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Sugar-Free Candy and Type 1 Diabetes

There are always questions asked as to do and don’t relating to a diabetic diet. Diabetes is very complex and as such, it is very natural to be sceptical about adding a particular food product to your diet. One favourable question relates to the consumption of the so-called sugar-free candy.

What does Sugar-Free really mean?

To start with, it is imperative we know the very meaning of the term sugar-free. It is commonly accepted that sugar-free means something that has less than 0.5 grams of sugar in one serving. In sugar-free foods, the sugar is substituted with either artificial sweeteners or the sugar alcohols.

Typically, most of the artificial sweeteners are sweeter than normal sugar but they do not break down in the body and hence, in most cases they have no effect on the levels of blood glucose. Sugar alcohols, on the other hand, are less sweet than sugar and have an effect on blood sugar levels as they are partially absorbed in the body. Let see how sugar-free candy can affect people who are suffering from type 1 diabetes.

Can Sugar-Free Candy Raise Blood Glucose?

The answer is: Yes, it can. Let us understand how this can happen:

Sugar-free, does not necessarily mean that the candy has no form of sugar or calories. After all, there are many ingredients that were added to the sugar-free candy to give it a sweet taste. One such component is sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are very low on their total calorie count (compared with normal sugar which contains around 4 calories per gram of sugar, these sugar alcohols contain only around 1.5 to 3 units of calories). Having said that, their considerably high carbohydrate content can increase blood glucose levels in persons suffering from diabetes.

Things You Should Know About Sugar-Free Candy

A type 1 diabetic should take the following into account when considering adding sugar-free candy to their daily diet:

Sugar-free candy does not mean that it does not contain carbohydrates or calories. Besides calories and carbohydrates, starch, fibre, and sugar alcohols are the different products that you should be aware of when accounting for the total intake of each of these in your diabetic meal plan.

  • The effect of the sugar alcohols on blood glucose level is different for different patients. Hence, you should test how eating any of these sugar candies effects the level of blood glucose in your body.

  • It is also known that the sugar alcohol which is present within the sugar candies has what is known as an “osmotic effect.” Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol, amongst others tend to create bloating as well as have an adverse effect on the digestive tract.

  • Some sugar-free candies may be sweetened by using non-caloric substances namely acesulfame potassium, saccharin, or even sucralose. A few of these non-caloric substances do not contain carbohydrate. However, there are others which contain calories as well as carbohydrates

  • Sugar-free candies tend not to have any nutritional value and hence, extreme care must be taken while you consume them.

Therefore, eating these candies can pose a risk to a type 1 diabetes patient. However, you do not need to eliminate them completely. Following a few basic guidelines will enable you to occasionally consume the sugar-free candies without getting in potential trouble.

Recommended Guidelines for including Sugar-Free Candies in Your Diet

If you are a type 1 diabetes patient, you can enjoy a sugar-free candy once in a while. However, you should keep the following tips in mind while you include sugar-free candy in your daily diet:

  • You should continue counting total carbohydrate intake. When you are eating candy, make sure that you balance out the total carbohydrate that you are consuming. Do not eat more carbohydrates than recommended by your healthcare professional and make the candy a part of your overall meal plan.

  • As mentioned above, different sugar alcohols in candies interact differently on different individuals. You must test the effect on your own blood glucose levels.

  • According to the American Diabetes Association, when you are including sugar-free candies in your diet in order to cover up for the added carbohydrates, you should engage in more physical activity or exercise. This will help to reduce any raised blood glucose level.

  • You can include sugar-free candies in your diet but only in moderation. Remember to not over indulge. This is important because we do not want the sugar to convert into glucose and cause high blood glucose level.

I hope that this above blog has been helpful in helping you understand the relationship between type 1 diabetes patients and the effect of sugar-free candies on the disease. The basic principle is to maintain balance by having everything in moderation whilst you follow a few certain guidelines recommended by your healthcare professional. If you have any questions you are invited to contact me.

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