AskNadia: Brown Sugar Substitute for Diabetes?

I am a type 2 diabetic.  My meds are Jardiance, metformin, and Victoza.  My breakfast is two pieces of whole wheat toast with sugar-reduced jam, and oatmeal with brown sugar.  I think the brown sugar makes my blood sugar spike (I use the Freestyle Libre to monitor sugar levels, and after breakfast, it goes from 6.8 mm/l to 15+ mm/l.
Is there a substitute for brown sugar that tastes like the real thing, but is lower in calories and carbs?  I have seen a product called Sweetcane that is evaporated sugar cane juice and molasses with 16 calories per teaspoon and 4 grams of carbs.
Any thoughts?  Thank you.
Ted W

Dear Ted:

I am impressed that you are using a CGM, know your medications by name, and are paying attention to how your meals impact your blood sugar levels.

The brown sugar is not the only thing that may be raising your glucose level. Has your healthcare professional helped you set a carb limit for the day or every meal to achieve better glucose readings?

Your breakfast of toast with low sugar jam and oatmeal with brown sugar is a high carb meal. It would be best if you looked at your overall meal choice in conjunction with your medication. Orchestrating diet and medicine is a team effort.

A 6.8 mm is a bit above 120 mg/dl, and 15+ mm is 270 mg/dl plus. That is a broad range. Does your blood sugar come down to a normal range one hour or one and a half hours after you eat? These are the types of discussion you will need to have with your healthcare professional.

Four grams of carbohydrate is the same as having a teaspoon of sugar. Less sugar overall is usually better for blood sugars. I use a stevia syrup with one carb per teaspoon as an alternative sweetener to brown sugar in my oatmeal.

There are several brown sugar brands that are marketed as low sugar alternatives. But, if you read the label, one teaspoon of these brown sugar alternatives from Truvia or Sukrin, has 4 carbs per teaspoon. Similar to regular sugar. Brown Erythritol has 8 carbs per teaspoon.

Carbohydrates are addictive. Have you considered going on a low glycemic diet? Years ago I remember speaking to Dr. Atkins nurse who told me that she prescribed chromium picolinate for carbohydrate cravings. Dr. Atkins was the low carb diet pioneer.

My nonmedical opinion? you are better off managing your carb craving rather than feeding them. Over time, these craving will lessen. I speak from experience when I say this. Personally, I have conditioned myself to eat less than100 carbs per day. Anytime I exceed this count, especially at parties, I automatically self-correct. My new normal has changed.

Don’t follow my carb diet. Your carbs for the day need to take your medication and actvities into consideration. Your daily maximum carbohydrate intake needs to be determined by you and your healthcare professional.

Your Medications and How They Can Help You Reach Your A1c Goal:

Do you know what your A1c target goal is? If not, ask your healthcare professional what range they have set as your ideal number. The medication that has been prescribed takes into account your diet and blood sugars to reach an A1c target.

Jardiance is a sodium glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2). It works by removing the sugar through the urine and preventing the kidneys from absorbing the sugar.

Metformin is the most common and first line of treatment for people with type 2 diabetes who are unable to manage their blood sugar with diet and exercise. It reduces the glucose production in the liver.

Victoza is a class of drugs referred to as a GLP 1- Glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptor. It causes the pancreas to make insulin when the blood sugars are high, and it slows down digestion causing a decrease in appetite. This medication works best with diet and exercise.

If you are consistently experiencing higher than normal blood sugars, seeing them elevated for a prolonged period, get in to see your healthcare professional as soon as possible. Long term elevated glucose levels are the cause of diabetes, complications. The FreeStyle CGM you are using gives you the feedback you need to see how your blood sugars are responding to your diet, medication stress and illness.

You have great tools at your disposal. Now you need to fine-tune your diet and medication with your healthcare professional team.

Here are some diabetes charts that you may want to keep handy as a reference guide. Just in case your medication changes.

Joslin Conversion Chart

Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professional’s therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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AskNadia (ranked #1 by Google), named “Best Diabetes Blog for 2017 by Healthline and with 24 nominations, Nadia Al-Samarrie’s efforts have made her stand out as a pioneer and leading patient advocate in the diabetes community.

Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview, now Diabetes Health magazine.

Under her reign- Diabetes Health magazine was named one of the top 10 magazines to follow in the world for 2018 by Feedspot Blog Reader.

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