4 Sugar Alternatives for Your Diabetes Diet (2023)

Many assume that a diabetes-friendly diet lacks sweetness and excitement, but it doesn't have to be that way!

We spoke with Dr. Thinh Xuan Ho, primary care physician at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group, to share wholesome ingredients and interesting alternatives to make your meals delicious and nutritious. One way you can do this is by using a diabetic-safe sweetener in place of granulated sugar in your favorite recipes.

Sweeteners Diabetics Should Avoid

Not all natural sweeteners are safe alternatives for people with diabetes. For example, while agave has a low glycemic index (meaning it's less likely to cause spikes in blood glucose levels), it has more calories than granulated sugar and higher fructose content. Fructose (compared to the sucrose in table sugar) can cause the body to produce less insulin and put more strain on the liver as it breaks down the sugars.

(Video) Top 4 Sugar Substitutes Alternative for Diabetics

In short, the side effects or effects of an alternative sweetener on insulin resistance may outweigh the benefits. Be careful when consuming artificial sweeteners and even more natural ones such as maple syrup, corn syrup and xylitol.

4 safe sugar substitutes for diabetics

Monk fruit extract

Monk fruit naturally contains mogrosides, a type of antioxidant responsible for the sweet taste of this treat. Researchers have found a way to extract this antioxidant to produce a sugar-free sweetener that does not contain calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.


To make stevia sweetener, manufacturers collect the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and process them into fine crystals. Stevia is low in calories and retains its flavor when heated, making it an ideal sweetener for baking or hot drinks.


Erythritol is a sugar alcohol derived from the fermentation of cornstarch or wheat. It has very few calories and has no impact on blood sugar. While erythritol is less likely than others to do so, sugar alcohols can upset your stomach. Start with small amounts and discontinue use if it causes any discomfort. With that said, it is safe even in relatively large quantities.

Fresh fruit

Did you know that you can find the most natural sweetener in the aisle? Fresh fruit can be a great addition to your recipes, as fruits contain fiber that helps slow down sugar absorption and thus reduce the impact on your blood sugar levels. Try using mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce or date paste in your next recipe.

(Video) Top 10 Best Sweeteners & 10 Worst (Ultimate Guide)

According to Dr. Ho, "Most fresh fruits have a low to medium glycemic index, so they do not lead to a sharp rise in blood glucose level compared to other carbohydrate containing foods." That means fruit is generally a safe way to add extra sweetness to your diet, as we cannot eat lots of fruits at the same time. "A portion of fresh fruit contains on average about 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates, which is the equivalent of a slice of bread."

"Most people with diabetes do not need to reduce the amount of fruit they eat," says Dr. Ho. "However, dried fruits and fruit juices can be high in sugar and should therefore be better limited or avoided."

A diabetes-friendly dessert

Put what you have learned into practice! Try our oatmeal raisin banana cookies:

Oatmeal Raisin Banana Cookies


(Video) Dr. Berg Compares 4 Artificial Sweeteners – Monk Fruit, Stevia, Erythritol & Xylitol

  • 2 bananas
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter (without added sugar)
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ¼ cup oat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the rolled oats, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and raisins together. Set aside.
  3. Mash the bananas, and mix with the peanut butter. Incorporate the dry ingredients until you have a smooth dough.
  4. Take a large spoonful of dough, roll it into a ball, place it on a cookie sheet, and gently press it down. Continue until you use all the dough.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

If you have diabetes, you don't have to give up the meals you love. Make an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group primary care physician or endocrinologist for advice on how you can modify your diet and achieve better health.


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American Diabetes Association | Glycemic Index and Diabetes

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Healthline | The Best Sugar Substitutes for People with Diabetes

Diabetes UK | Sugar, sweeteners and diabetes

Healthline | Monk Fruit Sweetener: Good or Bad?

Healthline | Erythritol — Like Sugar Without the Calories?

Medical News Today | Is agave syrup the best sweetener for diabetes?

(Video) The Best Sugar Substitute for Diabetics & Prediabetics (Sugar Alternative for Diabetics)


What sugar substitutes are OK for diabetics? ›

You can use most sugar substitutes if you have diabetes, including:
  • Saccharin (Sweet'N Low)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet)
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
  • Neotame (Newtame)
  • Advantame.
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Stevia (Pure Via, Truvia)

What is the healthiest sweetener for diabetics? ›

The best sweeteners for people with diabetes
  • Stevia.
  • Tagatose.
  • Sucralose.
  • Aspartame.
  • Acesulfame potassium.
  • Saccharin.
  • Neotame.
  • Monk fruit.

What is the best sweetener for type 2 diabetes? ›

Sucralose (Splenda), the Most Popular Sugar Substitute

This sweetener is excellent for people with type 2 diabetes.

What is the safest and most common alternative of sugar? ›

The safest and the most common alternative sugar is Aspartame.

What is the most natural alternative to sugar? ›

To cut back on your sugar consumption, use these five natural alternatives to sugar instead.
  • Raw Honey. The buzz on honey's benefits go beyond the liquid's sweetness. ...
  • Stevia. This natural sweetener has started to become a supermarket staple. ...
  • Dates. ...
  • Pureed Fruits. ...
  • Maple Syrup.
Jul 17, 2017

What are the 4 simple sugars? ›

The four most common forms of simple sugars include:
  • Glucose.
  • Fructose (a.k.a. fruit sugar)
  • Sucrose (a.k.a. table sugar)
  • Lactose (a.k.a. dairy sugar)
Oct 29, 2020

What are the 4 common simple sugars? ›

Glucose, fructose and galactose are the three monosaccharides important in nutrition.
Simple Carbohydrates (Sugars)
GlucoseSucrose (glucose + fructose)
FructoseLactose (glucose + galactose)
GalactoseMaltose (glucose + glucose)

What sugar substitutes to avoid? ›

The worst sweeteners include artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin, and aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, agave, and brown rice syrup. It's best to avoid these sweeteners, if possible.

Is Coke Zero good for diabetics? ›

No, zero sugar soda uses artificial sweeteners, which increases people's weight. Increased weight, in turn, is linked to the worsening of diabetes. Hence, zero soda is not suitable for diabetes.

Is honey good for diabetes? ›

Generally, there's no advantage to substituting honey for sugar in a diabetes eating plan. Both honey and sugar will affect your blood sugar level. Honey is sweeter than granulated sugar, so you might use a smaller amount of honey for sugar in some recipes.

Can diabetics eat maple syrup? ›

Maple syrup can be used to replace other sugars that a person with diabetes adds to food, while respecting their meal plan. Numerous studies have touted the potential benefits of maple syrup or its components.

What kind of honey is best for diabetics? ›

If your diabetes is well managed and you want to add honey to your diet, consider choosing pure, organic, or raw natural honey if you are not pregnant or immunocompromised. These types may be safer for people with diabetes because all-natural honey does not have any added sugar.

What sweetener reduces blood sugar? ›

Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener that has antioxidant and antidiabetic properties. It's been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike artificial sweeteners and sugar, stevia can suppress your plasma glucose levels and significantly increase glucose tolerance.

What sweetener doesn't spike insulin? ›

Aspartame: The oldest and most studied sweetener, aspartame has zero grams of sugar and won't spike insulin levels after it's consumed.

What are 3 healthier substitutes for sugar? ›

Stevia, monk fruit, certain sugar alcohols, and allulose are much lower in calories than table sugar and do not significantly affect blood sugar levels, making them a smart alternative to refined sugar.

What is the closest substitute to sugar? ›

What sugar substitutes/artificial sweeteners are approved by the FDA?
  • Acesulfame K (brand names: Sunett® and Sweet One®)
  • Advantame.
  • Aspartame (brand names: Equal® and NutraSweet Natural™)
  • Neotame (brand name: Newtame™)
  • Saccharin (brand names: Sweet 'N Low® and Sugar Twin®
  • Sucralose (brand name: Splenda™)
Jun 9, 2020

What are three substitutions for sugar? ›

Common sugar substitutes and sweeteners
  • Maple syrup. Type: Natural sweetener. ...
  • Date paste. Type: Natural sweetener. ...
  • Honey. ...
  • Coconut sugar. ...
  • Agave nectar. ...
  • Monk fruit extracts (brand names: Nectresse, PureLo) ...
  • Stevia extracts (brand names: Pure Via, Truvia, SweetLeaf) ...
  • Xylitol (brand names: XyloSweet, Ideal, PolySweet)
Oct 18, 2021

What tastes like sugar but is not sugar? ›

Xylitol looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, and responds like sugar in baking. Among the sugar substitutes, xylitol is my favorite. Though it was not as sweet as the cake sweetened with sugar, the xylitol cake's texture was tender and cake-like and the flavor was pure.

What is the best alternative to sugar in coffee? ›

Good substitutes for sugar in coffee include natural sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup.
The 9 best natural coffee sweeteners include:
  • Monk fruit.
  • Stevia.
  • Agave nectar.
  • Honey.
  • Maple syrup.
  • Molasses.
  • Coconut sugar.
  • Vanilla extract.
Jul 19, 2021

What fruits are simple sugar? ›

Some simple sugar examples include: Fructose: Fructose is found primarily in fruits like apples and pears, but also in some vegetables like onions and red peppers, as well as in honey, sugar beets, and sugarcane.

What foods are high in carbs to avoid? ›

These eight foods are some of the high-carbohydrate foods that should be avoided:
  • Soft pretzel. While delicious, the soft pretzel is a nutrition-poor source of carbohydrates. ...
  • Processed sugary cereal. ...
  • Canned fruit. ...
  • Doughnuts. ...
  • Soda. ...
  • Potato chips and corn chips. ...
  • Gummy candy. ...
  • French fries.

Do apples have simple sugars? ›

Apples are mainly composed of carbs and water. They're rich in simple sugars, such as fructose, sucrose, and glucose. Despite their high carb and sugar contents, their glycemic index (GI) is low, ranging 29–44 (5). The GI is a measure of how food affects the rise in blood sugar levels after eating.

What is the most simplest sugar? ›

Monosaccharides are the most simple sugars, containing three to seven carbon atoms in each molecule, and are the only form of sugar that can be fermented by starter cultures directly into lactic acid.

What 3 sugars are simple sugars? ›

The two main forms of carbs are:
  • simple carbohydrates (or simple sugars): including fructose, glucose, and lactose, which also are found in nutritious whole fruits.
  • complex carbohydrates (or starches): found in foods such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, rice, and breads and cereals.

What is the simplest of all sugars? ›

Monosaccharides (from Greek monos: single, sacchar: sugar), also called simple sugars, are the simplest forms of sugar and the most basic units (monomers) from which all carbohydrates are built. (though not all molecules with this formula are monosaccharides).

Which artificial sweetener is safest? ›

More than 90 studies support its safety. Sucralose is approved for use in food as a non-nutritive sweetener. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda®. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Is peanut butter good for diabetics? ›

Peanut butter can definitely be part of a healthy diabetes diet plan. Always look for peanut butter that contains only peanuts and maybe some salt. Avoid peanut butter that includes added sugars and hydrogenated oils.

What drinks are good for diabetics besides water? ›

What You Can Drink, Besides Water, When You Have Diabetes
  • Chocolate Milk. This treat may remind you of the school lunchroom, but it's a good calcium-rich choice for grown-ups as well. ...
  • Sweet Tea. ...
  • Orange Juice. ...
  • Chai Latte. ...
  • Lemonade. ...
  • Hot Chocolate. ...
  • Apple Cider. ...
  • Energy Drinks.
Oct 12, 2022

Are protein shakes good for diabetics? ›

A healthful alternative

These can trigger sugar spikes in people with diabetes. A protein shake might be a more healthful option, as protein digests more slowly than carbohydrate. The chance of a blood sugar spike is lower, and the person will feel full for longer.

Is Oatmeal good for a diabetic? ›

Not only are oats nutritious and satiating, they can also offer specific benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. According to MedlinePlus, adults with type 2 diabetes may benefit from eating whole grains like oats, due to their potential glucose and cholesterol-lowering effects.

Is watermelon good for diabetes? ›

Watermelon is safe for people with diabetes to eat in moderation. However, it is best to consume watermelon and other high GI fruits alongside foods that contain plenty of nutritious fats, fiber, and protein.

Are bananas good for diabetics? ›

A person with diabetes should include a variety of fresh, whole foods in their diet, such as nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Bananas are a safe and nutritious fruit for people with diabetes to eat in moderation as part of a balanced, individualized eating plan.

Are pancakes OK for diabetics? ›


In fact, it's one of the foods to avoid for diabetics. The carbs and sugar can quickly increase your blood sugar levels, and there's no fibre or protein to keep you fuller for longer.

Can diabetics eat bacon? ›

People with type 2 diabetes should limit or avoid high-fat cuts of meat, such as regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and ribs, because like full-fat dairy, they're high in saturated fats, explains Kimberlain.

Can diabetics eat potatoes? ›

Can people with diabetes eat potatoes? According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), starchy vegetables such as potatoes can be included in the diet of a person with diabetes. The total amount of carbohydrate consumed at any given meal or snack is what is most important.

Is Splenda good for diabetics? ›

Sucralose, stevia, monk fruit, allulose, and erythritol. None raise blood sugar levels. All are diabetes-friendly. And all are healthy sugar substitutes for folks with or without diabetes.

Does meat cause diabetes not sugar? ›

Eating meat doesn't mean you'll get diabetes, just as refraining from eating meat doesn't mean you'll never get diabetes. However, meat consumption is a known risk factor, just as having obesity and a family history of diabetes are risk factors.

What's the best drink to lower sugar? ›

Whether you're at home or at a restaurant, here are the most diabetes-friendly beverage options.
  1. Water. When it comes to hydration, water is the best option for people with diabetes. ...
  2. Seltzer water. ...
  3. Tea. ...
  4. Herbal tea. ...
  5. Unsweetened coffee. ...
  6. Vegetable juice. ...
  7. Low fat milk. ...
  8. Milk alternatives.
Aug 30, 2021

Does coffee raise blood sugar? ›

Caffeine can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This happens because caffeine triggers a hormonal response in our bodies. First, it blocks adenosine receptors. These receptors help us fall asleep by binding to our cells.

What artificial sweetener raises blood sugar? ›

Saccharin and sucralose are two artificial sweeteners that have been found to increase blood sugar or glucose levels. These sweeteners are used in popular sugar substitutes, including Sweetex and Splenda, with both heavily marketed as a healthy alternatives to sugar.

Which sweetener is lowest on the glycemic index? ›

Benefits and risks of different sweeteners

Agave has one of the lowest GI values compared to other natural sugars.

Which is better for diabetics sucralose or stevia? ›

The science suggests that neither stevia nor sucralose disrupt blood-glucose levels in the same way that sugar does. As such, both are relatively safe options for individuals who have or are at risk for developing diabetes.

Can diabetics have Splenda or stevia? ›

Sucralose, stevia, monk fruit, allulose, and erythritol. None raise blood sugar levels. All are diabetes-friendly. And all are healthy sugar substitutes for folks with or without diabetes.

Is Splenda or stevia better for diabetes? ›

The science suggests that neither stevia nor sucralose disrupt blood-glucose levels in the same way that sugar does. As such, both are relatively safe options for individuals who have or are at risk for developing diabetes.

Is Coke Zero OK for diabetics? ›

No, zero sugar soda uses artificial sweeteners, which increases people's weight. Increased weight, in turn, is linked to the worsening of diabetes. Hence, zero soda is not suitable for diabetes.

Is stevia or Truvia better for diabetics? ›

Truvia does not affect blood glucose or blood pressure although stevia is believed to have side effects.

Is maple syrup OK for diabetics? ›

Maple syrup can be used to replace other sugars that a person with diabetes adds to food, while respecting their meal plan. Numerous studies have touted the potential benefits of maple syrup or its components.

Should diabetics avoid stevia? ›

Therefore, intake of stevia sweetener does not affect the blood glucose level. Unlike the low-calorie synthetic sweeteners, stevia is quite safe, non-toxic and non-mutagenic; also, it is 200-times sweeter than the regular sugar (sucrose) and calorie-free.

Is monk fruit better than stevia? ›

Stevia may have antioxidant properties, but research shows that the mogrosides in monk fruit extract have much more powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Which artificial sweetener tastes most like sugar? ›

Most people find that erythritol has a very similar taste to sugar and find the two indistinguishable. It even caramelizes like sugar.

What drink lowers blood sugar? ›

Drinking water regularly may rehydrate the blood, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce diabetes risk ( 20 , 21 ). Keep in mind that water and other zero-calorie drinks are best.

Does Truvia raise your A1c? ›

Side effect study of Truvía® Stevia Leaf Extract on people with type 2 diabetes. Chronic consumption of purified stevia leaf extract had no effects on blood sugar (glucose), insulin, hemoglobin A1c, blood lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides in subjects with type 2 diabetes in a randomized, masked study.

How much stevia can a diabetic have a day? ›

How Much and How Frequently To Be Consumed? Stevia can be consumed at any time during the day. It is the best alternative to table sugar. 1 tablespoon (4.2 grams) of stevia is recommended for a diabetic everyday.


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