Why Prunes Are The Perfect (And Yummiest!) Treat For Diabetics & Those Maintaining A Healthy Weight

Photo: SMarina/Shutterstock
prunes in a bowl

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

Yummy, 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 and glycemic load, which means that they don't 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?

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The many reasons prunes are the perfect treat for maintaining a healthy weight.

What are glycemic index and glycemic load?

First, remember what causes weight gain: It's not fat! It's 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 the Keto diet eat 70 percent of their calories in fat and lose weight.

Note that most vegetables are lower in their sugar content than fruits. 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're not talking about vegetables today — we're talking about prunes.

Guess what the glycemic index of the prune is? According to Harvard Medical School reports, the glycemic index for one serving of prunes (60 grams or about six prunes) is 29. 

Keep in mind that this glycemic index is for unprocessed, unsweetened, and dried prunes.

Don’t buy the commercially sold prunes that are artificially sweetened, flavored, and processed, as they have a much higher glycemic load. Your prunes should have one ingredient: prunes.

So, 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), 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.

What is the 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.

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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, who eats only a tablespoon of rice?)

I typically have six prunes as a part of my wholesome, healthy breakfast every morning.

Breakfast includes coffee or tea (I alternate), raw 100 percent grass-fed cow’s milk, a 100 percent grass-fed beef stick (warmed in hot water), and an organic, hard-boiled 100 percent 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 is six, which is 60 grams of carbohydrates.

If we multiply this by a GI of 29 we get 1,740 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 doesn't sound very good. Not so fast!

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Turns out there are other things, which can bring the GI of certain food down, one of which is eating fat with the carb. My beef sticks have five grams of fat.

I also use a tablespoon of coconut oil in my coffee or tea, which has 14 grams of fat. Plus, I drink 2/3 cup of raw milk which has seven 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 two prunes, and usually only one at a time, for the rest of the day.

The problem is that I do that four or five times a day and it isn’t "planned." Even though I'm eating a very healthy lunch and dinner, snacking on the prunes feels very addicting.

Still in terms of blood sugars, for two 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 one 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 don't 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 prunes aren't the only delicious fruits with a low GI/GL — here are a few more examples.

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

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Renae Norton is a psychologist and offers an alternative to inpatient treatment for severe cases of anorexia, bulimia, or a combination of the two. For more information, visit her website, Eating Disorder Pro.

This article was originally published at nortonwellnessinstitute.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.