Going on a keto diet (which is a high fat, low carb diet that we discuss in the Body Reboot book), means not eating high-carb foods such as desserts, processed snacks, and starches. The reason why dieters cut out carbs is that they want their body to reach a metabolic state known as ketosis. During ketosis, a body breaks down fat stores instead of carbs to burn fat and produce energy. Eliminating sugar is another element of the keto diet, but for some it’s challenging not to eat sweets such as soda, sauces, and baked goods, to name a few. Luckily there are a variety of low-carb sweeteners to enjoy. Below are 5 excellent sweeteners for a low-carb diet plus 2 you should avoid.
The Truth About Cancer tells us what to keep in mind when deciding which sweeteners work best while on the ketogenic diet.
When looking for a healthy sweetener (for a ketogenic or any type of eating plan), there are several things to consider:
It should not contain chemicals, and should be made of only unambiguous, natural, whole-food sourced ingredients.
It should have minimal or no impact on blood sugar and insulin levels.
It should have nutritional value and provide health benefits, including promoting the gut microbiome (the collection of bacteria that thrive in your intestines).
Ruled.me also provides an excellent overview of what to pay attention to when deciding on which artificial sweeteners will likely work the best for you on a low carb diet:
How can we decipher the difference between keto-friendly sweeteners and a sugar-substitute we should avoid? In general, the best options will have these characteristics:
Has either no effect or a positive effect on insulin levels, blood sugar levels, and other biomarkers (e.g., cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure).
Causes no side effects for you when consumed at reasonable doses.
Has been found to be safe for use at reasonable doses.
Can be exposed to high temperatures without becoming bitter, turning toxic, or degrading into simple sugars.
Contains virtually no calories and net carbs.
Contains no hidden sources of net carbs.
All marketing claims are backed up by high-quality research.
The first sweetener a lot of low carb dieters use is stevia. Healthline explains why stevia works well plus, they also reveal that it may also help lower blood sugar levels!
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
It’s considered a nonnutritive sweetener, which means that it contains little to no calories or carbs.
Unlike regular sugar, animal and human studies have shown that stevia may help lower blood sugar levels.
Stevia is available in both liquid and powdered form and can be used to sweeten everything from drinks to desserts.
However, because it’s much sweeter than regular sugar, recipes require less stevia to achieve the same flavor.
For each cup (200 grams) of sugar, substitute only 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of powdered stevia.
Allulose is another sweetener that works well while on keto. Ruled.me explains why it’s a good option while on the low carb diet.
Allulose is one of the most sugar-like low-calorie sweeteners on the market. It is made up of a monosaccharide (a simple sugar) that is found in small quantities in wheat, certain fruits (like jackfruit, figs, raisins), and some sugary sweeteners (like maple syrup and brown sugar).
The reason why allulose has no glycemic index or net carb content is that 100% of it is excreted from the body without being metabolized at all. In other words, our bodies don’t have the capacity to use it for fuel.
However, this doesn’t mean that allulose is just some inert sweet substance. Several clinical and animal studies have demonstrated that the natural sweetener can help reduce insulin and blood sugar levels after meals.
Some studies have even found that it has antioxidant and blood lipid lowering properties as well. These results make allulose look like the ideal sugar alternative for preventing common diseases like diabetes and heart disease while enhancing the results of the ketogenic diet.
The only thing to be cautious about with this sweetener is that the long-term effects it has on the microbiome are not yet known. In general, however, allulose has only been found to cause positive effects. Because of this, the FDA states that it is “generally recognized as safe.”
Advantages of using allulose on the keto diet:
Only has about 1/10 the calories of table sugar.
Provides us with antioxidant, blood sugar lowering, and blood lipid lowering properties.
Closely emulates many properties of sugar.
Relatively stable with baking and cooking.
Disadvantages of using allulose on the keto diet:
Only 70% as sweet as table sugar.
Long-term effects of increased allulose consumption are not yet known.
Have you heard of xylitol? My Keto Kitchen explains how this sweetener may cause a cold sensation in the mouth, and that may not be for everyone, but it works as an excellent substitute for sugar you can use for desserts and other foods.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that has antibacterial properties. It has a close resemblance to sugar without any aftertaste.
Though people often feel a slight cold sensation in the mouth when eating xylitol. We use Xylitol sparingly as it can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Limit xylitol to some desserts that require little-added sweetness and the odd coffee.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol has the added benefit of being anti-bacterial
It has been used in medicine to control middle ear infections
Xylitol’s anti-bacterial properties protect your teeth from decay-causing bacteria.
Gastrointestinal discomfort may occur in doses upward of 50gram of Xylitol.
Be aware that xylitol is toxic to dogs, so don’t feed your keto snacks to Scooby!
#4 Monk Fruit
Ruled.me mentions monk fruit as being another artificial sweetener that is keto friends. Interestingly enough, monk fruit has been transformed from a medicinal fruit into a sweetener. Read more about this below:
Also known as Luo Han Guo, monk fruit is native to China, where it has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for decades. Over the past several years, however, monk fruit has been transformed from a medicinal fruit into a healthy keto-friendly sweetener that is 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar.
The only downside to using monk fruit extract is that it tends to have an unusual taste and bitter aftertaste. To counteract these unpleasant flavors and emulate sugar more effectively, try blending this sweetener with other keto-friendly sweeteners or use a monk fruit sweetener blend instead.
Although it hasn’t been as well-researched as other popular keto sweeteners like stevia and erythritol, we have enough evidence to suggest that it monk fruit extract is safe, causes no harmful side effects, and may provide us with health benefits.
Advantages of using monk fruit extract for keto:
A little goes a long way (100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar).
May act as an antioxidant and fight inflammation.
May improve blood sugar regulation.
Has zero carbs, calories, and sugars.
Disadvantages of using monk fruit extract for keto:
May be more expensive than other keto sweeteners.
Tastes different from regular table sugar, and some find the taste unusual or unpleasant.
According to My Perfect Keto erythritol is another sweetener to consider using. Be aware that it can cause stomach upset, so it’s best to try out a few sweeteners first to figure out what will work best.
Erythritol is a white, powdery sweetener. It’s categorized as a sugar alcohol, which can sound scary, but it’s actually found naturally in many foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, and does not appear to have negative side effects when used in moderation. The structure of its molecules gives it a sweet taste without the side effects of sugar.
Benefits and Using Erythritol:
Like stevia, erythritol has a glycemic index of zero. It’s also very low in calories (about 0.24 calories per gram, which is only 6% of the calories in sugar). Erythritol is not quite as sweet as sugar, so you might need to use a little more of it to get the same sweetness.
One caveat of sugar alcohols is that they can sometimes cause digestive distress, such as mild cramping or bloating. However, erythritol is different from other sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol, or xylitol. That’s because almost all of it gets absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream before being excreted in the urine, not affecting the colon like the others.
You can find 100% pure erythritol at the store, as well as certain brands that combine erythritol is other ingredients. Just make sure the erythritol doesn’t contain additives that spike your carb count and affect blood sugar.
One sweetener My Keto Kitchen says to avoid is maltitol because it’ll raise your glucose levels and if that happens, you’ll be less likely to lose weight. Plus, be aware that it ends up in products as a hidden ingredient, so read food labels carefully.
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol like erythritol. But unlike erythritol, maltitol has a high glycemic index (as you will see in our table of sweeteners below).
Though maltitol’s glycemic index (GI) is significantly lower than refined sugar, it still has a GI above 30 and will impact blood sugar levels.
Is Maltitol Keto friendly?
Maltitol is not keto friendly and should not be used to sweeten products or recipes for those wanting to achieve ketosis.
Despite maltitol’s high GI rating, manufacturers and retailers still try to sneak it into products to fool the unsuspecting consumer.
What is Maltitol?
Maltitol has far too much of an influence on blood sugar levels for the keto diet.
Many on the shelf “low-carb” protein bars contain maltitol as the sweetener.
Maltitol does not legally have to be included in “net carbs” on nutrition labels, but it does have to be listed as an ingredient (look for it, if its there, don’t buy the product).
Maltitol is one of the most common sweeteners used in low carb powders, meal replacements, and low carb baked goods.
Though not technically an artificial sweetener, we chose fructose because it is worse than sugar and you should avoid it at all cost. Here's why it’s so bad, according to Diet Doctor:
Amazingly, there are sweeteners that are even worse than sugar. Regular sugar contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose. These sweeteners contain more fructose than glucose. While these sweeteners are slower to raise blood glucose – resulting in a deceptively low GI3 – they have even more harmful effects. Fructose in excess can result in fatty liver and insulin resistance, which increases the long-term negative effects of carbohydrates you eat later.
These sweeteners with excess fructose – high fructose corn syrup (soda), fruit juice concentrate, honey and agave syrup – can likely have a slightly worse long-term effect than pure sugar. Thus we give them a number of 100+. Worst of all, with the highest fructose content of all? Agave syrup.
This is not to say that sugar is good. Clearly sugar is potentially very bad. But these sugars are super sugars. They are not good options on a low-carb diet.
Now that you know which sweeteners you can use on the keto diet you don’t have to worry about not having any dessert! We outline what the keto diet is all about in the Body Reboot book. Get your free book by merely covering the cost of shipping and visiting this page to get a copy before they’re gone. We can’t wait for you to become a part of our health-focused community!
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