Does Sugar-Free on a Label Really Mean What It Says?

Any list headed “Allowed Foods: Low-Carb Diet” is likely to contain a great number of foods that are labeled “sugar-free.” But if you are a diabetic who cannot explain an unexpected spike in blood sugars, the problem just could be “sugar-free” candies and desserts.

Every diabetic knows to avoid table sugar. Not every diabetic knows that any sweetener with a name that ends in –ose or –ol will also raise blood sugars, only more slowly.

Sugar blends are just as bad. A mixture of Splenda and brown sugar, for example, contains about half as many carbs as regular brown sugar. But if you eat twice as much, you are right back where you started!

And sugar alcohols are especially harmful for blood sugar control. A single “sugar-free” mint sweetened with sorbitol, for example, raises blood glucose levels between 10 and 20 mg/dl. If you eat ten of them, chances are you will raise your blood sugars about 150 mg/dl.

Fortunately, there is a vast variety of chemicals that are both intensely sweet and genuinely sugar free:

  • Acesulfame-K (Sunett, The Sweet One),
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal),
  • Cyclamate tablets (available outside the USA),
  • Neotame tablets (available outside the USA),
  • Saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low), and even
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

But even “sugar-free” chemical sweeteners aren’t really sugar free when you get them. All of these chemicals are so sweet that a full teaspoon full would taste bizarrely sweet. All of these chemicals are cut with white sugar or glucose to provide bulk, diluting their chemical sweetness down to acceptable level. All of these products provide about 1/3 as much real sugar as a similarly sized package of pure cane sugar.

Stevia powder, however, typically contains no added sugar, and liquid forms of all the sweeteners listed above are really sugar-free.

Because the effects of sugar-substitutes on blood sugar levels are unpredictable, most diabetics may actually be better off consuming small amounts of real sugar in special situations, such as just before exercise. And even though diabetics should not have sugar, they can have flavor. Flavor extracts, whether sweet or not, can make food more interesting and even exciting.

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Apr 21st by admin

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