For diabetics, avoiding the use of sugar is not only recommended, it is absolutely necessary. In many cases, sugar substitutes are used in place of table sugar, allowing the diabetic to still enjoy some of his or her favorite foods. But are all of them safe for use?
Generally, most sugar substitutes on the market today are considered to be free foods. That is, there is no need to count them as part of your daily carbohydrate intake, an important aspect to many diabetics. Combined with the calorie free aspect and the fact that all the current sugar free substitutes provide some form of a sweet taste, this sounds like a great way for the diabetic to still be able to enjoy a sugary taste without experiencing a reaction. It is important to note that some sweeteners, including sorbitol, mannitol, and other sugar alcohols, can raise blood sugar, however, and must be counted as part of the carbohydrate intake. A diabetic should know what kind of sweetener is being used in any foods he or she eats.
Using sugar substitutes in home-prepared foods and beverages is the safest way to go. For example, Splenda® is the brand name for sucralose. Because Splenda® retains its flavor when used in hot beverages and in baking, it is an ideal choice for use in coffee, hot tea, and use in any baked dish that would normally require sugar. Saccharin is sold as Sweet N Low® and Sugar Twin®, and is a good choice for use in cold teas and other drinks. This option can also be used with some hot drinks, although there are those that say saccharin takes on a more bitter taste in hot foods. Aspartame is still a popular product, marketed as NutraSweet® and Equal®; it tends to be a better option for use with cold recipes, and is not recommended for use in cooking.
It should be noted that just because a prepackaged food uses artificial sweeteners does not make it diabetic-friendly. Many processed foods will contain higher levels of carbohydrates and fat to help enhance the taste. The presence of these additives may in fact make them even worse for the diabetic than processed foods that contain trace amounts of sugar.
In general, all of the sugar substitutes on the market today are considered safe for use by diabetics. Care should be taken to note any unrelated side effects of using the product. Some people have had allergic reactions to one artificial sweetener, while having no problems with other types of sugar substitutes. There have also been concerns about the long-term health effects of consuming sugar substitutes in large quantities, so they should play a minor role in a healthy diet plan.