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Does Barley Malt Syrup Have a Low GI (and Does it Even Matter)?

Barley Malt Syrup

Barley malt syrup is a dark, thick liquid sweetener made from soaked and sprouted barley. It has a "malty" flavor and a consistency that is similar to molasses and golden syrup. Because of its distinctive flavor, barley malt syrup is best used in recipes that call for brown sugar or molasses. Although barley malt syrup may be healthier than sugar in some ways, it is by no means a healthy ingredient that you should try to incorporate in anything and everything. Some sources claim that barley malt syrup has a low GI and a gentle effect on blood glucose level, but below we explain why it is not a good sweetener for those are trying to keep their blood sugar levels at healthy levels.

There are tons of websites claiming that barley malt syrup has a low glycemic index (GI) of around 42, but you will have trouble finding information about where this number comes from. In fact, The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners, which is one of the most meticulously researched sweetener guides ever published, states that the GI of barley malt syrup has not been tested (as of 2014). However, the authors estimate it to be very high, similar to that of rice syrup (GI 98) because it has a similar carbohydrate composition. This estimate makes sense as maltose, which is the main carbohydrate in barley malt syrup, has a GI of 105, according to data generated by the Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS).

However, even if barley malt syrup had a lower GI, it would still not be a good natural alternative to sugar for people who are trying to keep their blood sugar levels in check. Maltose is a lot less sweet than sucrose (i.e. table sugar) per gram, even though they both provide 4 calories per gram, which means that you will have to use more of it to achieve the same level of sweetness. If barley malt syrup and table sugar were equally sweet and you could substitute barley malt syrup for sugar at a 1:1 ratio, you could indeed compare the GI of the these two sweeteners to draw meaningful conclusions about their effects on blood glucose levels. However, as you will generally need to use a lot more barley malt syrup, the concept of GI is of little use in this context, and replacing table sugar with barley malt syrup in sweet recipes is most definitely not the way to go if you are trying to keep your blood sugar levels low.

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