5.8 and half that, or 2.9, if I only eat 1 prune, which happens more often than not. 

The foods that I eat for the rest of the day tend to be higher in protein, lower in fat, and the carbs are all from fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) that have a naturally low GL.  In other words, the 10 prunes add 230 calories but do not necessarily raise blood sugar levels in a way that might cause weight gain or insulin and glucose problems.  Also, the prunes are very filling and satisfying meaning that they are usually my only snack.

Turns out that there are some other delicious fruits with a low GI/GL:

  • Grapefruit
    GI score: 25
    GL score: 3
  • Dried apricots
    GI score: 32
    GL score: 9
  • Pears
    GI score: 38
    GL score: 4
  • Apples
    GI score: 39
    GL score: 5
  • Oranges
    GI score: 40
    GL score: 5

Reference Links

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