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.
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 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.
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:
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
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.
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?