Somehow, nature has a way of doing the most unintuitive things sometimes. Take for example what food package labels actually turn out to mean sometimes. You pick up a package of powdered drink mix; there is a bright red ribbon printed on the package and it clearly says “sugarfree” at the center. It would seem safe to just assume that you could have a good time quenching your thirst with this product, and it would have no effect on your blood sugar levels, wouldn’t it? Well, not so fast. Let’s take a closer look at how we might go wrong with this.
Artificial sweeteners work on the back of all kinds of sweetening chemical substances – saccharine is an all-time favorite of course,but there are also sucralose, aspertame and several others in the lineup. The concept seems simple enough – they offer you sweetness just the way sugar does, but if you have a diabetic condition, this is sweetness that comes with none of the harmful health effects that regular sugar can bring you. And not only do they not contain sugar, they don’t have any carbohydrates either, that can just as easily send your blood sugar levels up; there’s just a little caveat there – products other than pure artificial sweetener – products like that unhappy drink mix just brought up are hardly all sweetener. These are products that are cleverly concocted out of a hundred ingredients and processes and that more often than not contain plenty of carbohydrates.
A lot of sugar-free products on the shelves these days get their sweetening from something called sugar alcohols. First off, one does notice that this is quite a curious name; sugar alcohols are molecules that are formed by a rare combining of an alcohol molecule with a sugar molecule. When theybond together, they turn into quite a new material – one that is neither sugar nor alcohol. And they are quite a godsend to businesses trying to put out sugar-free chocolates, candy, cookies, you name it. If you are someone who needs to try to keep their blood sugar levels under control, products with sugar alcohol sweetening can complicate matters a bit when you try to interpret what those labels actually mean.
Certainly sugar alcohol doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels the way plain sugar can; but it isn’t altogether “sugarfree” as they would have you believe. Sugar alcohol is half as potent as regular sugar at raising your blood sugar levels. So how do you tell if a packaged product you’re picking up has any of this stuff in it? Typically, you can tell by finding anything on the ingredients list that sounds like sorbitol or maltitol. Anything on sale with the label “sugarfree” is supposed to have a separate item on the nutritional information label that tells you how much of sugar alcohol it has. If you don’t keep count of all of this, you’ll just have to wonder one day what on earth you did wrong to deserve dangerously high blood sugar levels – all you ever did was to buy sugarfree.