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Searching for the right sugar substitute for your health

BY STEPHEN PRESCOTT AND ADAM COHEN Bodywork Modified: January 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm •  Published: January 28, 2014
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Adam's journal

This month, we have a question from a reader about sugar substitutes:

Dear Dr. Prescott,

I have been watching my carbs, especially sugar. I have blood sugar problems anyway, so I try to stay away from sugar as much as possible. I've been using Truvia in my cooking, but my mother uses a substitute called Whey-Low. It contains only a quarter of the calories of sugar and is supposed not to affect your blood sugar. I'm just wondering what's the best sugar substitute to use in terms of glycemic health?

— Melissa

Dr. Prescott prescribes

Sugar substitutes can serve as a useful tool to help diabetics and others manage their blood-sugar levels. But that doesn't mean that they still don't raise your blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners most commonly used to sweeten drinks such as teas, juice or diet sodas — aspartame (most commonly known by the brand names NutraSweet and Equal), saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low) and sucralose (Splenda) — contain no carbohydrates. So they have no effect on the blood sugar.

The same is true for stevia, a noncaloric sweetener derived from the leaves of Paraguayan shrubs that is marketed by Cargill as Truvia (and also by other manufacturers as PureVia and Stevia in the Raw).

Nevertheless, to create products that can be used in baked goods, candy, gum and food, manufacturers often pair calorie-free sugar substitutes with what are known as sugar alcohols. Technically, these compounds are neither sugars nor alcohols. But they can make life difficult for folks who are trying to manage their blood sugar.

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