A woman pours an artificial sweetener into her coffee.

A Diabetic's Guide to Natural Sweeteners

Many assume that a diabetes-friendly diet lacks sweetness and excitement, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Using wholesome ingredients and interesting alternatives can make your meals delicious and nutritious. One way you can do this is by using a diabetic-safe sweetener in place of granulated sugar in your favorite recipes.

Sweeteners Diabetics Should Avoid 

Not all natural sweeteners are safe alternatives for people with diabetes. For example, while agave has a low glycemic index (meaning it’s less likely to cause spikes in blood glucose levels), it has more calories than granulated sugar and higher fructose content. Fructose (compared to the sucrose in table sugar) can cause the body to produce less insulin and put more strain on the liver as it breaks down the sugars. 

In short, an alternative sweetener’s side effects or impact on insulin resistance may outweigh the benefits. Practice caution in your consumption of artificial sweeteners and even natural ones like maple syrup, corn syrup, and xylitol.

4 Safe Sugar Substitutes for Diabetics

Monk Fruit Extract

Monk fruit naturally contains mogrosides, a type of antioxidant that’s responsible for this treat’s sweet flavor. Researchers have found a way to extract this antioxidant to create a sugar-free sweetener that contains no calories and doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.  

Stevia 

To create stevia sweetener, manufacturers collect the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and process them into fine crystals. Stevia is low in calories and maintains its flavor during heating, so it’s an optimal sweetener to use in baking or hot beverages.

Erythritol 

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that comes from the fermentation of cornstarch or wheat. It has very few calories and has no impact on your blood sugar. While erythritol is less likely than others to do so, sugar alcohols can upset your stomach. Start with small amounts and discontinue use if it causes any discomfort. 

Fresh Fruit 

Did you know you can find the most natural sweetener in the produce aisle? Fresh fruit can be a great addition to your recipes, as they contain fiber to help slow down your sugar absorption and, in turn, reduce the impact on your blood sugar levels. Try using mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce, or date paste in your next recipe. 

A Diabetes-Friendly Dessert

Put what you’ve learned into practice! Try our Oatmeal Raisin Banana Cookies:

 
  Oatmeal Raisin Banana Cookies
 

  Ingredients:

2 bananas

¼ cup natural peanut butter (without added sugar)

1 ½ cups rolled oats

¼ cup oat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup raisins
 

  Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Mix the rolled oats, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and raisins together. Set aside.

  3. Mash the bananas, and mix with the peanut butter. Incorporate the dry ingredients until you have a smooth dough.

  4. Take a large spoonful of dough, roll it into a ball, place it on a cookie sheet, and gently press it down. Continue until you use all the dough.

  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

 

If you have diabetes, you don’t have to give up the meals you love. Schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician or endocrinologist for advice on how you can modify your diet and achieve better health. 
 

Sources: 
Medical News Today | What are the best sweeteners for people with diabetes?
American Diabetes Association | Glycemic Index and Diabetes
Healthline | The Best Sugar Substitutes for People with Diabetes
Diabetes UK | Sugar, sweeteners and diabetes
Healthline | Monk Fruit Sweetener: Good or Bad?
Healthline | Erythritol — Like Sugar Without the Calories?
Medical News Today | Is agave syrup the best sweetener for diabetes?