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Sugar Substitutes

Over the past few years, there has been a spotlight on the sugar content of foods and how excessive consumption of these food sources may lead to adverse health effects.

The average South African consumes 24 teaspoons of sugar per day – more than double the World Health Organization guidelines for daily intake! From 1985, when 30 million people had diabetes, its prevalence has increased six-fold and today more than 230 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes. If nothing is done now to prevent this, this number will continue to increase to more than 350 million within the next 20 years.

That is why the Department of Health implemented the sugar tax regulation in April 2017.

Now if you are reading this and you’re thinking: “There’s no way I’m taking in 24 teaspoons of sugar a day” – let us take a closer look:

  • 1 can regular soda = 9 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 can diet soda = ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 glass fruit juice = 3–5 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 slice bread = 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 glass sweet wine = 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 glass dry/low-kilojoule wine = ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 slab milk chocolate = 13 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small packet jelly sweets (70g) = 9 teaspoons sugar
  • 100g low-fat yoghurt = 2 teaspoons sugar

But is the alternative healthier? There is a lot of controversy regarding sugar substitutes/alternative sweeteners. In this article we will examine sugar and alternative sweeteners and what you should know regarding both.

Sugars that increase blood sugar levels

Some foods will say “no added sugar” but will still be high in natural sugar (e.g. fruit sugars). These natural sugars also raise blood glucose levels and should be monitored for people with insulin resistance and diabetes.

SugarForms & UsesOther things you should know
  • Brown sugar
  • Maltodextrins
  • Icing sugar
  • Agave syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • White sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Maple syrup
  • Glucose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Lactose
  • Honey
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Barley malt
  • Used to sweeten foods and beverages
  • May be found in certain medications
  • There is no advantage to those with diabetes in using one type of sugar over another (in other words, one teaspoon of sugar has the equal effect of one teaspoon of honey).
  • Sugars may be eaten in moderation. Up to 5% of the daily caloric requirement can come from added sugar.
  • High sugar diets are not recommended as this could replace more nutritious foods and then lead to deficiencies.