5 Sugar Substitute Ideas for People With Diabetes

DIABETES CARE|Aug.11, 2017

Did you know that 68 percent of processed foods at the grocery store contain added sugar?

This statistic cited by The Lancet could alarm anyone — but especially if you've got diabetes and are trying to stay on top of your glucose levels. If you are looking for a sugar substitute to curb your sweet tooth as you manage your diabetes, there are actually a number of options — some of which can be grown right in your backyard. That means you can now have your cake and eat it, too — all without spiking blood sugar levels.

As you check out the five ideas here, keep in mind that some sugar substitutes work better for baking, while others might be tastier in your coffee. Of course, it's important to keep track of how your body reacts to these, so you can choose the one that works best for you. As always, consult a medical professional, such as a physician or registered dietitian, before modifying your diet or insulin use.

1. Stevia

While you can buy stevia sweetener packets, it also grows as a plant — and some websites make harvesting and drying your own look easy. Originally from South America, the indigenous Guaraní people have been using the stevia plant for centuries. And when it comes to diabetes, Science Daily   reports that stevia may even stabilize blood sugar levels and stimulate the production of insulin after a meal.

2. Coconut Palm Sugar

Coconut is a trendy ingredient taking the health food and beauty product industries by storm. And it's no surprise, as sticking a straw inside a young coconut gets you a tasty, high-electrolyte treat — and some preliminary research suggests it may even help lower blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health. In terms of coconut as a sugar substitute, coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index, but the American Diabetes Association notes that you should treat it the same as regular sugar because it contains the same amount of calories and carbs.

3. Erythritol

What's great about this sugar alcohol — found naturally in plants — is that it contains very few calories or sugar, but tastes quite like it. Depending on what you're craving, you can find it in powder and granulated varieties. Keep in mind, what makes sugar alcohols work for diabetics is that they aren't fully digested by the body. Therefore, if you have a sensitive stomach this may not be for you, as sugar alcohols may cause gas, cramps or diarrhea, says the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

4. Advantame

If you'll be baking, advantame is a great choice for people with diabetes as it retains its sweetness even when heated. Because it's 20,000 times sweeter than regular sugar (wow!), you don't need very much, as noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

5. Yacon Syrup

The yacon (pronounced ya-CONE) is a root vegetable similar to a sweet potato, but jam-packed with even more nutrients. Even better for people with diabetes, they can be made into a syrup that contains fructooligosaccharides, a kind of starch that doesn't get digested (and hence doesn't raise blood sugar), according to a study in the journal Nutrients. Other benefits may include reduced insulin resistance and fasting insulin levels.

While you certainly need to be mindful of your sugar intake, you don't have to forgo the sweet stuff completely. Opt for one of these sugar substitutes and eat deliciously while keeping your diabetes in check.