Artificial sweeteners started being manufactured quite a while ago as a way to fulfill the demand for alternatives in view of increasing health concerns caused by the consumption of natural sugar or sucrose. However, they are not the most ideal substitutes since research has shown that they are non-nutritive, unsafe and even carcinogenic in some cases.
Artificial sweeteners are essentially low-calorie, low-carb substitutes for natural sugar. These are more often than not preferred by people with diabetes as they offer a much healthier alternative to synthetic sugar substitutes. It is important to choose artificial sweeteners that do not cause more harm. At times, these can be sweeter than real sugar and might be cancer-causing. Some of these can also make bones brittle. These days, however, there are several alternate options that are healthier as well and do not create other health issues. Examples of these could be – aspartame, saccharin, etc.
These sweeteners can be used in different ways for people with or without diabetes – baking products, coffee or tea, for taste in certain vegetables, lemonade, and all the other places where sugar can ideally be used.
The biggest health concern associated with these sweeteners is the fact that they can cause other fatal health conditions like cancer, osteoporosis, etc. However, if consumed in moderation or after thorough checking of the labels, these can be of great help to people with diabetes as they can be used in several forms in food.
Natural sweeteners, as the name suggests, are obtained using natural methods. They are also low in calories and low in fructose as well. What is important to understand here, however, is that while they are naturally obtained and might have a few important properties like – small traces of antioxidants, some vitamins, and minerals, these properties might not be enough to make a significant amount of difference in health concerns for people with diabetes. Health experts and nutritionists also suggest that there is no overall health benefit to consuming this or any other type of sugar. Examples of these could be – maple syrup, honey, dates, and in some cases, even stevia.
These sweeteners obtained naturally see several uses – honey can be poured on pancakes or used in green tea, dates can be used to make jaggery or in some mithai, etc. Stevia, if bought from the right source, can be one of the most helpful forms of sweeteners. Read more about is Jaggery good for diabetes.
When it comes to health concerns, since these sweeteners are also equally sweet and have high carbs and GI, they do not pose any strong benefits to the health of people with diabetes. These are also not recommended very strongly for a person who is trying to get their blood glucose levels under control. However, they are a better sugar substitute and therefore, can be used once in a while, if needed.
There are many sugars options we can choose from -
Natural sweeteners are sugars derived from natural sources like fruits, vegetables, roots, leaves, trees, nuts and seeds, typically in its most unrefined form. Most commonly you can spot these natural sweeteners on the shelves of your supermarkets - mentioned on products labelled low-sugar, low-carb, or keto diet. These natural sweeteners derived from plants are either calorie-free or low in calories and thus are distinct from natural sugars like molasses, agave, honey, and maple syrup. Natural sweeteners lack calories, and they also do not make your blood glucose levels rise. This is because they either pass through your digestive tract directly, have non-sugar compounds or act as a prebiotic and modify your glycemic response. Sugars with glucose content make your blood sugar rise and release insulin that aids glucose absorption into cells for energy. Studies have shown that there is no difference in calorie intake among sweeteners, natural or artificial. This indicates it's better by far to use natural sweeteners for metabolic health and for diabetics.
It's an extract from the South American stevia plant. This popular sweetener has zero calories and is up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Multiple studies have shown it is safe to use without a quantity limit! Stevia seems to have hardly any effect on glucose and insulin responses. Its extract is known to help people maintain their weight successfully. It appears to decrease appetite. Stevia is used in many sugar-free or low-sugar foods like bottled drinks, bake mixes, and fiber supplements. It is available either as raw granules or as a liquid extract.
It is a 'rare' sugar found naturally in dried fruits, brown sugar, and maple syrup. A mild sweetener, it has almost no calorie content, 0.4 /gm! It gives almost the same amount of carbs (4g) per tsp. Allulose doesn't lead to a rise in blood glucose or insulin levels. This is because it doesn't get easily metabolized in the body and mostly gets excreted. Allulose also seems to inhibit certain digestive enzymes that break down sugar derived from carbohydrates. It is about 70% as sweet as sugar, so a little extra is used to achieve sweetness comparable to cane sugar in beverages and baking.
This round, green fruit is a sub-tropical melon from Asia. Monk fruit extract contains mogrosides, antioxidant chemicals that are 250 times sweeter than sucrose. This amazing sweetener has zero calories and just 0.5 gm of carbohydrate per teaspoon! You can get it as a liquid or a powder. It does not raise blood sugar, but its effect on glucose levels seems to be about the same as sugars. It's often paired with Stevia and is used as liquid drops.
Yacon is a native South American plant best known for certain prebiotic carbohydrates called fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Yacon syrup is extracted from its root It has 20 calories per tablespoon, much less than maple syrup 52 calories. The prebiotic content FOS may promote more stable blood sugar levels, better immune response, and improved lipid metabolism. Studies have indicated that yacon syrup with breakfast leads to lower glucose and insulin levels. Available in powder or liquid form, Yacon syrup is used for teas, coffees, and a drizzle on foods.
Natural sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, allulose, and yacon syrup, do not increase your blood sugar levels. Some of them might even be beneficial in terms of enhanced metabolism, digestion, weight-reduction, lower insulin, or even lower glucose levels (as in yacon syrup). So make use of these natural sweeteners to help with your ongoing management of Diabetes. Read more about does sugar cause diabetes
Brown sugar, while may have marginally fewer calories and carbs, is not technically better than white sugar. It has a very similar GI and can create the same issues as white sugar.
Natural sweeteners can also raise blood sugar levels drastically and very instantly. This is one of the biggest health concerns that can pose a threat to a person with diabetes. They do not provide any significant health benefit.