Sugar is the number one enemy of diabetes for the simple reason that it is the excess buildup of sugars in the bloodstream that causes diabetes in the first place.
People with type 2 diabetes need to steer clear of all sugars and sugar substitutes that make their blood sugar level rise.
If you’re in the need to satisfy your sweet tooth, then what you need is a sugar alternative. Meaning, a sweetener without the ill side effects of sugar.
Having a long list of different types of so-called “sugar-alternatives” does not make it easy for diabetics to find the healthiest option out there.
It is especially challenging since many sugar substitutes, also known as artificial sweeteners, often claim to be what they are not.
I’m sure you’ve seen these labels in your local grocery store:
Some of the descriptions on their food labels that can be misleading. In the end, sugar is sugar and it may affect blood sugar levels in some way.
Luckily, there are natural sugar alternatives for type 2 diabetics that can make life a little easier for you.
Type 2 Diabetes: A Quick Refresher
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when the body is unable to control blood sugar or glucose levels.
Normally, the body makes insulin to regulate blood sugar and provide energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar into the cells, thereby lowering sugar in the bloodstream.
In people with diabetes, the pancreas tries to make enough insulin to control blood sugar, but this can eventually cause the body to become insulin resistant.
When the body becomes insulin resistant, this process doesn’t work as it should and results in excess sugar in the bloodstream.
Some of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes are directly related to excess sugar buildup. It explains why many type 2 diabetics need to take insulin to control their blood sugar.
As a person with type 2 diabetes, you need to manage your blood sugar daily by testing its level throughout the day. If sugar levels drop too low, this too can cause health problems.
Considering that people with type 2 diabetes easily build up excess sugar in their body, you may now understand why it is important for you to use natural alternatives to sugar that are low in carbs and calories.
Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners
There are natural or nutritive sugars and sweeteners such as cane sugar or table sugar, honey, and agave syrup. Then, there are sweeteners that are either natural or artificial.
Artificial sweeteners are called sugar substitutes or non-nutritive sweeteners. They have fewer calories than sugar and can be used in food and drinks to replace sugars which are high in sucrose or fructose.
Some of them are even calorie-free!
Since diabetics easily gain weight due to excess hunger, plus an excess build-up of sugar in the bloodstream, the low-calorie, no calorie nature of some artificial sweeteners may make them healthier alternatives.
The drawback is not all sugar substitutes are made directly from plants. Therefore, they should be used with caution by people with type 2 diabetes.
FDA-Approved Sugar Alternatives for Diabetics
Although table sugar and agave syrup, for example, are natural nutritive sweeteners, they still affect glucose, raise blood sugar levels, and affect the health of diabetics.
This led the FDA to approve the following artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes for diabetics. They are called “sweeteners” because they are intensely sweeter than sugar but low in calories.
- Saccharin (the pink packet—Sweet N’ Low, Sweet Twin)
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet—comes in a blue packet)
- Sucralose (the yellow packet—Splenda)
- Advantame (Stevia, Truvia, PureVia—comes in a green packet)
- Luo han guo, also called monk fruit extract
- Acesulfame Potassium, also called Ace-K (Sunett, Sweet One)
Although approved by the FDA, not all of these non-nutritive sweeteners can be considered a natural sugar alternative. They may still cause side effects such as a rise in blood sugar, digestive problems or weight gain.
Take Sweet N’ Low, for example. It is made from saccharin. Sweet N’ Low is 300 to 500 times sweeter than sugar, won’t affect your blood sugar, and is calorie-free.
But studies show it can lead to weight gain since, being calorie-free, it forces the body to seek calories in other foods.
This can also lead to overeating.
Additionally, studies seem to conclude that the use of Sweet N’ Low in foods and drinks can lead to bladder cancer.
The Best Natural Sugar Alternative for People with Type 2 Diabetes
Stevia is made from the leaves of the stevia plant found in Central and South America, so it’s not really “artificial.”
Stevia comes as a powder, liquid extract, and dissolvable tablets and is found under the brand names, TruVia, PureVia, Sun Crystals, and Sweet Leaf.
This all-natural option tastes good, does not have an unpleasant aftertaste, and has anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties.
It makes a great choice for type 2 diabetics for these other reasons:
- increases insulin production
- increases glucose tolerance
- stabilizes blood sugar levels
- good for weight management, since it has no carbohydrates
In addition, the body cannot break down the contents of Stevia. Therefore, they will not enter the bloodstream and affect blood glucose levels or increase calories.
Instead, they will pass through the body undigested. Here’s to Stevia!
What About Splenda and Monk Fruit?
Sucralose, also known as Splenda, may generally pass through the body undigested and have no effect on blood glucose levels.
However, there are mixed reviews as to Splenda’s effect in persons who do not consume artificial sweeteners regularly.
Furthermore, Splenda is made from sucrose or table sugar, only it is 600 times sweeter and calorie-free. Despite its intense sweetness, Splenda may cause sweet cravings in some diabetics.
If you’re already using all-natural Stevia, there may be no need to add any additional sweeteners to your diet.
Also known as Luo han guo, this is another good choice for people with type 2 diabetes.
Monk fruit grows in Thailand and China. The juice or extract is 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar and has zero calories. Like Stevia, it generally won’t make your blood sugar levels go up.
Monk fruit makes a good natural alternative for people who may prefer the fruity aftertaste in their sweetener.
However, if the extract is combined with molasses or a sugar alcohol such as erythritol, this can cause it to affect blood glucose the same way sugar does.
The bottom line is to understand which sweeteners will impact your blood sugar levels, and won’t cause other ill side effects.
Bear in mind that they are not created equal and not all of them are made from an organic plant like Stevia is (my #1 recommend alternative).
While Monk fruit extract comes from a fruit, it is not supplied as a 100% pure, unprocessed sweetener.
Perhaps, it will all come down to a natural sugar alternative that is sweet, tastes good, calorie-free, won’t make your blood sugar rise, and proves itself to be diabetic-friendly in the long run.