It’s tempting, understandably, to buy a box of sugar-free chocolates at the pharmacy or grocery store for your favorite relative or friend with diabetes.
“Oh! This is perfect!” you’re probably thinking to yourself when you see that beautiful assortment of truffles with “sugar-free” printed on the box.
How could someone be anything but thrilled to receive sugar-free chocolate? It’s like eating chocolate without your body even noticing, especially for someone with diabetes, right?
There’s a very big difference between “low-carb” chocolates and candies and “sugar-free” varieties.
So back away from the sugar-free candy and chocolate. Please, I beg of you! They are full of sugar alcohols — the archaic substitute for real sugar. And you do not want sugar alcohols in your belly. Here’s why:
1. They still raise your blood sugar. Sugar alcohols, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, are derived from plant products — usually fruit. After removing the carbohydrate from these plants, they are then “altered” by a chemical process. For reasons I still don’t understand, someone once decided that these sugar alcohols should be used in candies and chocolates, and then advertised as “sugar-free."
Sure, they contain slightly fewer calories than white sugar, but Joslin explains that this is merely because the calories are not as easily absorbed during the digestive process. So if you insist on eating sugar-free products, you should do so as thoughtfully as you would any other sugar-laden treat.
2. They will give you diarrhea. Sugar alcohols have the same effect on your body as a good old-fashioned laxative. And you can bet that if you eat more than just one or two of those cute little chocolates, your stomach will not be happy. The “big D” can come with cramping and pain. It’s especially dangerous, because when you see the words “sugar-free,” and it’s been a long time since you treated yourself to chocolate or candy, you might easily overeat. And that extended moment of indulgence will come back to haunt you when your body tries to digest sugar alcohols.
3. They taste truly awful. This is the most obvious reason not to bother with sugar-free chocolates and candies. The entire point of eating chocolate, in particular, is for the enjoyment of that sweet, smooth, wonderful flavor. If your chocolate is mixed with a funky fake-sugar chemical that tastes, well, like chemicals, it’s truly not worth it.
Here are two low-carb chocolates that are available online and are not sweetened with sugar alcohols: ChocZero and ChocoPerfection. I’ve tried both. They truly are lower in carb content. They won’t leave you with painful stomach cramps, and — best of all — they actually taste good!
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Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes & Dealing with Diabetes Burnout & Emotional Eating with Diabetes & Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger creates content regularly for Diabetes Strong, Healthline, HealthCentral, DiabetesDaily, EverydayHealth and her YouTube channel. Her background includes a B.S. in professional writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training,with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with her husband, their two daughters, and their dog, Pedro.