Sugar Substitutes - Which Sweetener Is Best For Diabetics

Sugar Substitutes – Which Sweetener Is Best For Diabetics?

The consumption of sugar substitutes is one of the ones that has increased the most in recent years. In today’s market, many types of sweeteners are offered, all with different flavors and properties.

Sugar substitutes are recommended for diabetics, particularly in the early stages of detection of this disease. This is because they provide a sweet taste without altering blood sugar levels.

However, knowing which sweetener is the best for people with diabetes generates all kinds of confusion.

This article describes the different sugar substitutes – the best sweeteners for people with diabetes.

What are sugar substitutes?

Sugar substitutes or sweeteners are food additives with a characteristic sweet taste similar to table sugar.

The term sugar substitutes encompass all products with sweetening power except sugar itself. Each of them has different properties, and some are suitable for diabetics, and others are not.

Some examples of sugar substitutes are:

  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Agave syrup
  • Honey
  • Xylitol

Types of sugar substitutes

Sweeteners can be classified according to their method of preparation in:

  1. Artificial

The types of artificial sugar substitutes are those made from chemical reactions. Examples: saccharin, aspartame, cyclamate. They were the first to be discovered and used in industry.

  1. Natural

The natural types are those extracted and processed from products of nature. Examples of these sugar substitutes are stevia, honey, and agave syrup.

Or according to your calorie intake in:

  1. Nutritious

Nutritious sweeteners provide calories while non-nutritive sweeteners do not. Nutritive sweeteners include agave syrup, honey, and all simple carbohydrates.

  1. Non-nutritive

Nutritious sweeteners include agave syrup, honey, and all simple carbohydrates. The most popular non-nutritive sweeteners are saccharin, sucralose, stevia, xylitol, and aspartame.

The general rule of thumb to distinguish between these two types of sweeteners is: if it contributes 2% of calories or more calories than ordinary sugar. (5)

Are Sweeteners Good For Weight Loss?

Consumption of sugar substitutes in moderate amounts is considered safe for health. However, studies have confirmed that they are not suitable for losing weight. (8.9)

Sugar substitutes generate reactions in the brain similar to those of sugar, leading to an addictive tendency to eat sweet foods.

The consumption of sugar substitutes is recommended for people with diabetes. While on a type 2 diabetic diet, the use of sweeteners is not mandatory; it is the best solution to replace table sugar.

Sugar substitutes are not suitable for weight loss. However, its use for diabetics is recommended in moderate amounts.

Which sweetener is best for diabetics?

When choosing sugar substitutes, there are several factors to consider. The price, the taste, and who is going to consume them. Below is a list of sugar substitutes with their corresponding analysis of advantages and disadvantages:

SteviaThe stevia is one of the natural sugar substitutes with more sweetening power, 200 times more than white sugar. There are practically no known side effects of stevia, so the FDA has included it in its list of additives allowed in the food and drug industry. (1)

Some people often notice a slightly bitter taste in stevia. This is due to the presence of unidentified compounds found in the plant’s leaves. Manufacturers are currently doing their best to identify, extract, and flavor them.

Steviol glycosides are non-nutritive sugar substitutes (they do not provide calories), and their glycemic index is 0. Therefore, stevia powder and liquid are products with potential uses as a treatment for diabetics. This sweetener may be more expensive, but we consider it the best.

  1. Sugar alcohols – xylitol and erythritol

Sugar alcohols are substitutes for the low – calorie sugar. The most widely used are xylitol and erythritol.

As the name implies, they are hybrids of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. Sugar alcohols are safe for most people.

Studies have confirmed that they have virtually no short-term and long-term side effects. In rare cases, or if consumed in amounts greater than 50 grams at one time, they can cause diarrhea.

Various sugar alcohols are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Because sugar alcohols have a similar chemical structure to sugar, they activate sweet taste receptors on the tongue.

Sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol are low on the glycemic index. They have virtually no effect on insulin levels, making them one of the best sweetener options for people with diabetes.

  1. Sucralose

Sucralose, well known by its brand name Splenda, is a sugar substitute that does not provide calories because the human body cannot metabolize it. It is obtained as a by-product of white sugar itself, so its taste is the most similar among sweeteners.

The FDA has done more than 100 studies on sucralose (5) and has declared it a safe product for controlled consumption. Sucralose does not occur in nature, so it is an artificial sweetener.

The advantage of sucralose as a substitute for sugar is that it does not change its flavor at high temperatures, making it the best option for baked goods or even to make some types of chocolate allowed for people with diabetes.

Its disadvantage is that one of its side effects is to modify the intestinal flora and has laxative effects. (2) Therefore, it is not the best substitute for sugar for people with digestive disorders.

  1. Fruit of the monk

Monk fruit sweetener is a natural sweetener extracted from a plant native to southern China.

It contains natural sugars and compounds called mogrosides, which are antioxidants that represent and give it a sweet taste.

Depending on the concentration of mogrosides, monk fruit sweeteners can be 100 to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar.

Monk fruit extract contains no calories or simple carbohydrates, making it an excellent option for people with diabetes.

If you opt for this sweetener, buy a brand that does not contain sugar since monk fruit extract is sometimes mixed with other sweeteners.

  1. Saccharin

Saccharin is considered the first non-caloric sugar substitute. It was first synthesized in the 1970s. A decade later, a study published that it could have carcinogenic effects in mice, so it was withdrawn from the market.

Years later, the European expert committee on food additives, the WHO, and the FDA invalidated the previous studies and certified them as safe for health. The FDA states that saccharin is toxic only when you drink amounts equivalent to 15 liters of diet soda daily. (5)

The main disadvantage of saccharin is its taste. Notoriously artificial compared to other sugar substitutes. As well as, several cases of particular allergies to this compound have been detected.

  1. Aspartame

Aspartame is a sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is one of the most widely used sweeteners in the food and pharmaceutical industry.

Its flavor is slightly artificial but less than saccharin. The FDA has confirmed that it is safe up to doses equivalent to consuming 90 sachets of sweeteners in one day.

  1. Agave syrup

Agave syrup is a natural sugar substitute extracted from a tropical plant of Mexican origin. It is of the nutritional type, that is, it provides calories. Due to its low insulin index, it is also a suitable sweetener for people with diabetes. The composition of agave syrup is mostly fructose.

Agave syrup is an ideal sweetener for people on vegetarian diets. Its flavor is pleasant and similar to that of honey. Its price is relatively higher for both people with diabetes, and to lose weight, it is recommended to consume in moderate quantities.

Is honey a permitted sweetener for diabetics?

Honey is considered one of the high calorie sugar substitutes. 100 g of honey provide 300-320 Kcal. Only 10% lower than white table sugar. Honey has a high glycemic load, so all people with diabetes should avoid it.

If we compare white sugar and honey, we can say that it is better due to polyphenols. However, it is not a recommended substitute option for people with diabetes.

Sugar Substitutes – Table (FDA)

Below is a table of sugar substitutes allowed by the FDA with the amounts allowed for both diabetics and those who are not,

Sweetener Calories per
sweetening power Maximum
daily dose
Equal to
Aspartame 4 200 x 50
600 g of
Saccharin 0 200-700 x 15
8 liters
soft drinks
Stevia 0 200-400 x
Sucralosa 0 600  x 5
97 envelopes


The use of sugar substitutes in moderate amounts is considered safe for health.

The use of sugar substitutes is recommended for people with diabetes. In particular to limit excess white sugar.

When the objective is to lose weight, the consumption must be reduced and sugar. Studies claim that dependence on sweet taste is counterproductive to body weight.

The best substitutes for sugar are stevia and the sugar alcohols: xylitol and erythritol. They are natural, low in calories, and have no long-term and short-term side effects.

Agave syrup and honey are natural sugar substitutes that provide calories.

Saccharin, cyclamate, and aspartame are non-caloric artificial sweeteners. In moderate amounts, they are safe; in excess, they are toxic.

In all cases, sugar substitutes should be used in moderation.


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