Artificial sweeteners vs sugar

All Woman

Dear Donovan,

Are the sweeteners recommended for diabetics any good? I have diabetes and I am trying to cut out sugar. I use the recommended sweeteners but I also hear it is best to leave them out. Please help and suggest other ways I can wean myself off sugar.

For people who are overweight or diabetic and want to cut the calories and sugar in their diet, artificial or non-sugary sweeteners might seem like a good choice. These artificial sweeteners are found in several foods and beverages which are marketed as sugar-free or diet. They are usually seen as an attractive substitute to sugar because they add no calories to the diet and will not increase your blood glucose level.

In addition, you need only a small amount of artificial sweeteners for sweetness compared to regular sugar. But the facts about the safety of non-sugary sweeteners are not clear-cut. There tends to be a split of opinion in the medical community about them.

One concern is that people who use non-sugary artificial sweeteners may replace the calories through other sources. For example, there might be an assumption that since you are having a zero-calorie juice then you can eat a piece of cake, and this kind of eating can lead to weight gain. In addition, it is also possible that these artificial sweeteners may affect the way you taste foods. For example, overstimulation of your sugar reception from frequent use of these sweeteners may cause naturally sweet foods, for example, fruits and vegetables, to taste less sweet. There is even the suspicion that the non-sugary sweeteners may be carcinogenic.

As a diabetic it is very important that you control your sugar intake. It will take some effort in weaning yourself from sugar, especially processed sugars. You could start off by reading the ingredients in the processed foods you eat. The labels will give you an idea of the amount of sugar present.

Also, it might be important to take sugar from natural sources, example, fruits and vegetables which are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which can boost the immune system. In addition, the high fibre in fruits allows them to be digested slowly therefore reducing the risk of a blood sugar spike.

It is also a wise idea to eat more raw foods and also make the foods and juices you consume yourself. In that sense you are able to contain the sugar you put in. Also, if you are baking you could reduce the recipe's sugar by half. In addition, you could drink coconut water instead of sodas or other sweetened beverages. Even a small amount of freshly squeezed or blended fruit juice would be better than commercially prepaid juices which may have added sugar and colouring.

Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com .

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