Can I have artificial sweeteners as a type 2 diabetic?

Amy Campbell
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Yes, you can. Artificial, or nonnutritive, sweeteners are those that have no calories. Saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose, neotame and rebiana are the nonnutritive sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. There are pros and cons to using them. On the plus side, they have no calories. On the downside, they sometimes have a bitter or funny aftertaste, and some of them don't work so well in baking or cooking. Two things to keep in mind:  first, foods that contain nonnutritive sweeteners may not be carbohydrate-free, so you need to read the Nutrition Facts label for total grams of carb and figure out how to count that food or drink in your meal plan. And second, using a little bit of "real" sugar is okay, as one teaspoon of sugar has just 4 grams of carb.

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

Yep, you sure can. The yellow, blue, or pink packets at your favorite restaurant all have less of an impact on your diabetes than sugar does.

But that doesn’t always make them the best choice. First, some myth busting. Diabetics can have sugar. In fact, everything you eat is turned into a simple sugar called glucose by your digestive system. From T-bones to Twinkies, all that you eat becomes sugar. Without any sugar at all you’d die.

That said, heavy loads of sugar, generally any high-carb food, will overwhelm your system. Artificial sweeteners are one way out of this trap. If you are one of those people who absolutely has to sweeten your tea or coffee, then artificial sweeteners are a good idea.

However, if you are baking, many of the fake sugars do poorly.

And speaking of having your cake and eating it too, let me touch on sugar free candy. Most SF candies use sugar alcohols in place of sugar. They have a greatly reduced impact on your blood sugar, but cause many people to have painful diarrhea. For days. Ugh. If sugar alcohols tie your intestines into knots, then you are far better off having real sugar, and keeping your intake reasonable.

Really, eating one or two small candies will do the trick for most of us. There is no need to scarf down the whole box.

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