Diabetes is on the increase. Poor diet and inactivity are largely to blame and research suggests that it may be controlled with better diet and exercise. Leading a healthier lifestyle and in particular losing weight can help, but diabetics need to monitor their sugar intake closely. Here are several alternatives to sugar to put on your cereal or in your hot drinks to keep them sweet without risking your health. However, diabetes is not the only reason people choose to reduce their sugar intake. Many do so for health reasons as artificial sweeteners have fewer calories.
This is not so much an artificial sweetener as it is a sugar extract. It is derived from chemicals extracted from glucose. It is then refined to create a healthier alternative for sugar that is lower in calories and safer for diabetes patients. It occurs naturally in some fruits such as apples and pears too. Some report that it has a cooling sensation in the mouth, which is probably why it is the favoured artificial sweetener of sugar free gum and mints. However, it is a type of polyol; this means it has a laxative effect if you take too much. Also, it can help repair tooth enamel and combat tooth decay.
Most diabetics should avoid honey; it is a sugar after all. Its major benefit is in the higher sweetness level. This means that those who use honey instead of sugar will require less of it, therefore ingesting fewer calories. Of particular note is that in a recent study, diabetes patients who used honey found some benefit in that they lost weight, had lower cholesterol and higher lipid levels. A word of caution however; the same group also demonstrated higher haemoglobin A(1C). Because of this, medical professionals urge caution in diabetes patients.
There are many scare stories on the internet about artificial sweeteners, with aspartame seemingly receiving most of the brunt of negative press. The problem is that the study that suggests aspartame causes brain tumours was flawed study later retracted. There is no evidence to suggest that aspartame increases cancer risk. It is, however, one of the best choices of artificial sweetener for both diabetics and the health conscious. Considerably higher sweetness levels than sugar with very low calories; it is the most popular artificial sweetener in the world today, appearing in soft drinks amongst others. Aspartame is suitable for diabetics and the health conscious.
Saccharin is another artificial sweetener that has received (undeserved) poor press. Discovered in 1879, it is the world’s oldest sugar substitute. It is some 300 times sweeter than sugar meaning that you do not need much of it. Some do not like the slight metallic aftertaste and the sharpness to saccharin, but it is arguably the best artificial sweetener on the market. The body does not process the substance, but secretes it straight out. That means you get all the benefit of the sweetness but without absorbing calories. It’s also perfect for diabetics.
One of the most popular artificial sweeteners today, nobody had heard of it until a few years ago. That was because the EU did not approve it until 2010 following extensive examination over yet more claims of carcinogenic properties. Again, it is safe to use as a sugar substitute. Stevia is a plant extract some 200 times sweeter than sugar, derived from a plant similar to daisy and ragweed. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste; as a result, commercial products often mix in other types of artificial sweetener to take the edge off the bitterness. Cakes, jams and sweets aimed at diabetics is the most common use of this sugar substitute.