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Mesquite Powder – A Healthy, Low GI Sweetener?

Mesquite Sweetener

Mesquite powder or flour is made by grinding the sweet seed pods of the mesquite tree (Prosopis spp.). Because of its naturally sweet flavor, mesquite powder has attracted interest from health-conscious bakers looking for healthy alternatives to sugar.

Like date sugar and the increasingly popular alternative sweetener lucuma, mesquite powder is a whole food sweetener, meaning that it contains all the fiber that naturally occurs in mesquite pods. In fact, a look at the nutritional information for mesquite powder, this up-and-coming sugar substitute is 25 percent fiber. Given its extremely high fiber content, it is not surprising that mesquite powder has been shown to rank low on the Glycemic Index (GI) [1]. Fiber aside, mesquite also contains a good amount of protein.

Foods with a low GI rating, such as mesquite powder, break down slowly in your gut, causing a gradual and moderate increase in your blood sugar levels. High-GI foods, by contrast, break down fast in the gut and cause spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, a diet that contains too much high GI foods can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

In addition to ranking low on the Glycemic Index, mesquite powder contains a wide range of nutrients. Regular white sugar, by contrast, is practically void of vitamins and minerals. Mesquite powder is a particularly good source of potassium, calcium and iron, plus it contains decent amounts of magnesium and zinc [2]. Mesquite powder is also rich in polyphenols, phytochemicals with strong antioxidant properties [2]. Antioxidant compounds contribute to the health benefits of mesquite powder by scavenging free radicals, unstable molecules that cause damage to your body at the cellular level.

So, to sum up, mesquite powder is definitely healthier than sugar—it is a whole food sweetener that provides fiber, protein and minerals instead of just empty calories. However, its sweetness does come from natural sugars, so if you are trying to cut down on sugars in general, or if you are trying to limit your caloric intake, you may want to go for a low-calorie sweetener such as monk fruit or stevia instead.

Now, for those who want to try using mesquite powder as a sweetener, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Unlike sugar which has a neutral sweet taste, mesquite powder has a sweet taste with a hint of nuttiness and caramel flavor, so it may not work well in all recipes
  • Another thing to keep in mind when using mesquite powder in recipes is that it is nowhere nearly as sweet as sugar. Therefore, for the sake of your taste buds, you may want to use mesquite powder to replace only some of the sugar (or another sweetener) in a recipe rather than using it as a sugar substitute in a 1 to 1 ratio.
  • When incorporating mesquite powder into recipes, also keep in mind that it does not melt, and in terms of texture, it resembles more flour than sugar.

1. J. Brand et al (1990). Plasma glucose and insulin responses to traditional Pima Indian meals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51(3): 416-20.
2. L. Sciammaro et al (2015). Agregado de valor al fruto de Prosopis alba. Estudio de la composicion quimica y nutricional para su aplicacion en bocaditos dulces saludables. Revista de la Facultad de Agronomia, La Plata, 114 (1): 115-123.