Sugar and Its Substitutes

Sugar – sweet but not always innocent. If you have diabetes or trouble controlling your weight, sugar maybe more foe than friend.

Yet trying to avoid sugar or use fewer products that contains sugar isn’t always easy. Manufacturers can use various forms of sugar in their products without having to list the word ”sugar” on the nutrition label. Sugar substitutes, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, can add to the confusion.

Whether you’re trying to control your weight, your blood sugar level or both – knowing about sugar and its substitutes can make your job easier.

Sugar has been blamed for causing problems ranging from obesity to high blood pressure to diabetes. But the only clear indictment against sugar is its link to tooth decay.

If you have diabetes, limiting your sugar intake can help you control your blood sugar level.

If you’re overweight, sugar can displace vital nutrients from your diet while it adds calories. Whether you can afford sugar “empty” calories depends on the overall quality of your diet, as well as the number of calories you can eat to control your weight.

Manufacturers sweeten products in two ways: They add a nutritive sweetener such as sucrose (table sugar), fructose or honey; or they use a non-nutritive sweetener (sugar substitutes) that your body doesn’t convert to energy or fat. Nutritive sweeteners contain about 20 calories in teaspoon; sugar substitutes have few or no calories.

Aspartame (ah-spar’tame), saccharin and, most recently, acesulfame (ay’see-sul’fame) K are three sugar substitutes approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

How can you cope with confusing labels? Here are some tips:

1. Read food labels carefully. Ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight. Products that contain a large amount of sugar will list some form of sugar first or second in the ingredient list. Products may also list several different sweeteners in any position on the label. If you have diabetes and wonder about the sugar content of a specific food, check with a registered dietitian.

2. Words ending in “ose” usually refer to forms of sugar. Glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose or lactose are all forms of sugar. Each contains the same number of calories as table sugar.

3. Dietetic foods aren’t necessarily low in calories or sugar. Foods in the dietetic section of your supermarket may or may not be appropriate for your diabetic or weight-control diet.Products such as jellies and salad dressings are often “low-calorie”, containing no more than 40 calories per serving or at least one-third fewer calories than the regular product. But other foods such as snack chips or peanut butter may be reduced only in sodium.

4. Foods labeled “sugarless” aren’t necessarily low in calories. These foods don’t contain sucrose. But they may have other sugars as fructose or sorbitol. Sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol are sugar alcohols containing the same number of calories as table sugar. Products sweetened with sorbitol also often contain more fat to dissolve the sorbitol. That means “sugarless” products can be equal to or even higher in calories than regular versions.

“Sugarless” products that are not lower in calories must carry a claim that states ”not a reduced-calorie food” or not for “weight control”. Fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame K may be acceptable in your diabetic diet. But be aware that none of these alternatives to table sugar is proven to make following your diabetic diet or controlling your weight easier. Before using products that contain alternative sweeteners, discuss them with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Health | Diet | Food

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