Diabetes nutrition tips: sugar and sugar substitutes

Published 2 Aug 2017 • By Léa Blaszczynski


Diabetes nutrition tips: sugar and sugar substitutes

Hello Elisa, in the first part of our interview, you gave us a lot of information on diabetes and nutrition. But there is another topic that we have not yet discussed: sugar. Is it better to consume sugar or sugar substitutes when suffering with diabetes?

It is important to limit the consumption of sugar, no matter if you are suffering with diabetes or not. This nutrient should not be consumed daily, but only occasionally. In this case, we can turn to real sugar, preferably to cane sugar, little refined, like Rapadura or Muscovada sugar that we can find in the exotic food section of supermarkets or in an organic store. It is highly flavoured, so you don’t have to add a lot to get the taste of it. Coconut sugar can also be used occasionally for baking pastry, as its glycemic index is lower than that of cane sugar.

When you add sugar to a drink, a dairy product or a dessert, you should tell yourself that you do this to reduce acidity or bitterness, not to make it sweet. Following this logic, you should only add one or two pinches of sugar to change the taste that you don’t like. When baking home pastries, divide the quantity of sugar in two, whenever you can.

Note that sugar has no utility for human’s health.

What is your opinion on  sugar substitutes?

Since the existence of sugar substitutes, the number of people with diabetes hasn’t stopped to grow, so « no comments ».

There are natural sweeteners, but their taste is often unpleasant.

Another solution can be to use a little bit of cinnamon, vanilla or orange blossom, to flavour your coffee, tea or dessert.

What foods contain « hidden sugars »?

Ready meals and most of the processed foods:
-    Ham and delis, breaded fish
-    Sauces
-    Canned or frozen veggies, soups
-    Flavoured drinks

Thank you for all this information on sugar and substitutes that you’ve shared with us. The topic of our next interview will be diabetes and obesity.


avatar Léa Blaszczynski

Author: Léa Blaszczynski, Health Writer, Communication Expert

At Carenity since 2013, writing health articles holds no secrets for Léa. She has a particular interest in the fields of psychology, nutrition, and physical activity.

Léa holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more


robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 16/10/2019

Yep loads of issues with the taste of substitutes, it took me years to get use to Diet Coke. Now aspartame in Diet Coke is bad for us and the sweeteners based on them for my coffee. One of the real issues of our time is food manufacturers are being forced to lower the sugar in its products and their so called healthy replacements taste horrible. Heinz beans, Dolmio etc. all dumb down the sugar in the products in recent years tasting awful now they have gone mad reducing salt. Even chocolate is under siege as I do taste testing occasionally and Quality Street have terrible tasting chocolate and toffee substituents the public will be forced to endure. No taste in the Chocolate and the toffee sticks to your mouth without melting plus of course no sweetness. Cadbury Heroes were also supplied with similar issues of the chocolate. So our sweets are being reduced in size or replaced with substituents so along with many foods taste is under attack. Salt is also under attack which is quite misleading as it only affects blood pressure by a little more than on percent. 

Sugar reduced food tastes awful universally and people are not getting a choice. The joke is in food manufacturing sugar is an expensive ingredient so back to basics food by the supermarkets have much less sugar levels. So you can buy expensive sugar reduced Jam or biscuits for diabetics and be ripped off by ridicules prices. Buy back to basics supermarket own brands they contain much less sugar than Diabetic reduce sugar products for a fraction of the costs.

But clearly the public will be forced to consume horrible tasting sugar reduced/substitute products more and more by government regulation. The questionable health benefits has become a draconian ideology where we no longer have the right to choose. Loosing weight is clearly the best medicine for many new diabetic 2 patients but not all as 50% are thin and it is age related. But no one should be forced to reduce their sugar levels, it should be our choice to choose if we want  sugar or substitutes in our food! 

on 16/10/2019

Being a coeliac I have to watch very carefully what I eat as I am allergic to wheat and gluten ,so I have to read all ingredients before I can eat anything ,now I have to watch my sugar and salt intake to ,so I find it very difficult these days to know what I can eat as all my gluten free products ,carry sugar and salt ,going to restaurants is hard to because some say we serve free from my argument is why cant people that produce these foods put a cross grain logo on and say suitable for coeliacs it doesn't hurt them instead of just saying suitable for vegetarians, theres is optional ours is not we dont have a choice and if we eat food that's contaminated we could become very I'll or even die that's my argument on nutrition foods. Tiger 

on 16/10/2019


It took mae about three weeks to get used ot tea and coffe without sugar. Now I find even a teaspoonfull sickly sweet. I also eat dark chocolate (75-80% cocoa) occasionally. Milk chocolate is overly sweet, though I might have a sweet at Christmas.

The makers put sugar in food for a number of reasons: It counteracts excessive salt, like salt it is addictive but tends to act as a preservative and the public now dislike sugar free foods

There is suggestive evidence that fast food which contains both, is linked to disruption of insulin processing in the brain and that this disruption tends to lead to Alzheimer's.

I suggest therefore learning to do without sugar in tea or coffee. And if you bake bread at home cur sugar out of the recipe: It's only there to ensure the bread browns in the toaster.

on 16/10/2019

Both my wife and I are type 2 diabetics, mine tablets and diet controlled my wife's insulin and diet controlled as it didn't matter what we did her blood sugars went up, eventually the surgery decided that her pancreas wasn't processing the insulin so they put her on injections which have certainly helped her. I make all the meals and with the use of a bread maker bake our own bread, I reduce sugars in all recipes and there is no sugars in teas coffees etc, I've never touched alcohol for over 30 years and my wife will have a dark rum and diet Pepsi around 2-3 times a year. As in the lead post I have noticed the reduction in salt and sugars in beans and other foods leading to the taste becoming unrecognisable to the foods we were brought up with and the chocolates are now what were bite size compared to what they were, as with most diabetics I've found that an occasional bar of chocolate stops the cravings and therefore don't binge on stuff we shouldnt eat. My wife no longer eats baked beans due to the taste but I've found that the Heinz weight watcher baked beans with a little salt is the nearest I've found to the old taste and I can eat them, what I have found is some companies are using spices to cover up the taste I can taste garlic ( which I don't like) in some beans. I no longer eat tinned soup due to sugars and I monitor everything I buy.

on 16/10/2019

I put erythritol in my hot chocolate.  It has no calories and is about 70% of the sweetness of sugar.  It's derived from plants.

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