Determining which types of foods can be tricky when trying to figure out how to best manage diabetes, and many patients ask if and how artificial sweeteners will impact their diabetes.
To begin, here is some background knowledge; the glycemic index of food is a measurement of how fast the glucose levels in the blood will spike after eating that type of food. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as white bread, break down and are digested quickly, but in the process, glucose will be rapidly released into the blood stream, which will lead to a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index needs to be avoided by patients with diabetes. Food with a low glycemic index means that the food is digested and absorbed slower, so in return there will not be a high spike in blood sugar levels, and usually less insulin will be needed to help maintain a healthy blood sugar level. However, not just the glycemic index alone can be used to determine if the food will have a negligible effect on the blood sugar levels; according to the American Diabetes Association, the amount of carbohydrates in the food is another very important factor when looking at foods that would be a healthy choice for diabetic patients. Examples of food with low carbohydrate levels and a low glycemic index include:
- Rye bread
- Whole wheat bread
- Soy products
These are just a few examples of food that will not spike the blood sugar levels as high as other foods; however, your dietician will be able to help you find a diet that will help keep your diabetes better under control.
Many patients with diabetes often times question if they can use artificial sweeteners or if it will still lead to an uncontrolled blood sugar level. The answer is that most artificial sweeteners are safe and will not cause a spike in blood sugar levels! Artificial sweeteners do not affect blood sugar levels the same amount as regular sugar. The body cannot easily absorb the artificial sweeteners, so they provide the body with a low number of calories. Some of the sugar substitutes that can be used by diabetic patients include:
- Truvia and PureVia are popular brands of a new sugar alternative that are made from the stevia plant. The sugar substitutes from the stevia plant are 300 times sweeter than the normal table sugar; however, unlike table sugar, these substitutes do not cause changes in blood sugar levels. Due to these substitutes being sweeter than table sugar, not as much substitute will be needed.
- Xylitol is obtained from fruit and vegetables. This natural sugar alcohol sweetener can be found in various types of gum, since it can be used to prevent cavities. When this sweetener is first being tried, patients may experience diarrhea, indigestion, and bloating. However, this sweetener is not high in calories, nor does it spike blood glucose levels.
- Agave nectar is a combination of fructose and glucose; whereas regular table sugar is sucrose. This combination of fructose and glucose does not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.
- Other artificial sweeteners that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, for safe use in diabetic patients are: Sweet’N Low (Saccharin), Splenda (Sucralose), Equal and NutraSweet (Aspartame), and Neotame.
Even though these artificial sweeteners are approved, be sure to check your blood sugar levels after consumption, just because every individual is different, so what might affect one individual minimally, may affect another patient differently. It would also be beneficial to find which of these substitutes will have the least effect on your blood sugar levels.