5 sugar substitutes for people living with diabetes
There is a large variety of sweeteners and sugar substitutes that are great alternatives for limiting the effect on blood glucose. Here is a list of sugar substitutes you can use to sweeten food and drink when making your favourite recipes.
Diabetes: what types of sugar are there?
Sucrose, the sugar more commonly known as "table sugar" or refined sugar, is highly appreciated for its taste, but is not so good from a nutritional point of view.
Whether you’re living with diabetes or not, it is recommended to limit the consumption of sucrose, especially between meals. You can use a wide range of alternatives with similar or lower calorific content, such as sweeteners.
However, please remember , in case of hypoglycaemia, your favourite sweet snack should always be on hand to help such as orange juice or jelly babies.
Composed mainly of water, fructose, and glucose, honey is an excellent natural substitute for regular refined sugar. Thanks to its high fructose, mineral, and flavonoid content, it has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, whilst having a lower glycaemic index (GI) and energy value than refined white sugar.
Stevia is a natural sweetener containing no calories. It is one of the healthiest alternatives to refined white sugar. It has an intensely sweet taste and its consumption does not cause glycaemic spikes. It has all the advantages of regular sugar, with none of the disadvantages!
Stevia is particularly recommended for type 2 diabetes, as it does not affect blood glucose levels, your lipid profile, or bodyweight. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is easy to understand why Stevia has been used since ancient times as a sweetener and a medicinal plant!
Synthetic sweeteners and imitation sugars
Synthetic sweeteners, also known as "artificial sweeteners", are ideal for people with diabetes looking for a good alternative to regular refined sugar. As food additives, they mimic the taste of sugar [1,7,9]. The main advantages? They either contain fewer calories than regular sugar or none at all and do not raise blood glucose levels.
The main artificial sweeteners are:
- sucralose (E955);
- aspartame (E951);
- neotame (E961);
- saccharine (E954);
- cyclamate (E952);
- acesulfame potassium (E950) [1,2,7,8,9].
The best-known sweeteners, sucralose, and aspartame, are respectively 600 times and 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. They therefore make it possible to reduce overall quantities used. However, these imitation sugars have no energy value, and are devoid of nutrients.
Coconut sugar has a low GI (35) and is a good natural alternative to regular refined sugar. Made from coconut palm sap, it contains large quantities of vitamins and minerals. Coconut sugar looks, tastes, and melts almost exactly like regular sugar and can be used in most situations.
Agave syrup and maple syrup
Agave syrup and maple syrup are two other possible alternatives to regular sugar for people with diabetes. They are both good natural sweeteners and have the merit of having a lower GI than regular refined sugar and being more nutritional. They are mainly composed of fructose, recognised for its reduced hyperglycaemic effect. Agave and maple syrups are ideal for baking.
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