When it comes to managing your diabetes, it is best to cut out as much sugar as possible.
The main reason for this is that sugar provides zero nutritional value! Sugar is also easy to overconsume, and will cause more rapid rises in blood sugar response than other healthier forms of carbohydrate.
So what is the best diabetic sugar substitute?
Let’s dig into that now.
Sugar & Sugar Substitutes: Nutritional Comparison
When it comes to choices, white sugar is definitely the worst type of sugar. This includes castor sugar and icing sugar as these are all highly refined. Following closely behind is brown sugar and raw sugar. And these are all the types of sugars we find in most processed and packaged foods.
So let’s take a closer look at the nutrition of all our sugar and sugar substitute choices.
For 1 Tablespoon
White sugar – 48 cal, 12.6 g carbs/sugar, 0 nutrients.
Brown sugar – 51 cal, 13.5 g carbs/sugar, 3 mg sodium, 18 mg potassium, 0 nutrients.
Raw sugar – 45 cal, 12 g carbs/sugar, 0 nutrients.
Molasses – 58 cal, 15 g carb/sugar, 7 mg sodium, 41 mg calcium, 0.94 mg iron, 293 mg potassium, 0.134 mg niacin.
Blackstrap molasses – 47 cal, 12 g carb/sugar, 172 mg calcium, 3.5 mg iron, 43 mg magnesium, 8 mg phosphorus, 498 mg potassium, 11 mg sodium, 3.6 mcg selenium, 0.216 mg niacin.
Rapadura sugar – 45 cal, 12 g carb/sugar, 5.7 g iron, 3.6 g vitamin C.
Coconut sugar – 45 cal, 12 g carbs/sugar, 0 nutrients.
Raw honey – 70 cal, 17 g carb/sugar, 11 mg potassium, antibacterial and antiviral.
Maple syrup – 52 cal, 13-14 g carb/sugar, 4 mg phosphorus, 42 mg potassium, 2 mg sodium, 1 g calcium.
Stevia & Erythritol /Xylitol -‘tols’ – 0 cal, 0 carbs, 0 nutrients.
Artificial sweeteners – 0 cal, 0 carbs/sugar, 0 nutrients. Artifical sweeteners include aspartame (aka Equal and Nutrasweet), saccharin (aka Sweet N Low), and acesulfame K (aka Sweet One).
As you can see from the list above, most forms of sugar, even “natural” ones have roughly the same amount of carbs/sugar and calories per serving. The only real difference is the amount of nutrients that can be found in them.
If you are going to choose a “natural” form of sugar, it is better to choose something like molasses, rapadura sugar, or maple syrup.
Best Diabetic Sugar Substitute
So what about the best diabetic sugar substitute, that’s what you’re here to find out about right?
Well as you can see from the list above, both stevia and the ‘tols’ provide 0 calories and 0 carbs so these are your best options.
I use a liquid stevia myself and prefer using stevia overall.
And if I were going to choose between xylitol and erythritol, I’d choose erythritol because most people seem to digest it better. I’ve seen far too many stomach cramps and reactions from xylitol.
You will also find there are some blends available on the market that include both stevia and erythritol. Some people prefer the taste of these and find them easier to use for things like baking because they come in a powder and you can replace them 1:1 for sugar.
Stevia is an herb from South America that comes in both powder and liquid form. Stevia is low GI, contains no calories and has been attributed in some studies to aiding the pancreas and improving digestion. It’s great for people with diabetes, insulin resistance, and high blood sugars because it doesn’t cause a blood sugar response and may even help lower blood sugars post meal.
I talked about stevia more in this podcast.
Xylitol or Erythritol
The ‘tols’ are sugar alcohols. Not really sugar or alcohol but named that way. The ‘tols’ are claimed to be natural because sugar alcohols are naturally occurring in lots of fruits and veggies. But these ‘tols’ are processed from pure glucose and sucrose taken from wheat and cornstarch. The end result is a zero calorie sweetener that does not affect blood sugar, so again a possible option for diabetics or people with blood sugar problems.
I talked about erythritol more in this podcast.
Even though artificial sweeteners also have 0 calories and 0 carbs/sugar. Researchers at Purdue University have done studies that show that non-caloric sweeteners such as aspartame lead to weight gain not weight loss as ‘diet’ products often suggest. So if you’ve been drinking ‘diet’ sodas, eating ‘diet’ foods, and think you’re doing yourself a favor, think again. Artificial sweeteners are NOT a good choice for diabetics.
I talked about aspartame more in this podcast.
Sugar Free Diabetic Recipes
Believe me, if you are diabetic, it certainly doesn’t mean a life without tasty treats! I eat sugar free desserts myself and there is lots you can do.
Here are a few tasty things you can try.
Sugar Free Greek Berry Yogurt – my partner is now hooked on this yogurt. So easy and very satisfying.
Sugar Free Homemade Ice Cream Recipe – make the stawberry one to keep the carb count low
Well, I hope that helps you choose the best sugar substitute to help manage your diabetes.
Nutritionist & Health Counselor