How Sweet It Is

Go natural and keep your sugars in check.

If you think switching to an artificial sweetener is a healthier choice, think again. Vancouver-based dietitian  and author Patricia Chuey says that using artificial sweeteners hasn’t helped curb diabetes incidence rates. In 2008-09, the prevalence of diabetes among Canadians had increased by 70 per cent from the previous decade (90 per cent of those diagnosed are Type 2). And studies show that artificially sweetened products may increase our appetite for higher-calorie sweeter foods.

Natural sweetener brands including Truvia and Pure Via are some new options that, unlike natural sugars, don’t induce a glycemic response – how the body reacts when sugar is consumed – and Chuey says. “the lesser the response, the better.” Processed from the stevia plant, native to South America and whose edible leaves are 200 times sweeter than sugar but calorie-free, both brands are tabletop alternatives with the latter also offered in a baking-friendly format. And it’s a natural source,  which is why Chuey partnered with Iögo for the launch of its new fat- and gelatin-free yogurt, sweetened with stevia extract and cane sugar. “It’s a good choice for anyone looking for a lower sugar or carb yogurt and makes sense for people with diabetes or glucose control issues,” Chuey says.

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Managing diabetes means more than cutting back on sweets. “It comes down to balance,” says Chuey. “I have clients who are doing everything right, but they’re still not there. It’s because they aren’t looking at the other parts of the well-being equation.” These “parts” include sleeping better, increasing activity and reducing stress. A chronically elevated level of the stress hormone cortisol has been found to correlate with blood sugar problems and fat accumulation. In Canada’s Complete Diabetes Guide for Type 2 Diabetes, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Karen Graham says that clutter can cause stress and a sense of failure, so start by getting organized.

Did you know? November is diabetes awareness month. Health Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Association recommend that 10 per cent of our calories can come from sugar including non-added sugar like that found in fruit.