Diabetes management relies heavily on healthy lifestyle habits, like following a nutrient-dense diet pattern that doesn’t encourage dramatic highs and lows in your blood sugar. To maintain optimal blood sugar control, it’s important to monitor your consumption of added sweeteners.
Instead of relying on table sugar every time you want to sweeten a drink or recipe, there are several natural sugar substitutes worth considering. Let’s examine some of the best sugar substitutes for type 2 diabetes.
The Best Natural Sugar Substitutes For Type 2 Diabetes
Stevia comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It offers a unique sweetness without calories and carbohydrates, making it a nice choice for those seeking to manage blood sugar levels. Unlike traditional sugar, stevia doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. Some research also suggests stevia in place of sugar may help support improved insulin sensitivity.
Stevia comes in powder, extract, and blends. You can use it in things like smoothies, yogurt, cottage cheese, coffee, tea, and certain baking recipes.
Monk fruit, also known as Siraitia grosvenorii, gets its sweetness from compounds called mogrosides, which don’t contribute calories or carbohydrates. This makes it an excellent sugar substitute for people with diabetes. Furthermore, monk fruit has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Some research also suggests that mogrosides in monk fruit have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Monk fruit can be purchased in granulated, powdered, or liquid form. You can use it in coffee, tea, desserts (like sugar-free cookies), cereal, oatmeal, or homemade sauces and marinades.
Allulose is a rare natural sugar found in certain fruits and sweeteners in small amounts. Despite being a low-calorie sweetener, allulose doesn’t contribute to the net carbohydrate count. Some studies suggest that allulose may even improve insulin sensitivity and promote better glucose utilization.
Find allulose in syrup, liquid, granulated, powdered, or drops. You can use it to sweeten baked goods, smoothies, sauces, dressings, yogurt, or certain baking recipes.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. It’s virtually calorie-free and doesn’t significantly impact blood sugar levels. As the body absorbs only a small portion of erythritol, it undergoes minimal metabolism and doesn’t cause dramatic blood sugar spikes. Furthermore, while other sugar alcohols often trigger digestive issues, erythritol is largely well-tolerated.
Erythritol comes in powdered, granulated, liquid, or blended forms. You can use it to sweeten coffee, tea, sauces, marinades, or baked goods like cakes or cookies.
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol. With a low glycemic index, xylitol has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. It also has the added benefit of promoting dental health. Studies suggest that xylitol may help prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Xylitol comes in drops, powders, and granules. It can sweeten coffee, tea, smoothies, pudding, cookies, cakes, and fruits.
Coconut sugar comes from the sap of coconut palm trees. While it still contains calories and carbohydrates, it has less of an impact on blood sugar than traditional sugars because it’s absorbed more slowly. Interestingly, coconut sugar also has a small amount of certain nutrients, like potassium, iron, and zinc.
Coconut sugar comes in granules that look similar to brown sugar. You can use it in smoothies, for baking, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, or to help caramelize certain dishes.
Cinnamon is a beloved spice with a rich history. It can also stand in for sugar when you need just a little sweetening for things like oatmeal, yogurt, or coffee. Studies suggest that cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, it’s been linked to lower fasting blood glucose levels and a reduction in hemoglobin A1C, a measure of long-term blood sugar control.
Powdered cinnamon can be added to oatmeal, homemade bread and muffins, in pancake batter, to make spiced nuts, or mixed into smoothies or coffee.
What About Artificial Sweeteners?
Once upon a time, artificial sweeteners were an automatic go-to for people with diabetes. However, more recent research has yielded mixed results, sparking ongoing discussions within the scientific community.
Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame (NutraSweet®), saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), and sucralose (Splenda®), may be viable sugar substitutes for individuals with diabetes. These sweeteners contribute negligible calories or carbohydrates and have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
However, other research has raised concerns about their potential effects on metabolism, gut microbiome, and insulin response. Individual responses to artificial sweeteners can vary; some people may experience adverse effects or cravings for sweet foods.
While these sweeteners may provide a sugar-free option for those with diabetes, moderation and personalized considerations remain important. Instead, you might want to opt for some of the natural sweeteners above.
Sweetness in Moderation
If you have diabetes, it’s important to adopt lifestyle changes that support your goals. Good blood sugar management requires awareness of your diet pattern and making choices that don’t promote significant highs and lows.
In place of regular sugar and artificial sweeteners, consider some of the natural sugar substitutes for type 2 diabetes above. This doesn’t mean you should use them all the time, as any sweetener should be used in moderation, but these options may help support a more stable blood sugar when you need them.