Nutritive sweeteners contain calories while non-Nutritive sweeteners do not. Nutritive sweeteners include honey, glucose, fructose, maltose, maltodextrin and lactose (milk sugar). All these sweeteners contain the same amount of calories as sugar.

Fructose - High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), made from  fermented corn, is a cheap sweetening agent used extensively  in the food industry. Using too much HFCS, as well as free fructose in a refined powder form, has been shown to cause  the liver to manufacture high levels of triglycerides. The use of free fructose as a sweeter is therefore not recommended.

Sucrose (cane sugar) - Sucrose consists of equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Due to the fructose component, it has a medium to high GI. How sucrose influences your blood glucose levels depends on the amount of sugar used, the frequency of consumption and how it is used. Consuming a 50g chocolate bar that contains 30g (6 teaspoons) of sugar or a 340ml sugar sweetened cold drink that contains 35g (7 teaspoons) between meals will  affect your blood glucose levels more profoundly than  using a teaspoon of sugar as part of a sauce for a chicken  dish that is eaten with brown rice and vegetables (thus in  the context of a high-fibre meal). Diabetes UK and the European Association for the Study  of Diabetes (EASD) recommend that sucrose provides <10%  of total energy intake. As calories and total carbohydrates  (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) need to be controlled, it  is recommended that you limit your intake of free sugars  (sucrose and fructose) to a minimum. You can use sucrose as part of a nutritionally balanced eating  plan as follows:

  • A small amount can be used in food preparation. The sucrose that occurs in commercial foods is normally eaten as part of a high-fi bre meal anyway such as baked beans on health bread toast.
  • When sucrose is used in large quantities, such as in sweets or chocolates or combined with white flour in bakery items,you need to control the quantity and frequency of  consumption.This is especially true if you need to lose weight and your blood glucose control is not well  controlled. Enjoy these foods sporadically in the context of social events, such as parties. This principle also applies  of social events, such as parties. This principle also applies for diabetic biscuits or cakes as white flour has a higher  glycaemic index (GI) than sugar. As diabetic bakery items are often made from white flour and saturated fats they are not necessarily healthier than normal biscuits, rusks. Although chocolates and cakes recommended for people  with diabetes contain no sugar (sucrose) the saturated fat and calorie content equal normal chocolates and   the quantity and frequency of consumption should be limited  if you need to control your weight and cholesterol levels.
  • You can significantly improve your glycaemic control by not usisng sucrose or fructose in beverages (tea/Coffee) or drinking soft drinks (cold drinks such as iced tea and fruit juice)
  • When you do occasionally enjoy foods high in sucrose and flour, add the amount to your total carbohydrate count for the meal, and cover this by additional medication. 

From the article in Diabetes Focus - an official publication of the South African Diabetes Association

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