For those who are working to control their blood sugar (A1c, fasting glucose, or post-prandial glucose), even natural minimally processed sweeteners like honey and maple syrup can cause too much of a blood sugar spike. This is due to reduced insulin sensitivity combined with a glycemic effect and/or insulinogenic effect of some sugar substitutes. (See: Are You Insulin Sensitive?)
Your response to sugar substitutes will be highly individual. Some people use these without a problem, while others may have an adverse reaction, such as GI problems or increased blood sugar. The best recommendation is to test your blood sugar to assess your individual response.
There are three sugar substitutes I feel comfortable recommending for most people (though others exist and may work for you). They are:
- Stevia (glycemic index of 0)
- Monk Fruit – AKA Luo Han Guo (glycemic index of 0)
- Erythritol (glycemic index of 1) – This is a sugar alcohol, limit if prone to GI distress.
All three options are available in isolated powder/granulated form, however it’s rare to use them alone. Stevia and Monk fruit are much sweeter tasting than regular sugar and can be bitter in isolated powder. However, in liquid form they lose the bitter taste and blend well with other liquids. Only a few drops are required to sweeten your morning coffee. There are many brands available both in-store and online.
Liquid Stevia: https://amzn.to/34Uktzb
Liquid Monk Fruit: https://amzn.to/3elfUkn
Most granulated and powdered sugar substitutes are a combination of erythritol as the base (which is less sweet than table sugar) with stevia or monk fruit. Note: Stevia is often labeled “Reb A” in the ingredients. Some example name brands are :
- Truvia: Some versions are a Erythritol + Stevia. “Baking blend” or “Cane Sugar Blend” Truvia has sugar, don’t purchase by mistake.
- Sukrin: Erythritol + Stevia blend.
- Lakanto: Erythritol + Monk Fruit blend.
- Whole Earth: Erythritol + Stevia + Monk Fruit blend.
Granulated Whole Earth: https://amzn.to/2KLDJHw
Granulated Truvia: https://amzn.to/3rAkiCh
Granulated Lakanto brand: https://amzn.to/3l36sEA
CAUTION: Name brands are constantly changing their formulations. Make sure to check the ingredients before purchasing. Many blends will have added cane sugar, maltodextrin, or other additives.
Questionable – Individual testing recommended
A few other popular sugar substitutes are Xylitol, Chicory Root Fiber, and oligosaccharides.
Xylitol is toxic to dogs because it is insulinogenic above its glycemic impact, resulting in hypoglycemia for dogs. This effect is much less pronounced in humans, but nonetheless, it has half the insulin impact as table sugar and thus not is recommend for those with insulin resistance.
Chicory root Fiber (inulin) is a prebiotic soluble fiber. Despite the idea that fiber has no glycemic impact, I have seen many people record a glucose spike following ingestion. It is not recommended for those following a low FODMAP diet.
Fructooligosaccharides or FOS are a prebiotic insoluble fiber. The common form available as a sweetener is made from Yacon root and is 50% FOS with the consistency of molasses. While Yacon syrup has a glycemic index of 1, many people have a glucose spike following ingestion. It is not recommended for those following a low FODMAP diet. Note that Swerve brand sweetener is a blend of erythritol and oligosaccharides.
The following sugar substitutes are the cheapest to manufacturer and thus often used in commercial “Sugar Free” products.
Maltitol: This sweetener is known to cause severe digestive distress! Many sugar free syrups use this. It has a measurable impact on blood glucose for most people. This is the main sweetener is Russell Stover’s “Sugar Free” candies.
Maltodextrin: This isn’t actually a sugar substitute, it’s sugar. Many “Sugar Free” products use maltodextrin despite it having a higher glycemic index than table sugar.
Sucralose: Liquid sucralose seems to be OK for many, but it’s rare to find. Splenda uses sucralose and maltodextrin.
Aspartame: NutraSweet and Equal are blends with maltodextrin.
Saccharin: Sweet ‘N Low (also has dextrose), Sweet Twin, Necta Sugar
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