|Heirloom Rice||Millet||Beans & Pulses|
|Nuts||Wheat Flour Alternative|
Glycemic Index (GI) is the measure of the increase in blood glucose level after having food rich in carbohydrates related to glucose, that is, GI of food represents its blood-glucose raising potential. It is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. A concept invented by Dr David, J. Jenkins et al. in 1981 at the University of Toronto, the Glycemic Index is defined as “the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve of the 75 g carbohydrate portion of food expressed as a per cent of the response to the same amount of carbohydrate from a standard food taken by the same subject”. GI ranks foods on a scale from 0-100, based on their actual effect on the blood glucose level.
On the GI scale, glucose is ranked at 100, because it causes the highest and the fastest spike in blood glucose. All the other foods are ranked in comparison to glucose. Food items with an index number of 70 (or) more are considered to be of high GI, with index numbers between 55-70 as medium GI, and 55 (or) less as a low GI. Low GI diets help people to lose and control body weight , improve diabetic control and heart diseases, improve body sensitivity to insulin, lower blood glucose levels, and prolong physical endurance.
There’s a good number of low GI food products you could source from Sri Lanka, a major regional sourcing destination for many food and beverage products. Among such low GI food products, the following stand out both for their nutritional value and export potential.
Rice is still the staple diet of the vast majority of Sri Lankans. Cultivation of rice is steeped in tradition and has a long and parallel relationship with the country’s history and culture and Sri Lankans have led an agriculture-based lifestyle for the past 3 millennia. There are strong archaeological findings to support the fact that rice cultivation in Sri Lanka dates back to the period of 900-600 BC. The great reservoirs of water envisioned and developed mainly in the country’s dry zone by the Sinhalese monarchs in the ancient era were chiefly meant for supplying water for paddy cultivation because rainwater wasn’t enough to grow rice during both Yala and Maha seasons. They span a year or a period of twelve months. But, a year, taken in this sense, doesn’t necessarily correspond to a calendar year we follow now.
Heirloom rice varieties, a low GI food from Sri Lanka, are a notable product of this long and rich tradition of rice cultivation with the strong support of the rulers themselves. Some heirloom rice varieties are included in the diet of specific ethnic communities. In addition to consumption, these had also been used for different religious, spiritual, and cultural functions or in performing certain rites. Also, the annals of trade indicate that Sri Lanka was engaged in the export of rice more than two millennia ago.
The best-known heirloom rice varieties from Sri Lanka include the following. Since these are indigenous rice varieties, the names may sound somewhat outlandish but there aren’t English equivalents for these, though.
Of these, the grains of Dal wee are smaller in size compared to most of the other heirloom rice varieties from Sri Lanka. Their small size allows them to pass through a very small mesh when they are strained to filter out any impurities. Ma wee varieties boast strong root systems and healthy tillers. The name heenati owes it to the thin and longish shape of grains compared to the other heirloom rice varieties. Suwandel is a white rice variety that is noted for its sweet aroma and high nutritional value.
Regardless of their differences, heirloom rice varieties are best known for their nutritional value. Most of these varieties are often recommended by doctors of modern medicine. Ayurveda always accentuates the importance of heirloom rice consumption. It has been established that heirloom rice-based diet patterns help improve the immune system of the human body. It also helps in preventing various physical disorders. Each variety and sub-variety of heirloom rice carries telling health benefits. For instance, Kalu heenati is recommended for lactating mothers. ‘Dik wee’ is another heirloom variety that is best for treating diabetes. Its high content of zinc and antioxidants helps in treating neurological diseases, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Also called ‘finger millet’ (Eleusine coracana), millet is an important low GI food crop in Sri Lanka. It’s known in Sinhala as ‘kurakkan’. Known to grow in some of the aridest soils and under the most unfavourable climatic conditions, millet grains are highly nutritious and have an excellent seed storage quality.
Millet flour is used in several popular Asian food items such as roti, string hoppers, pittu, halapa, porridge, and thalapa. It’s a staple diet for some of the people in remote villages where they engage in Chena cultivation where millet is a regular food crop.
Since millet is a low GI food, low blood sugar levels have been observed after a millet diet, which is why it’s looked on as a safer food for diabetic patients. Millet is also an excellent source of natural calcium for both children and the elderly. It’s also a remarkable source of natural Iron and is strongly recommended for anaemia patients. Millet is rich in fibre too, which is, therefore, digested rather slowly, which serves to curb excessive food consumption; thus, it helps lose body weight.
Millet also reduces the body cholesterol level. Green kurakkan is recommended for lactating mothers whose milk production is low. It further contains anti-ageing properties. Being non-glutinous, millet is safe for people suffering from gluten allergy and celiac disease. It is non-acid forming, and hence easy to digest. It’s rich in amino acids-Tryptophan, Threonine, Valine, Isoleucine and Methionine.
Beans and pulses are also among low GI food products from Sri Lanka. Beans and pulses grown and exported from Sri Lanka mainly include green gram (mung beans) and cowpea. Green Grams (Vigna radiata), are a major source of plant protein and it’s relatively inexpensive too. They are hugely popular in Asian countries not only as a staple serial but as an ingredient used in the preparation of sweetmeats, especially in Sri Lanka.
The nutrients in green grams include carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamin A, B, C, E and K, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The GI of green grams is as low as 25 and it’s also rich in plant nutrients and antioxidants. Green Grams lower cholesterol levels and the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It also lowers the risk of developing cancers, improves immunity, helps weight loss, and reduces blood sugar levels.
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), also called black-eyed pea, is the other main export bean from Sri Lanka. Cowpea is a highly popular breakfast cereal in Sri Lanka among the young and old, alike. In addition to boiling it, it’s also prepared as a curry. Cowpea is densely packed with nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, folate, copper, thiamine, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium, vitamin B6 and riboflavin and plenty of fibre. On top of these, cowpea is high in polyphenols, which are compounds that act as antioxidants in the body to prevent cell damage and protect against disease.
Nuts are yet another low GI food product from Sri Lanka. They chiefly include:
Cashew nuts are produced by the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree. The kidney-shaped nuts, milky in taste, are served as desserts and as snacks. They’re also used as a food ingredient in the preparation of sweet delicacies such as cake, ice cream, and the likes. Cashew nuts are cooked as a curry too.
Sri Lankan cashew nuts have the finest milky taste which is unique to it and enjoys strong demand in the international markets. Even if they’re commonly referred to as tree nuts, and nutritionally comparable to them, cashews are seeds. They contain a high count of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds and make for easy addition to many dishes. The kidney-shaped nuts are low in sugar and rich in fibre, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They’re also a rich source of copper, magnesium, and manganese - nutrients important for energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health. Cashew nuts produced in Sri Lanka are used for both local consumption and exported as value-added food products.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea), also known as the groundnut or monkey nut, is a legume crop grown mainly for its edible seeds. Served as a snack and also used as a food ingredient in numerous sweet delicacies and the production of peanut butter, which is in turn used as a food sweetener, the peanuts contain more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fibre and healthy fats. The vitamins and minerals found in the peanuts are Vitamin E, Magnesium, Folate, Copper, Phosphorous, Niacin and Manganese. Sri Lanka grows peanuts both for domestic consumption and for export.
Kottamba is known as the country almond or Indian almond (Terminalia catappa). A plant native to Asia, Australia, the Pacific and Madagascar, country almond is grown in most tropical countries and is found throughout Sri Lanka. The almond-like kernel of the fruit is encased in a hard shell. The kernel tastes as milky as almonds too.
The edible oil that can be extracted from the nuts of country almonds is a great substitute for almond oil and is considered healthy enough for consumption even by heart patients. Country almonds have significant curative properties. Eating country almonds makes the skin smoother. Also, nutritious butter can be produced from country almonds. While the fruit of country almonds has been largely neglected for a very long time, it is now considered commercially important and is exported.
Banana flour is another low GI food product produced in and exported from Sri Lanka. As its very name implies, banana flour is made from green, unripe bananas that are peeled, cooked and ground into a fine powder. Mildly sweet in flavour and light in texture, it’s a great substitute for wheat flour.
On top of carbohydrates, banana flour is a good source of protein, fibre, and potassium. Also, it’s gluten-free, which makes it ideal for those with dietary restrictions. In addition to baking, banana flour can be used as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and even smoothies. Sri Lanka is a great sourcing destination for banana flour.
Kithul flour is extracted from the kithul pith through a complex traditional process. Kithul flour is a valuable food ingredient, which is used in kithul flour porridge and kithul palm flour slices (kithul thalapa). Kithul flour is rich in fibre and an excellent appetizer for everyone. Kithul flour possesses the ability to make your body cool and helps cure health problems like cracked feet, gastric ulcers, severe headaches, and even lowers high blood pressure. Sri Lanka is a great sourcing destination for kithul flour too.
Sri Lankan food & beverage sector covers a wide range of products including processed vegetables, fruits, concentrates and juices, semi-cooked food, confectionery, bakery products, ready-to-serve food and beverages, animal feed and preparations of cereals
Processed Vegetables, Fruits & Juices
Rice, Cereals, Oil Seed and its Products