One of the hardest things that people with diabetes have to deal with is their diet, especially when it comes to eating sweet or sugary foods. Many people with diabetes turn to artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes in the hope they will not negatively impact their blood glucose.
According to Medical News Today, some sweeteners, such as table sugar, are harmful to people with diabetes, while others are low calorie and do not raise sugar levels. However, according to the American Diabetes Association, even though these low-calorie sweeteners may not cause your blood sugar to spike immediately, they may not help to reduce your blood sugar long- term, therefore it’s best to use low-calorie sweeteners in moderation.
Let’s take a look at 5 best sweeteners and sugar substitutes for people with diabetes.
- Stevia. You may have seen this one in your grocery store. It’s a natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of a plant. It is highly processed and is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It is low-calorie and does not raise blood sugar levels, but it is more expensive than table sugar and it leaves a bitter aftertaste. For this reason, some manufacturers add other sugars and ingredients to improve the taste, thus making Stevia not really suitable for people with diabetes.
- Tagatose. This is not regularly seen in stores as it is more expensive than other low-calorie sweeteners. It is found in some fruits such as oranges, pineapples, and apples, however, manufacturers usually extract it from milk and use it in food production as an artificial sweetener. Some studies indicate that tagatose has a low glycemic index, making it beneficial for people with diabetes who are following a low-glycemic diet.
- Sucralose. This is commonly seen in stores under the brand name Splenda. It is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar but has few calories. Manufacturers add sucralose to a range of products, from chewing gum to baked goods. Sucralose is widely used for baking and sweetening hot drinks. The FDA has approved sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener, but a 2016 study found that sucralose caused mice to develop malignant tumors.
- Aspartame. Widely seen in grocery stores under the brand names Equal and Nutrasweet. It is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar and is used mainly as a tabletop sweetener and not for baking, as it does not hold up well in high temperatures.
- Saccharin. This sweetener is seen in your grocery stores under the brand names Sweet Twin, Sweet’N Low, and Necta Sweet. It is 200-700 times sweeter than table sugar and contains zero calories. This sweetener was found to cause bladder cancer in laboratory rats in the 70s, but after many studies, the National Institutes of Health ruled out the potential for causing cancer in humans.
People with diabetes need to be careful about their sugar intake. Low-calorie sweeteners and sugar substitutes can allow you to occasionally enjoy sweet foods, however, the key is moderation. You shouldn’t think that because something is low-calorie you can consume as much as you like. It is always best to consult your doctor or dietitian when making choices about your diet.