Confused about Sugar Alcohols? What Every Diabetic Should Know
Confused about sugar alcohols? Many people with diabetes hear that sugar alcohols are not sugar, they don’t raise your blood sugar, and you can subtract them from your carbohydrate count. What is the real scoop on sugar alcohols?
In the past, diabetics were told they should not have any sugar whatsoever in their diet. Today, diabetics can have “certain” sugars in their diet and still meet the goals they set for themselves or by their health care professionals. One of the more confusing topics you’ll run across is sugar alcohols and how it relates to Type 2 diabetes.
What Are Sugar Alcohols – Sugar alcohols are Not Created Equal
Sugar alcohols are a kind of reduced-calorie food sweetener often seen in sugar free or no sugar added food content; they are actually carbohydrates. The intention of these sweeteners is to prevent rapid rise of diabetics’ blood sugar to dangerous levels, which will generally happen with regular sugar.
You can find sugar alcohols in all kinds of products like sugar free candy, cookies, ice cream, fruit spreads, gums, etc. You can also find sugar alcohols in medicines and dental cleaning products like toothpaste and mouthwash. This type of carbohydrate energy ranging from 0.2 to 3 calories per gram compared to 4 grams per calorie of regular sugar and many carbohydrates.
Sugar alcohols do not contain ethanol, which is used in alcoholic drinks so you won’t get drunk from it. Make sure to look for products that contain the following sugar alcohols (carbohydrates). Below, we have listed some of the more popular sugar alcohols with the calories they deliver and their Glycemic Index.
Note: in the United States 1 Calorie = 1 kilocalorie in the metric system
|Glycemic Index (GI)
|GI Values||Greater than 70||55 to 70||40 to 54||Less than 40|
Calories and Glycemic Index of Some Sugar Alcohols
|Table Sugar (Sucrose, honey) to Compare||4.0||61 to 69|
|Sugar Alcohols (Polyols)||Calories per Gram||Glycemic Index|
(Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates)
Diabetes and Sugar Alcohols – Why Should You Use Them?
When you have Type 2 diabetes, you’re going to need to watch your diet especially with the amount of sugar you consume. It doesn’t mean you can’t have sugar; it just means you need to watch how much you consume or the kind of sugar you consume. This is when foods/drinks with sugar alcohols come in handy. There are two very big reasons why diabetics should use sugar alcohols.
- One reason sugar alcohols are wonderful is that they maintain blood glucose levels because they are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning they need little to no insulin during the process. Bear in mind that they are also not completely dissolved into the bloodstream, which can cause some gassy feelings in your stomach. (Some people may see this as a negative aspect to using sugar alcohols.)
- A second reason sugar alcohols are good for diabetics is that they can help you lose weight or maintain it because it doesn’t contain all the calories regular sugar or carbohydrates do. Keep in mind that sugar alcohols have less than three calories per gram; regular sugar has four calories for one gram.
How To Use Sugar Alcohols In Every Day Life
When you are diabetic, it’s important to know how to wisely use sugar to avoid any unpleasant health effects. Here are three things you need to know when it comes to using sugar alcohols in your every day life.
- Sugar alcohols are generally used to make bland foods a little more flavorful with less added carbs or calories eaten with real sugar. For example, you want to eat oatmeal; rather than using sugar to sweeten it, use fresh fruit or a sweetener that contains sugar alcohol in it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to count it as a carbohydrate (with the other carbs) because it still has calories attached to it.
- Remember that there’s very little nutritional value found in sugar alcohols so they should only make up a small part of your diet (they may already be a part of your diet without your knowledge).
- When you’re counting carbs in your diet, you need to remember that sugar alcohols only make up between 5% and 75% of the carbs; thus, it is easy to overestimate how many carbohydrates you have consumed (for that day or that meal). For that reason, you’ll need to take away 25% the sugar alcohols from the total carb of a food item. Regardless of what you eat (at snack or mealtime) that contains sugar alcohols, you must count that food as part of your carbs.
- When sugar alcohols are eaten with fats and protein as part of a balance meal or snack, they stay in your stomach longer fats and protein demand a longer period to be broken down in your stomach. This extra time in the stomach reduces the rise of blood sugar levels.
Are Sugar Alcohols Safe For Diabetics
Scientists have studied the effects of sugar alcohols on the human body and concluded that they are indeed safe for humans to eat. However, people with diabetes mellitus – Type 2, Type 1 and gestational diabetes, should limit the amount of sugar alcohols they eat. Because, some do raise blood sugar levels (see table above). Note: Sugar-free does not mean calorie-free.
Some diabetics are very sensitive to some of the popular sugar alcohols like maltitol. One hundred percent (100%) of sugar alcohols are not broken down in the stomach. The unbroken down part that reaches the large intestines are broken down by bacteria that live in the large intestines. This late break down causes gas and diarrhea. The gas and diarrhea depends on the amount of sugar alcohols eaten. Read the package for the recommended serving size.
End Note: Before you do any kind of dietary changes or start an exercise regime, you should speak with your physician. He/She will be able to tell you what kinds of foods you should eat and avoid so that you can control your Type 2 diabetes. You can live a healthy life with this diagnosis; you just need to make some necessary dietary adjustments.