People having diabetes often resort happily to using artificial sweeteners thinking that they have zero calories and cannot harm them. However, recent research has shown that artificial sweeteners may not actually be very healthy, especially in the management of diabetes.(1) In fact, studies have shown that the increased consumption of sugar substitutes can actually boost obesity and also diabetes cases. However, there are many sugar alternatives you can choose from instead of resorting to artificial sweeteners for glucose management. These new age sugar substitutes are much better than the often marketed ‘sugar-free’ products. So let us take a look at some of the best sugar substitutes for diabetics.
Best Sugar Substitutes for Diabetics
Tagatose, a naturally occurring sugar on which a lot of research has been done, is being hailed as a potential anti-obesity and an anti-diabetic medication.(2, 3) Tagatose is known to lower blood sugar levels and insulin response. Tagatose also interferes with the absorption process of carbohydrates, slowing down the digestion process, making it possible to stop a spike in blood sugar levels.
However, more studies need to be conducted on tagatose. This is why it is essential that you talk to your doctor before you start a new sugar substitute like tagatose.
One of the most popular sugar substitutes is stevia.(5) Stevia has anti-diabetic and antioxidant properties.(5) As compared to sugar and artificial sweeteners, stevia is also known to suppress the levels of plasma glucose and increase glucose tolerance in the body. As stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia plant, stevia does not technically fall under the category of artificial sweeteners.(4) Apart from controlling plasma glucose levels and increasing the body’s glucose tolerance, stevia also increases the production of insulin, stabilizes blood sugar levels, increases the effect of insulin on cell membranes, and also counters the complications of type 2 diabetes.
Stevia is sold under the brand names of:
- Sun Crystals
- Sweet Leaf
While purchasing one of these brands is, of course, an easier way to introduce stevia into your diet, these brands are generally highly processed and may also contain some other ingredients. Due to this, the best way to include stevia into your diet is to grow the plant yourself and then use the whole leaves to sweeten your food.(4)
Other Sugar Substitutes
Coconut palm sugar and monk fruit extract are some other options of sugar substitutes that are recently becoming popular.(6, 7) However, the fact remains that processed sweeteners cannot compare to using fresh fruits for sweetening your food. Another popular option is date sugar, made from whole dates.(7)
Also known as polyols, sugar alcohols are taken out from the natural fibers of fruits and vegetables.(7) These are classified as being nutritive sweeteners and are known to avoid any spikes in your blood sugar and are said to be more beneficial than consuming sugar.(7)
The biggest side effect of using sugar alcohols, though, is that in spite of the relatively low effect on their blood sugar, if overused, they may have a laxative effect.
Furthermore, these sugar alcohols are also not found very commonly in grocery stores. They can, however, be found in major drugstores and major health food retailers.
Recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are no longer a healthy alternative to sugar. In fact, as per these studies, artificial sweeteners actually increase the risk of getting diabetes and also increase the risk of weight gain. This is why if you are looking for a healthier alternative to a sugar substitute, then stevia, tagatose, coconut palm sugar, monk fruit extract, sugar alcohols, and even date sugar are recommended. In fact, stevia is one of the best sugar substitutes according to research. Stevia is not only known for its anti-diabetic properties, but it is also helpful for controlling blood sugar levels. Stevia is available in the processed form as well as the raw form.
Nevertheless, limiting your overall added sugar intake should still be the primary goal and do not start taking any sugar substitute without the consultation of your doctor.
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