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I’ve seen sugar-free foods in the grocery store. Does that mean I can eat as much of those foods as I want?

There are many products that are sold as being “sugar-free,” “reduced sugar,” “light,” “no sugar added,” and so forth. These labels can be confusing and sometimes misleading. While the amount of sugar in a product might be lower, it’s important to remember that sugar is only one type of carbohydrate, and all carbohydrates affect your glucose levels. Also, foods that are sugar-free might still be high in fat, which will affect your glucose levels as well.

Usually there is a sugar substitute in these foods, like fructose, lactose, maltose, or honey – all of which are naturally occurring “sugars” that are only “sugar-free” because they contain no cane sugar. But because they do contain a natural form of sugar, they will affect your glucose levels in a similar, albeit less dramatic, way. Artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose, are approved by the FDA as safe, but it is good to remember that moderation is key in your nutrition plan. Fats, sweets, and alcohol are at the top of the food pyramid for a reason – they should be eaten in small amounts, don’t provide vitamins and minerals, and are high in calories, “empty” calories.

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