a) What is the difference between Sugar, sugar-free, no added sugar, and unsweetened food/items?
We understand Sugar as the white crystals which are very sweet and which we use for our coffee, tea, juices, and other foods and sweets. However, for one who studies Chemistry, it denotes a lot of members in the chemical family of 'Carbohydrates'. They are subdivided into Monosaccharides, Disaccharides, and so on.
It is generally believed that the common white Sugar is not good for diabetic people. However as it is difficult for many to avoid the sweet taste in their daily food and drinks, there came some 'sugar substitutes' which have slightly different chemical composition, but sweet same or more even in very small quantities. When we read Sugar fee or o-sugar added it just means that the 'common' sugar is not added.
b) What are the different types of Sugars available in the market?
Though the common major source of Sugar is Sugar cane, we get the usable Sugar after it undergoes various industrial processes, and purification and refining. Such well purified and refined sugar is what we commonly us the white table Sugar and called 'Granulated Sugar'.
For the various uses and preservation, the cane sugar is added with certain things, coloured or unbleached and unrefined. For example 'Confectioner's Sugar is mixed with certain starch and is used in Bakery mostly for decoration of sweets etc.
Caster Sugar is a very finely granulated form, and so easy to use in syrups, etc. Coarse sugar is a larger size, not easily dissolvable and less white form sugar. Demerara sugar and Cane sugar ones with less refining and retaining the brown colour of the molasses. There a few more varieties but we usually do not come across them in daily us except the few from narrated here.
c) What are different sugar alternatives or sugar replacements available in the market and how are they made?
Bearing a similar chemical name 'Sacharin' was one of the earliest sugar alternatives. Stevia – (the extract from Stevia plant) is a sugar substitute with many times the sweetness of sugar. Sucralose is a sugar substitute, derived from the common sugar itself by further processing and extraction. Aspartame, Neotame, Advantame, etc are also artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are many many times sweeter than sugar and so need very little quantity. They also have nil or negligible calories.
These are marketed in different brand names.
d)What precaution should a diabetes person/patient keep in mind when buying items that have Sugar, sugar-free, no added sugar label on it?
& e) Is it good for a person to completely avoid sugar from his diet and why?
As our body needs sugars (carbohydrates) it is not correct to avoid sugars (carbohydrates) altogether.
For a diabetic person, it is preferable if he can fully avoid refined white sugar or regulate it as per his doctor's advice based on the monitoring. However, if it is not easy to avoid sweet taste in daily coffee, tea, etc, then the next best is to use the sugar substitutes in moderation. For this also it is better to consult one's doctor. Not to deprive the body of its natural need for sugar and avoid sugar craving, naturally occurring sugars like permitted fruits can be consumed. However, a diagnosed diabetic should consult the doctor in this regard.