People who are suffering from diabetes can’t naturally regulate their blood sugar levels and often need medications or other interventions to help keep them under control and prevent the development of inflammation throughout the body. This, unfortunately, leaves them in a situation where they need to limit their intake of sugars and drastically change their diet – for good.
Over the years, we’ve found ways to solve that problem with a variety of artificial sweeteners that delivered on the well-known sweet taste but didn’t raise blood sugar levels or even bring on additional calories. Unfortunately, the majority of these artificial sweeteners have proven not to be the best option for your gut microbiome and your digestive system.
Studies even show how despite their minimal caloric content, in some situations they might even cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, making them detrimental to your health and especially harmful if you’re a diabetic. Luckily, we now know natural, healthy sweeteners that won’t raise your blood sugar levels even if you take them in excess, and they bring a variety of other health benefits to the table.
This amazing product comes from a Peruvian superfood, yacon root, that’s been used in South America for thousands of years. Not only is it delicious (think caramel, nut, maple flavors) and adds a touch of viscosity to any type of food you pair it with, but it also brings on a variety of incredible health-boosting effects.
Yacon is rich in antioxidants that help you fight free radicals and their oxidative damage. It supports your immune system and lowers inflammation, which is one of the most important side effects to address when you have diabetes. The amount of inflammation you can have in your body from the inability to regulate your blood sugar levels can wreak havoc in all of your systems and cause severe damage that can even lead to cancer.
That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a low-sugar diet which often takes people to the other side of the spectrum and even puts them in a ketogenic state, where your body starts using ketones, byproducts of fat breakdown, for energy and fuel instead of sugars. Still, even on keto, people naturally crave sweet foods and sugars. That’s where yacon syrup comes as one of the best and healthiest alternatives you can add to your food without worrying it will have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels.
Additionally, this superfood contains high levels of fiber, helping feed your microbiome and nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Fiber is also great in lowering blood sugar levels even if paired with a food that’s slightly higher in sugars, so it can help lower the overall effect on your insulin production.
A more popular healthy alternative to sugar is stevia, a plant that’s a part of the chrysanthemum family and has incredibly sweet leaves. When dehydrated and ground into a powder, they turn into the known, non-nutritive sweetener you usually see on the aisles of the healthy food section in your grocery stores.
The problem with today’s stevia products you can find in the stores is that they’re usually made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A) and additional artificial ingredients such as erythritol and even sucralose.
The natural sweetness from stevia is not only suitable for those who need to maintain a low-sugar diet, but also brings on additional health benefits to the table. It can have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and even cancer treatment.
Naturally 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar, stevia doesn’t have to be used in large amounts, which makes it easier on your digestive system and rarely causes any discomfort. That being said, stevia has a very distinctive taste that many people find unpleasant, deterring them from adding this healthy sweetener to their meals.
Those who like the taste of stevia usually use it in desserts, coffee, tea, smoothies, and basically any food that they would usually use sugar or honey in. Since it has no effect on the glycemic index (GI), it won’t affect your blood sugar levels, but it will curb your sweet tooth. Just make sure you’re buying true stevia and not the highly refined version.
Monk Fruit Sweetener
Another healthier alternative to sugar that’s recently grown in popularity is monk fruit sweetener. Coming from monk fruit, also known as luo han guo or “Buddha’s fruit,” it’s been used in Asian culture as well as Chinese medicine for centuries.
It’s created by removing the seeds and skin from the fruit and then using the pulp to create juice. This is then dehydrated and crushed into a powder. Even though it’s a fruit, the sweetness of monk fruit comes from a unique group of antioxidants called mogrosides. They get isolated from the monk fruit juice, which makes this sweetener zero calorie and therefore without any effect on your blood sugar levels.
Just like stevia, monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than cane sugar which is why many manufacturers add erythritol and other artificial ingredients to lessen its sweetness. So keep that in mind when shopping for monk fruit in your local store.
And just like stevia, it’s not just for its zero-calorie, zero-sugar aspects that this healthy sweetener is beneficial for consumption. Studies show how monk fruit sweetener can have a positive effect on your immune system, lower your inflammation, lower cholesterol levels, as well as protect you from free radical damage and help prevent infections and diseases. Additionally, some promising animal studies show the potential of monk fruit sweetener in inhibiting cancer cell growth. Although more research has to be conducted, these preliminary results show great hope for alternative sweeteners as more than just better options for diabetics and others who are maintaining low-sugar diets.
Healthy sweeteners for diabetics do exist and they’re readily available for you to purchase. The most important thing is to ensure your source is high-quality and there are no added artificial ingredients, fillers, thickening agents, flavors, or colorings that could mitigate its healthy benefits and cause a completely opposite chemical reaction in the body.