Sugar has become the world’s most notorious public health enemy being linked responsible for some of the world’s leading diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
The large amounts of empty calories it provides and its dangerous impact on blood sugar levels have shifted the demands of cautious consumers towards sugar substitutes and other artificial sweeteners.
But even these alternatives come with their own set of problems involved with the high processing that goes into making these products.
So, here we have decided to explore some of the best natural variants of sugars for satisfying your sweet tooth that is safe for diabetics and health-conscious people.
Read: Best Glucose Meters
Best natural sweeteners for diabetics
These are the best natural sweeteners for diabetics to have in 2020.
If you have been searching around for some natural sweeteners you would have, definitely come across this name.
Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the plant species ‘Stevia rebaudiana’, which are native to Brazil and Paraguay.
It is known to have been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní peoples of South America, who called it “Sweet herb” in their native language.
The sweet taste that these plants are famous for is due to the presence of certain sugar storing molecules called glycosides.
Widely touted as being some 300 times sweeter than regular sugar in certain forms, while still providing little to no caloric value, this plant-based product is a superfood for diabetics.
A study conducted in 2003 and supported by the ‘Danish Diabetes Association’ has shown that stevia can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Several other studies, such as one published in 2001 in the journal of ‘British pharmacological society’, also showed that Stevia can lower high blood pressure in people with hypertension.
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2. Monk fruit
Also called “luohan guo” or “Buddha Fruit”, it is a small round fruit native to southern China and northern Thailand.
The sweetening agent present in this fruit is called ‘mogrosides’, which when extracted can be as much as 150-300 times sweeter than regular sugar.
It can be very useful to diabetics for sweetening their food because of its zero carbs and caloric value. It will not cause blood sugar spikes because they have little to no impact on their blood sugar levels.
Certain studies conducted on mice have shown that Monk fruit can even reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic specimens.
A particular study published in 2009 by the ‘College of Life Science, Guizhou university’ of China, has shown that mogrosides may have a certain ability to stimulate insulin secretion in insulin cells. So far, the potential benefits of Monk fruits for diabetics seem promising.
Apart from these, Monk fruits are known to provide some other health benefits. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can inhibit certain harmful molecules and prevent DNA damage.
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“I replaced my regular sugar with this since I am a diabetic. I use it in my coffee and any other cooking. It tastes the same as regular sugar. Value priced for what you get. I was using another brand and found myself ordering more often and at a higher price. This is the same quality and you get more for your money. Highly recommend.” – Patricia, a verified purchaser on Amazon.
This product comes in a large 3 lb bag and is certified non-GMO and keto-friendly as well.
3. Yacon Syrup:
This another popular sweetening agent derived from the roots of the ‘Yacón’ plant.
They were originally indigenous to south American mountain ranges like the ‘Andes’ and was widely used by the Incas.
This plant is famous for its nutritional properties, especially anti-diabetic. Yacón roots are eaten by diabetics in Bolivia and the dried leaves of this plant are used to make tea in Brazil because they are believed to be antidiabetic.
A study published in ‘Clinical nutrition’ showed that Yacon syrup may be effective in lowering blood sugar levels. But the evidence for this function seems to be unconvincing.
However, the sweetening agent “fructooligosaccharides”, are found to not affect blood glucose levels. So, they are perfectly safe for consumption for diabetics.
Its caloric value is also very low since a large part of this syrup is not digested by our body. It is estimated to have the only 1/3rd of the calories that regular sugars provide.
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4. Lucuma powder
It is a dried and milled version of lucuma fruit which is cultivated extensively in the Andean regions of South America such as Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.
It has a rich mixture of complex carbs and fiber is known to be extremely beneficial for protection against Type 2 diabetes as it is shown to promote healthy blood sugar levels.
This fruit is very rare in the sense of having both soluble and insoluble fibers that promotes the smooth flow of food through the gut while nourishing the healthy gut bacteria.
Some test-tube research even shows that the blood-sugar-lowering mechanism of lucuma is similar to those of certain antidiabetic drugs themselves.
All of these factors make it an amazing alternative to diabetics.
Additionally, the polyphenols in lucuma could offer protection against conditions like diabetes and heart disease. The antioxidants can lend further support to combating heart disease and even certain cancers.
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This product comes in a 16 Ounce bag and delivers not more than 20 calories per serving.
It is perfect for making yogurts, smoothies, ice cream, shakes, and as general sweeteners for beverages.
It is also a certified USDA organic and non-GMO project.
The manufacturers warn of tree nut allergy as it is packaged in a facility that handles tree nuts.
Comes in a 1-pound resealable bag and is loaded with all the goodness of natural lucuma fruits. It is also a certified USDA organic and non-GMO project and is filled with antioxidants and vitamins such as B1, B1, and C.
This variant is suitable for countless recipes including cakes, pies, yogurts, and all kinds of beverages as well.
5. Coconut sugar
Also known as Coconut palm sugar or Coco sap sugar, it is a type of Palm sugar, which is a sweetener derived from different varieties of palm trees.
It is similar in taste to brown sugar and other table sugars with a slightly caramelized flavor.
Since they are not highly processed, its color, sweetness, and flavor can vary depending on various factors like the species of coconut used, harvest time and methods, etc.
If used in moderation, coconut sugar can be a great substitute to diabetics because of their low glycaemic index (GI), lower level of fructose sugars, and presence of healthful dietary fibers such as ‘inulin’, that are known to be beneficial to diabetics in controlling their blood sugar levels.
Since coconut sugars undergo very little processing, it retains almost all of its nutrient composition as well.
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While natural products have a lot of benefits to offer, they come with certain disadvantages too.
Natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, and lucuma powder are all mostly undigested by our bodies. That is the reason for their low-calorie levels. Furthermore, the sweetness without the actual calories is found to increase the sugar cravings of consumers. So, in reality, they can cause more harm than good if we are not cautious with their use. A natural sweetener like Yacon syrup is unsuitable for cooking as its main component ‘Fructooligosaccharides’, break down when heated above 120° Celsius. So, they are only suitable for mixing-in with some unheated beverages.
Since you will have to moderate your intake of these natural sweeteners mentioned here anyways, you might as well try out some of these sugar alcohols because of their similar benefits with even lesser disadvantages: –
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is extracted from birch wood, corncobs, and stalk residue from sugar cane.
Xylitol is a natural source of sugar alcohol that goes through little processing compared to other artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Aspartame. So, the body can break them down rather easily.
And because they are easily absorbed by the body, they have a comparatively higher caloric value. But they still have 40% fewer calories than regular sugars.
Xylitol is also known to have very little impact on blood sugar levels as well, so they are a wonderful choice for diabetics to consider.
But just like any sugars, moderation needs to be ensured as Xylitol is found to cause some digestive discomfort including bloating, gas, and laxative effect when consumed in excessive amounts.
They are also very harmful to dogs, so keep it away from them.
It is naturally found in some fruits such as grapes, peaches, pears, watermelons, etc. and also in some fermented foods such as wine, cheese, and beer.
But they are usually made from corn using certain enzymes and fermentation processes.
It is known to be 60-70% sweet as regular table sugars while being almost zero calories and having no effect on blood sugar levels.
So erythritol is unable to cause sugar spikes in blood and this makes it a perfect sugar substitute for diabetics.
It is also tooth-friendly as it cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria, so it does not lead to any kind of tooth decay. And in fact, they may also have antibacterial effects against some bacteria and reduces dental plaque, this can even protect against tooth decay.
Although natural sweeteners for diabetics may contain little to no calories and impact on your blood sugar levels, it is generally advised to keep their consumption moderate.
Some of the natural sweeteners mentioned here are known to cause digestive problems when consumed in excessive amounts and certain cases even increase your sugar cravings and consumption. So ample care and caution are necessary when using these products.
For diabetics especially, it is very important to include routine exercises and diet changes along with their prescribed medications to sustain a healthy lifestyle. No matter how harmless certain sugar substitutes and alcohols may seem, it is better to limit your overall consumption.
That being said, there is no problem in using these any of these products in their recommended amounts.
You can even benefit from some of the healthful properties that they offer while enjoying their sweet and flavourful essence as well.