That we love our sweets and processed foods here in India is no secret. What's not to love? Aside from the euphoria, these foods are convenient and taste great. It's not surprising, then, that the market for packaged foods in India has exploded! The flip side, however, is the number of people with diabetes here has, too.
That's not all. Look at the amount of sugar you consume inadvertently through these foods: A 250 gm pack of digestive biscuits contains 13 teaspoons of sugar, while 200 ml packs of mixed fruit juice hide 4 teaspoons each. Equally big offenders are ketchups, soft drinks and muesli amongst others — each of which is guaranteed to keep your blood sugar level yo-yoing.
Fluctuating blood sugar levels can be alarming for anyone — more so if you've got diabetes and are trying to control your blood sugar. So, if you are looking for a sugar substitute to satisfy your cravings as you manage your diabetes, there are actually a number of options — some of which can be grown right in your backyard. That means you can now have your cake and eat it, too — all without spiking blood sugar levels.
As you check out the five ideas here, keep in mind that some sugar substitutes work better for baking, while others might be tastier in your beverage. It's important to see how your body reacts to these, so you can choose what works best for you. As always, consult a physician or a registered dietitian before modifying your diet or insulin use to stabilise fluctuating blood sugar levels.
The powdered extract of the South American Stevia plant is highly recommended for those who crave a little sweetness but want to avoid sugar. Not only is it 100 percent natural, but it's also a zero calorie sugar substitute. And when it comes to diabetes, stevia may even help stabilize blood sugar levels and stimulate the production of insulin after a meal. In fact, some initial research even suggests that Stevia consumption may have additional benefits, such as helping to manage blood pressure and decrease cholesterol. Like for anything else, this too must be consumed in moderation.
2. Coconut Palm Sugar (Nolen Gur)
Coconut water has been taking the health food and beauty product industries by storm. And why not? Sticking a straw inside a young coconut gets you a tasty, high-electrolyte treat — and some preliminary research suggests it possibly helps lower blood pressure. Indian sweet makers in Bengal, for example, have always used coconut palm sugar — a sweetener known as natural sugar — in their treats. Made from the sap in the flower buds of the coconut tree, this sugar substitute has a low glycemic index (GI) value of 35 compared to honey at 55 or table sugar at 68. (Foods that are low on the glycemic index tend to release glucose more slowly and steadily than those that are higher on the scale.) But it is a sweetener with the same amount of calories and carbs as sugar, so for stable blood sugar levels, you are advised to limit its intake.
3. Raw Organic Honey
Honey, the raw organic kind, has fewer calories — 22 in a tablespoon — compared to other sugar substitutes. Not surprising then that this is very popular in India. Add it to milk, warm water, iced tea or have a spoonful after a meal. Rich in iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin, it eases indigestion and is credited with therapeutic and detoxifying properties. Honey may raise blood sugar levels more slowly than regular sugar and it requires lower quantities of insulin to metabolise, but it's sweeter, so best used in moderation.
4. Blackstrap Molasses (Sheera or Rab)
Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of sugar cane. Rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, selenium and vitamin B6, this superfood is high in mineral content and has a relatively low glycemic index value (55-60). You can use it when baking for a darker looking, less sweet and slightly bitter dish. Note that the flavours may be a bit off-putting if you're trying blackstrap molasses for the first time!
What better way to assuage that sweet craving than with a bowl of fresh fruit? Just be sure to choose fruits that are low on the glycemic index. Apple, papaya, oranges, and sweet lime have low GI values and curb spikes in blood sugar levels. Delicious on their own, these fruits can also be added to fat-free yogurt for a healthy low calorie dessert.
Sugar is addictive, but being mindful of your sugar intake need not mean forgoing the sweet stuff completely. Opt for one of these sugar substitutes and eat deliciously while keeping your blood sugar levels in check.
Disclaimer: This publication / editorial / article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/ healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.