How Sweet Are Sugar Free Foods & Drinks
February 17, 2018
Taara Singh (1 article)
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How Sweet Are Sugar Free Foods & Drinks

We generally think about artificial sweeteners and sugar-free options only twice – The day we are diagnosed with diabetes, and the day we hastily scan nutrition labels before purchase (Do you?). Here are a few reasons to be more cautious as this can take your diabetes management goals for a toss.

Do you believe that use of artificial sweeteners and sugar-free products help with diabetes control and weight loss?

The idea of consuming sugar and not having face the heat is in itself quite sweet. Not abandoning the sweet tooth and enjoying a healthy lifestyle somehow sounds like a memory eraser from the movie“Men in Black.” Many questions arise. Do they work? If they work, do they have any side effects?

In fact most of you may not understand the difference between artificial sugars, and sugar-free. Some makers call them natural sugars while others call them low-calorie or calorie-free. However, you have to take these synthesized sugars with a pinch of salt.

Let’s dive into the sweet valley and find out!

What are artificial sweeteners?

Artificial sugars are sugar substitutes. You can use them instead of table sugar or brown sugar. Manufacturers of soft drinks, beverages, and foods constantly use these. Aspartame, Saccharin, Stevia, Sucralose, and Ace-K are some artificial sugars.

They are found in:

  • Ice creams/frozen foods.
  • Dairy products.
  • Canned and processed foods.
  • Baked foods.
  • Soft drinks.
  • Smoothies
  • Chewing gum.
  • Gelatins
  • Cereals
  • Table-top sweetener (usage at home).

Risk vs. Benefits – Artificial Sugars

Artificial sweeteners are actually sweeter than sugar. So, you need to add much lesser quantities than table sugar. Since these artificial sugars are synthesized from plants or manufactured, let us just look at the possible benefits.

Possible benefits of artificial sugars:

  • Reducing the risk of tooth decay. Xylitol is known to prevent tooth decay.
  • Be an alternative to sugar for people with diabetes. This can be great for your diabetes control. However, it’s better to check the nutrition label and cross check with your diabetes doctor in order to achieve goals of diabetes management.
  • Control weight gain. This is due to artificial sugars being “calorie-free.”

Having said that, if you can smartly use these artificial sugars with advice from your diabetes doctor for proper diabetes management. Yet, one should not think that these are magic potions.

Possible risks of artificial sugars:

  • Some experts still think that risk of bladder cancer with artificial sugars is not totally eliminated.
  • Some artificial sugars like saccharin are known to cause chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Since they are way sweeter than sugars, you might become non responsive to sugars in fruits.
  • Since foods with artificial sugars taste sweet even though they have very few calories, there might be a disruption in your hormones leading to food craving effecting your health goals.
  • Due to less thicker texture than sugar, people tend to over eat foods with artificial sugars.
  • Effect of artificial sugars on blood sugar levels, diabetes management, and weight control are still debated.

What is Sugar-free?

The very phrase sugar-free is enough to raise aspirations in people with diabetes. They dream of eating as much of it they can and stay fit! Let’s see if this is really the case.

A lot has to do with labelling and claims. A maker can use “No Sugar Added” only if the food has no ingredient that contains sugar. This means these foods do not contain high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, malt syrup or other sweetening agents like honey.

If you buy a milkshake that claims to have “No Sugar Added,” you are consuming sugar as it contains milk, which has its sugar.

In the case of sugar-free, a maker can have the label of “Sugar-free” only if the food contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar for every serving (75 grams).

If you order a food that has a label of “Sugar-free” then for every 75 grams of food you eat, you get half a gram of sugar. This is insignificant for one serving, but counts for in multiple servings.

Mind you, this might give you wings to fly, but sugar-free foods are not free of carbohydrates and calories! You might in advertently be consuming sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol, and xylitol. These are full of carbohydrates and can lead to an upset tummy and diarrhea. Worse, you may be putting your diabetes management at risk with excess consumption of sugar-free substances.

Points you can take home are consulting your diabetes specialist or dietician, and reading the nutrition label carefully before using.

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Taara Singh

Taara Singh


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