Choosing a sweetener for your food and drinks while balancing managing blood sugars can seem like a tough task. Luckily for you I have summarised all the glycemic index sweeteners chart in one easy to understand format.
If you’re new to finding out about the glycemic index and glycemic load, I’ll give you a quick summary before we dive into the glycemic index sweeteners chart.
Understanding Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
Eating a low glycemic index diet is the best way to eat a healthier diet to achieve good blood sugars, losing weight and eating for long term health.
There are 2 different tools to understand with the glycemic index (GI) diet. That is both the GI and glycemic load (GL).
The GI rates how quickly foods raise blood glucose levels, with values ranging from 0 to 100. The GI scale ranges from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating foods that cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar. This scale helps individuals, particularly those with diabetes or insulin resistance, make informed dietary choices to manage blood sugar levels.
The GI is measured against pure glucose, which is assigned a value of 100. Glucose is used as the reference point because it’s absorbed into the bloodstream rapidly and causes a quick and significant rise in blood sugar levels.
For example, a food with a GI of 50 raises blood sugar levels half as much as pure glucose.
The Glycemic Load (GL), on the other hand, offers a better picture of how certain foods affect blood sugars because it takes into account portion sizes.
To calculate GL, multiply the GI of an individual food by the amount of carbohydrates (in grams) per serving and then divide by 100. For example, a food with 15 grams of carbs and a GI of 50 will have a GL of 7.5 (50*15/100). This value helps understand how a specific portion of food will impact blood sugar, making it a practical tool for dietary planning.
Knowing the GI and GL of foods can guide healthier choices. For example, choosing a sweetener with a low GI, like Stevia, which has a GI of 0 and contains no calories, can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to control their weight.
If you want a full article explaining the GI and GL, check out my article: The Low-Glycemic Index Diet: Energy, Blood Sugars & Weight Loss! But let’s get into the glycemic index sweeteners chart now!
Comprehensive Glycemic Index Chart for Common Sweeteners
We all know by now that sugar is not a great addition to any diet, though it is necessary for cooking, baking and in general I prefer not to completely live without it. So let’s take a look at the GI of over 30 sweeteners that we commonly add to our food and drinks to see what their GI is.
- Maltose: GI 105
- Brown Rice Syrup: GI 98
- Dextrose: GI 100
- Tapioca Syrup: GI 70
- Date Sugar: GI 68
- White Sugar (Sucrose): GI 65
- Turbinado Sugar: GI 65
- Honey: GI 58
- Molasses: GI 55
- Maple Syrup: GI 54
- Coconut Sugar: GI 54
- High Fructose Corn Syrup: GI 62-68
- Agave Nectar: GI 15-30
- Palm Sugar: GI 35
- Maltitol: GI 35
- Lactose: GI 46
- Barley Malt Syrup: GI 42
- Fructose: GI 23
- Galactose: GI 20
- Xylitol: GI 7-13
- Sorbitol: GI 9
- Yacon Syrup: GI 1
- Mannitol: GI 2
- Stevia: GI 0
- Erythritol: GI 1
- Aspartame: GI 0
- Sucralose (Splenda): GI 0
- Saccharin: GI 0
- Acesulfame K: GI 0
- Monk Fruit Sweetener: GI 0
Now that’s all good in theory, let’s take a look at some of the most used sweeteners a little closer.
Analysis of Specific Sweeteners and Their GI Values
I want to explain a little further about the top 5 most commonly used sweeteners on the market.
It’s made from a modified form of sugar where three hydrogen-oxygen groups are replaced with chlorine atoms. This alteration makes sucralose about 600 times sweeter than sugar, yet it’s calorie-free and does not affect blood sugar levels, making it a popular choice for those managing calorie intake or blood sugar.
It can be used in beverages, baking, and cooking as a sugar substitute. With it being 600 times sweeter than sugar, you really want to use this in small quantities or be prepared to be absolutely overpowered by sweetness.
Xylitol has a GI score of 7 and contains 2.4 calories per gram, which is lower than the typical carbohydrate. It’s beneficial for dental health but should be consumed in moderation to avoid gastrointestinal issues.
Xylitol is often used in sugar-free chewing gums and dental care products. One downside of xylitol is that it can cause significant gas and bloating, most people find this sugar alcohol just doesn’t sit right with them.
Agave is another natural sugar derived from the agave plant, and it is also sweeter than white sugar in taste. It has a texture similar to honey which makes it popular in baking.
Agave scores 17 on the GI scale, the lowest for natural sweeteners. Despite its lower GI, it’s high in fructose, and excessive consumption is linked to diabetes and obesity risks.
Maple syrup has a GI score of 54. It’s a natural sweetener that provides about 52 calories and 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon, along with small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup can be a healthier alternative to refined sugar for sweetening pancakes or oatmeal but should be used in controlled portions due to its sugar content.
Each sweetener offers different benefits and drawbacks. Selecting the right one depends on individual health goals, dietary restrictions, and personal preferences. Understanding their GI values and caloric content is key to making choices that align with healthy eating habits.
White sugar, also known as table sugar or sucrose, has a glycemic index (GI) of around 65. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood glucose levels after consumption, with higher values indicating a faster increase.
Sucrose is a disaccharide, composed of two simple sugars: glucose and fructose. It’s extracted and refined from sugar cane or sugar beet plants. In the body, sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Its moderate GI reflects its impact on blood sugar levels, making it a significant consideration for individuals managing blood sugar-related health conditions like diabetes.
Misconceptions of Artificial Sweeteners
While artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, offer the allure of sweetness without the calories or blood sugar spikes, they are not without their drawbacks.
One significant concern is their potential impact on gut health. Studies suggest that these sweeteners can alter the gut microbiota, potentially leading to digestive issues and affecting metabolic health. This disruption of gut flora might influence glucose metabolism, ironically counteracting one of the primary reasons people choose artificial sweeteners.
Also the psychological and behavioural responses triggered by artificial sweeteners are a growing area of concern. These sweeteners, much sweeter than natural sugars, can overstimulate taste receptors, potentially leading to an increased desire for sweet foods and a distorted relationship with natural tastes.
This heightened sweetness threshold can make healthier, less sweet foods less appealing, inadvertently promoting unhealthy dietary habits. Some research indicates that people might consume more calories from other sources when they believe they are saving calories using artificial sweeteners, negating the intended calorie-control benefit.
So while artificial sweeteners offer certain advantages, particularly for those managing diabetes or reducing calorie intake, it’s crucial to be aware of their potential downsides. Moderation and a well-rounded diet, focusing on natural foods, remain key to maintaining optimal health.
Healthy Ways to Incorporate Sweeteners into Your Diet
So while I’m not saying that you need to give up 100% of all sugar in your diet, because let’s be reasonable… I am saying that cutting back and choosing the right one is essential. Here’s a few tips on how to incorporate sweeteners in your diet.
Choose Low-GI Sweeteners
Opt for sweeteners with a low glycemic index to avoid rapid spikes in blood glucose. For example, Stevia, with a GI of 0, adds sweetness without calories or carbs, making it suitable for weight management and diabetes control.
Even with low-GI sweeteners, portion control is crucial. Using them sparingly can help manage calorie intake and maintain stable blood sugar levels. For instance, agave nectar has a low GI but is high in fructose, so it should be used in limited amounts.
Some sweeteners, like maple syrup and molasses, offer more than just sweetness. They contain minerals and antioxidants, providing a small nutritional boost. However, their calorie and sugar content should still be factored into your daily intake.
The Verdict on Sweeteners
The type of sweetener that you pick will depend on the purpose you’re using it for, how much you’re going to be using and your specific health conditions. Some may impact your blood sugars more than others based on the glycemic index. But you do need to keep it all in context that you likely aren’t eating a spoonful of sugar by itself like Mary Poppins.
If you’re baking, I tend to prefer white sugar or brown sugar because I like the way they make recipes turns out. But I do try to reduce the amount of sugar that I use in baking and increase any fiber or protein source that I can. Doing this can help to reduce the GL of the sugar you’re adding to your recipe.
I also personally do not like the taste of artificial sweeteners, and I have tried my fair share of ‘sugar free coffee syrups’. Let me tell you that any sugar free version of a coffee syrup is absolutely disgusting. So I use regular syrup, but I only tend to use less than a teaspoon. Doing so is not going to have a huge impact on my overall health.
I also find the regular coffee syrups much more satisfying so I don’t tend to need more. Whereas if I’m using an artificial sweetener, it gives me the sensation of having a very sweet drink without any satisfaction. So I would be far more likely to reach for a real sweet treat afterwards.
You need to make the decision of what type of sweetener you want based on all of those factors. Consider the following:
Will I be satisfied with just a small amount of sweetener?
Will the sweetener I choose make my recipe taste appealing?
Is there a way that I can cut down on the amount of sweetener I’m using?
Is there a way that I can have a fiber and protein source with my sweetener?
These questions will help you determine a healthier alternative and make your choice better in terms of it’s glycemic effect.
So whatever you choose, try to limit the amount of sweetener you use, and up your protein and fiber to make it all around healthier.