Because there are so many sugar substitutes on the market, it can be difficult to decide on the best one for your lifestyle. This decision is especially important for the millions of people who live with diabetes. The following is a list of some of the most common artificial sweeteners and how they affect your blood sugar levels:
- Agave Nectar – Agave nectar is a concentrated sugar syrup that is a vegan alternative to honey. Although it has twice as many calories as table sugar, it has a lower glycemic index, meaning that it is safer in moderation for people living with diabetes. And, being 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar, people tend to use less of it. Still, the American Diabetes Association lists agave nectar as “a sweetener to limit.”
- Aspartame – Aspartame is produced by linking aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two amino acids. It’s known by its brand names, Equal and NutraSweet. It can be found in soft drinks, dairy, candy, fruit spreads and various other foods. It is also available in packets that can be added to coffee and tea. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and is acceptable for people with diabetes since it has no effect on blood glucose levels.
- Stevia – Derived from the South American stevia plant, its brand names include PureVia, Truvia and SweetLeaf Sweetener. It can be found in drinks, desserts, gum, baked goods, candy, yogurt and in packets for use in beverages. Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and does not affect blood sugar levels, so it is safe for people who have diabetes.
- Sucralose (Splenda) – Sucralose, or Splenda, is a no-calorie sugar substitute found in many processed foods and used as a general purpose sweetener (found in small yellow packets wherever coffee and tea are served). Splenda is 600 times sweeter than refined sugar and not very safe for individuals with diabetes, due to its carbohydrate content. According to research, Splenda contains about 1 gram of carbs per teaspoon, which means it could affect blood sugar if it’s not consumed in moderation. People who have diabetes should limit their intake of Splenda.