Is Sorghum Healthy and Beneficial For Blood Sugar?

Sorghum is a gluten free grain, but is it low glycemic, healthy and beneficial for blood sugar?  This question came to mind because I have been noticing that many refined food products contain sorghum. So, I decided to do some research and find out what sorghum is all about, and whether it is actually healthy for keeping blood sugar balanced in pre-diabetics and diabetics.

With the current ‘gluten free’ trend, there are a large number of products on the market with various types of flours that replace wheat, barley or rye flour. Many of these products are actually not healthy because their ingredients are high glycemic and can easily cause blood sugar issues. A large number of products contain sorghum instead of wheat, and are touted as ‘healthy’.

field of sorghum in background; dish of sorghum grains close-up

About the grain

Sorghum is an ancient grain that originated in Egypt, and has been traditionally used to make cereal. Sorghum is said to be the fifth most widely consumed grain in the world, trailing directly behind rice, wheat, corn and potatoes. It has three uses, worldwide:

  1. as food
  2. as feed
  3. as fuel

In Africa and Asia it is used as a food. In the USA it is used for all three: as feed for livestock, as fuel in ethanol used for automobiles, and as food (mostly because it is gluten free).

Sorghum is a member of the grass family and it is very easy to grow, since most varieties are heat and drought tolerant.  There are over 30 different varieties that include various colors, shapes and sizes. Each variety seems to have found a different use. The main variety used for food is called Sorghum Bicolor, with the tan, white and cream varieties extensively used as flour in the food industry.

Whole sorghum can be cooked like rice because the outer hull is edible. Sorghum can also be used to make tortillas, flatbread, and couscous.

Several informational sources I read indicated that sorghum is a non-GMO grain, grown from traditional hybrid seeds that have been used for centuries. This is good news, since GMO foods (genetically modified foods) are now being linked to many chronic health conditions. How long sorghum will stay a non-GMO food is anyone’s guess.

Nutritional profile of sorghum

Sorghum has a significant amount of nutrients. It contains:

  • Protein
  • B vitamins: Thiamine (vitamin B1), Niacin (vitamin B3) and Vitamin B6
  • Many antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are found in the bran of sorghum
  • Fiber
  • Many minerals including
    • manganese
    • magnesium
    • iron
    • copper
    • phosphorous
    • potassium
    • calcium

8 benefits of consuming sorghum

The first benefit answers my main question about blood sugar issues. Besides that, there are seven more great reasons to add sorghum to your list of foods that are healthy.

    1. Blood sugar balancing: Sorghum digests slowly due to its protein and fiber content, making it a low glycemic food. This means it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
    2. Digestive health:  The high fiber content of sorghum is very helpful for digestive health and keeping waste products moving through the digestive tract and out of the body.
    3. Bone health:  Sorghum contains both calcium and magnesium. These two minerals work together to improve bone health.
    4. Healthy blood and circulation: Iron and copper are two of the minerals found in sorghum. Both beneficial for healthy blood cells and blood circulation.
    5. Energy production in the body: The niacin content of sorghum helps the body transform foods into fuel and energy that it can easily use.
    6. Healthy nervous system and cholesterol level:  Thiamin and niacin, both found in sorghum, are known to be beneficial for nervous system functioning, and to help decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
    7. Reducing free radicals:  The bran of sorghum is very high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which help to neutralize excessive free radicals in the body. The benefits include a healthier immune system, and healthier cells and organs throughout the body.  Antioxidants are also beneficial to slow down the aging process.
    8. Possible cancer inhibitor: Darker varieties of sorghum contain compounds called 3-Deoxyanthoxyanins (3-DXA), which researchers believe could possibly inhibit the growth of cancer tumors.

Sorghum syrup

An entirely different product that is made from the sorghum plant is sorghum syrup. It is made from a variety of sweet sorghum that is grown and harvested specifically for this purpose. The syrup comes from the stalks of the sweet sorghum plant rather than from the grain.  It probably would not have the same nutrient profile as sorghum grain, for two reasons:

    1. the syrup comes from a different part of the plant (the stalks)
    2. any fiber and protein would have been removed in the refining process to make the syrup. Note: fiber and protein are two nutrients that slow down the digestion of sugars and keep blood sugar balanced.

Sorghum syrup would be a concentrated form of sugar and it would most likely be high glycemic because there wouldn’t be any nutrients to slow down the digestion of the sugar. This means that, like any other concentrated form of sugar, it would cause blood sugar issues, making it a poor choice for pre-diabetics and diabetics.

The bottom line

All in all, sorghum (the grain) seems to stack up as very healthy and versatile. That being said, keep in mind that refining could make a difference in both the nutritional profile and the health benefits of sorghum. Some of the nutritional qualities of sorghum come from the husk or bran, such as antioxidants and phytonutrients, as well as much of the fiber. Whole grain sorghum would have all of the nutrients and the related health benefits. The more refined the sorghum grain is, the less nutrition it is likely to have because the bran or husk would be removed during refining.

Does your family have a history of pre-diabetes or diabetes?  Are you concerned about becoming a diabetic and dealing with all of the horrible chronic health conditions that go with diabetes? If you answered Yes to these questions – there is good news!  Eighty to ninety percent of diabetes cases can be avoided by making healthy dietary and lifestyle changes.  If pre-diabetes or diabetes is a concern for you, and you would like to have more information about how to avoid it  – please contact me.  I can help!

Info Resources:

Dr. Axe

Wholegrainscouncil.org

Wholegrainscouncil.org

PubMed 

 

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