Is Sugar Alcohol Bad for Diabetes and Blood Sugar?

Sugar alcohols are a category of reduced calorie sweeteners, often found in low carb snacks and “no sugar added” desserts. They can also be bought like other sweeteners to add to food and for baking.

Compared to regular sugar, sugar alcohol does not increase blood sugar as much as regular sugar. However, some of the products it is used in, like “no sugar added” cherry pie, could have almost as many carbs as the regular version from the crust, fruit and other ingredients added. Always check the nutrition facts label for the:

  1. Serving size: if you eat that amount of the food, the numbers on the label are what you consumed. If you ate double that amount, double all of those numbers (like calories, fat, carbs, etc). For pie, the serving size will be something like 1/8 of the pie. So if it’s cut into 8 equal-sized pieces, one piece would be a serving.
  2. Total carbohydrate: there will be a number and a “g.” for grams. This is the amount of carbohydrate you get in 1 serving of this food, like 1/8 of the pie for example. You do not need to add the sugar or do anything with it separately. The sugar is already included in the total carbohydrate.
When present in a food, sugar alcohol is listed under the Total Carbohydrate section on the nutrition facts label. Or check the ingredients list for items like sorbitol, maltitol or erythritol.

Sugar alcohol can cause upset stomach, gas, bloating and diarrhea in some people. This typically occurs after eating a larger amount, like 15 grams or more, of sugar alcohol. Most labels will show “sugar alcohol” and the amount of grams per serving if sugar alcohol is in that food. If you are sensitive to it, it is best to avoid it.

Overall, it is best to limit artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods. Instead of the no sugar added pie, try thawing frozen cherries and stir them into plain Greek yogurt with 2 teaspoons of honey and real whipped cream. Top with 2 tablespoons of granola or chopped pecans for crunch.

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