Diabetes is a serious health problem which is affecting more than million people around the world. Diabetes patients are recommended to stay away from sugar as it raises glucose levels. For diabetics there are many natural and artificial sweeteners available in the market. So people those who have diabetes can consume sweet food and drinks without risking their health. Refer the following article to know best sweetener for diabetics.
Diabetes is a disease wherein the body is not able to make or use insulin (a type of hormone) properly. Insulin transforms sugars and carbohydrates into energy. If insulin is incapable to transform sugars and carbohydrates, then it leaves too much sugar in the blood which is harmful for the system. People with any type of diabetes such as type 1, type 2 and Gestational diabetes can use natural and artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners are derived from nature while artificial sweeteners are man-made. Natural and artificial sweeteners provide sweetness of sugar without the calories.
Sweeteners take a lesser quantity to sweeten foods as they are many times sweeter than sugar. Compared to artificial sweetener, natural sweetener are more expensive. Natural sweeteners have a shorter shelf life in their liquid form. Artificial sweeteners contain different types of chemicals and artificial ingredients so they are harmful to the body while natural sweeteners are safe as well as healthy for the body. Natural sweeteners don’t have any side effects but artificial sweeteners have. So before consuming sweetener you should consult physician or dietitian.
Artificial Sweeteners for Diabetics
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener which is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar. It is a calorie-free sweetener. Due to heat saccharin become unstable so it is used with other artificial and natural sweeteners. It is used in hot and cold foods such as drinks, medicines, toothpastes, candies and desserts. Saccharin is sold under the brand name Sweet N Low.
Acesulfame potassium is also calorie free sweetener that is suitable for diabetics. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar and as sweet as aspartame. It can be used for cooking and baking as it is heat stable. It is also recognized as Acesulfame-K. Acesulfame potassium is also used in protein shakes and pharmaceutical products as a sweetener. It is always used with other sweetener in carbonated drinks. Acesulfame potassium is sold under the brand name Sunett and Sweet One.
Sucralose is the zero-calorie sweetener which is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is produced from natural sugar however it can not be digested. It can be used in hot and cold foods including in baking and cooking. Sucralose is very useful in baking as it is stable under heat. Sucralose is used in more than 4,000 food products and drinks including often processed foods. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda.
Neotame is also an artificial sweetener which is around 8,000 times sweeter than sugar. The molecular structure of Neotame is like aspartame. Neotame is heat stable and has zero calories. Human body burn Neotame very fast. Neotame does not remain in the blood for more than few minutes as the rate of metabolism is very speedy. It is used in carbonated soft drinks, baked goods, dairy products and salad dressings. Neotame is sold under the brand name NutraSweet.
Aspartame is another artificial sweetener which is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. High heat decreases the sweetness of aspartame so it is not considered useful in cooking. It is used in more than 6,000 foods including chewing gum, soft drinks, laxatives, tea and coffee, diet and diabetic foods, instant mixes, over-the-counter drug jams, sweets, vitamins, table-top sweeteners and breakfast cereals. Aspartame is sold under the brand name NutraSweet, Canderel, and AminoSweet.
Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners:
- Artificial sweeteners can cause vitamin deficiencies.
- Consumption of artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain.
- They can create severe conditions of depression and panic attacks.
- Artificial sweeteners are very damaging for the nervous system.
- Artificial sweeteners increase the risk of male infertility.
- They damage cells so intake of artificial sweeteners should be limited.
- Too much use of the artificial sweeteners can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Using too much artificial sweeteners can also cause damage to the teeth.
- Daily consumption of artificial sweeteners can cause blood or brain cancer.
- As artificial sweeteners boost blood sugar levels they may cause blurred vision and hearing loss.
- Gastro-intestinal disorders can be caused if high amount of artificial sweeteners are consumed.
- Consuming foods and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners can also lead to persistent headaches.
- They can cause allergic reactions such as redness or rashes, swelling of the skin, itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, and stuffy or runny nose.
Natural Sweeteners for Diabetics
Stevia is the best natural sweetener for diabetics. Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from Stevia Rebaudiana plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so small amount of Stevia can make the things sweet with fewer carbohydrates and calories. It is very low in calories and does not raise blood sugar levels so it is recommended for diabetics. Particularly in type 2 diabetes, Stevia excite the discharge of insulin and stabilize the response to glucose. For decades it is used as sweetener in Japan and for centuries in South America.
In the USA in Dec 2008, FDA has approved Stevia as a food additive stating that it causes no health risk while used in foods and drinks. It is available at health food stores in the form of fresh, dried and ground leaves, liquid extracts as well as powdered extracts. Leaves of plant can be consumed fresh or added to foods and teas. Before consuming Stevia you should consult the doctor and often check your blood sugar levels while using it. Pregnant, breast-feeding women or those on other medications should avoid the use of Stevia. The production of Stevia has been started by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in their own versions named Truvia and Pure Via which is planned to use in their beverages.
Agave nectar is another natural sweetener which is derived from the agave plant. It is also recognized as agave syrup. Agave nectar taste is similar to honey and compared to sugar it is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter. Agave nectar and sugar have equal amount of carbohydrates and calories per gram. Compared to sugar, agave nectar has low glycaemic index so it does not cause high fluctuations in blood sugar level. The glycaemic index of table sugar is around 60 to 65 while the GI of agave nectar is about 20 to 30.
It is very sweet so you can use fewer amount to get the same effect as sugar. Compared to sugar, agave nectar contains high amount of fructose and a low amount of glucose. For diabetics, fructose is better sweetener than glucose. Diabetics must read the label on the products they are using as several brands of agave sweeteners include up to 90 % fructose and only 10 % glucose otherwise 55 % fructose and 45 % glucose which is same as normal sugar. So the agave sweeteners could carry the same risks as normal sugar.
Erythritol is a natural calorie free sweetener for diabetics that occur naturally in fruits like grapes, pears & melons and fermented foods like wine & soy sauce. It also occurs in certain mushrooms in larger quantity. The taste of erythritol is clean and crisp like sugar. Erythritol contains 60% to 80% sweetness of sugar as well as crystallization & carmelization properties of sugar. It does not affect blood sugar levels and has almost zero calories, carbs and glycemic index.
Erythritol is absorbed into the blood and then excreted in the urine unchanged with in 24 hours. Erythritol does not contain any laxative effects as it is not absorbed in the large intestine. The texture of the foods improves if erythritol is used in diabetic dessert recipes. It is often combined with high intensity sweeteners like sucrose. It does not contain any side effect but it should be consumed in small amount. Large amounts of erythritol can not absorb by the body easily.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol which is used in many foods tagged as “sugar free” or “dietetic.” Sorbitol is metabolized by the human body slowly. It is obtained from glucose by changing the aldehyde group to a hydroxyl group. It is found naturally in fruits like apples, peaches, pears, and prunes. It is low in calories and does not cause tooth decay. It is often used as a sugar substitute in jellies, baked products, chewing gum, fruit cookies and medicines. In liver, sorbitol converts into fructose which does not depend on insulin for metabolism. Sorbitol’s single doses of 10 to 50 grams may cause osmotic diarrhea with abdominal cramps and flatulence. If sorbitol is taken in large amount, then it can cause gas, abdominal pain, and mild to severe diarrhea.
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