Is Sugar-Free Candy Okay for People With Diabetes?
You already know it’s important to count carbs and limit regular sugar intake with diabetes, but how sugar-free candy fits into this picture is less clear. Here’s what to know before indulging.
If you have diabetes, you know that while sugar doesn’t directly cause the disease, foods with too much of the ingredient can make it more difficult for you to control your blood glucose levels.
Counting Sugar Alcohols
Examples of sugar alcohols include:
- Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates
Here’s what you need to know:
Because sugar alcohols are hard for the body to digest, the effect on blood sugar levels is less than standard sugar. When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract half of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrate.
Remember that because sugar alcohols are harder for your body to digest, eating too many sugar alcohols may cause digestive complaints like gas, cramping and diarrhea.
Now let’s practice using the sample food label shown here:
- Locate the total carbohydrate in one serving. You will see that the total carbohydrate is 29 grams.
- The amount of sugar alcohol is 18 grams per serving.
- Calculate half the grams of sugar alcohol (18 grams of sugar alcohol divided by 2 equals 9 grams).
- Subtract only half of the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate Count this product as 20 grams of carbohydrate (29 grams total carbohydrate minus 9 grams sugar alcohol equals 20 grams of carbohydrate).
It’s true that sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol, don’t affect blood sugars as dramatically as other carbohydrates do. So sugar–free candy with most of the total carbs coming from these alcohols will typically have less impact on your blood sugar. Although some sugar substitutes do not add calories or carbohydrate, many do. And it is the carbohydrate that has the greatest effect on blood glucose. People with diabetes do not manage their condition by cutting “sugary” foods out of their diet.
Disadvantages Of Sugar-Free
When you’re considering foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners, always check the Nutrition Facts on the label. Many of the food products containing these types of sweeteners still have a significant amount of carbohydrate, calories and fat, so never consider them a “free food” without checking the label. By comparing the calories in the sugar-free version to the regular version, you’ll see whether you’re really getting fewer calories.
- Sugar-free candies and other treats may still contain carbohydrates. In addition, some sugar-free candy contains significant calories and is high in saturated or trans fats.
- Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are examples of healthy foods. Candy doesn’t count as healthy, even if it is sugar-free. If you eat a lot of candy and aren’t ready to cut back, however, switching to sugar-free candy may help you better control your carbohydrate intake. The long-term goal, though, is to cut down on all candy.
Are there benefits to choosing sugar-free candy?
- When eaten in moderation, sugar alcohols don’t dramatically increase blood sugars.
- Possibly may contain fewer total carbohydrates than regular candy.
- Has less added sugar than regular candy.
- It may have fewer calories than regular candy.
The bottom line: Most people can enjoy treats — with or without sugar — as part of a healthy diet. If you have questions about sugar or carbohydrate intake, consult your doctor or a dietitian.
Disclaimer: I am happy to share my experiences and the results of the study with the hope that some people will find it helpful. I am not a doctor and nothing written here should be taken as professional medical advice. For liability reasons, if you ask me for medical advice, then I will recommend you to consult a doctor.
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