AskNadia: Best Brown Sugar Substitute for People With 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, which 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 pay 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 help you set a carb limit for the day or every meal to achieve better glucose readings? Do you exercise regularly?

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, exercise 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. Having blood sugars that run from 120 mg/dL to 270 mg/dl plus 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 discussions 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  better for blood sugar management. I use a stevia syrup with one carb per teaspoon as an alternative sweetener to brown sugar in my oatmeal. Alternatively, you can use the swerve brown sugar alternatives with 0 carbs. They have granular sugar, Confectioners sugar, and brown sugar, which I use in my baking recipes. 

You can check these products here for further details. Our new store has the ingredients I use in my cooking and baking.:

Carbohydrates are addictive. Have you considered going on a low Carb/ Keto diet? Years ago, I remembered speaking to Dr. Atkin’s, nurse who worked with the low carb diet pioneer doctor for twenty years. She said for her patinets who had carbohydrate cravings, she recommended taking the supplement chromium picolinate. People with diabetes have said it helps with their blood sugar. Speaking to your healthcare professional about this supplement before including it in your daily routine goes without saying. The reason being, combined with the medication you are on, it could give you low blood sugar.

Most people feel better when managing their carbohydrate meals with alternative brands that no longer shoot up their blood sugars. Over time, cravings will lessen.

I speak from experience when I say I have conditioned myself to eat less than 75 carbs per day. It has also motivated me to create recipes from my Sugar Happy Kitchen. Anytime I exceed this count, especially at parties, I automatically self-correct the next day. You can view my recipes online at the Sugar Happy Kitchen.

Your healthcare professional can help you determine your daily maximum carbohydrate intake based on your medication dose.  

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 and dosage prescribed for you considers your diet and daily exercise in reaching 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 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.  

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 respond 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 leading patient advocate in the diabetes community.

Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. At a young age, she was propelled into “caretaker mode.” With her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, she 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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