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Keto Sweeteners: The Best Low-Carb Options

<article> <section> <p>Keto is all about switching from metabolism that burns sugar to one that burns fat. That means pretty much cutting out sugar altogether. However, folks transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle from the Standard American Diet (SAD) can find that letting go of their sugar fix is a rough road. What is coffee without sugar? Or a smoothie without sweeteners? </p> <p>This is not a struggle reserved for people who are currently dedicated to the keto lifestyle, however. For those who love sugar and carbs, even if you are taking a break from <i>ketosis</i> (which is recommended depending on your body and lifestyle), including a lot of sugar in your diet is not considered healthy or good for you in any context. Sugar and processed sweeteners are clinically proven to inflame our tissues at the cellular level<sup>1</sup>. Inflammation can trigger a cascade of health problems from anxiety to cancer. And with the obesity and diabetes epidemics on the rise today, Americans are strongly advised to cut down on sugar and processed sweeteners.</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9 w-md-75 my-5 mx-auto"> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <p>The obvious solution would usually be something akin to cutting out sweet things altogether, but when you are living in America with limited access to certain foods, perhaps limited time or ability to put together healthy meals — or even just a sweet tooth that must be satisfied every once in a while, it can be difficult to go cold turkey with sugar and other sweet things.</p> <p>A quick online search will point you in the direction of all the sugar-free, low-carb and fatty desserts keto has to offer. But, if you are one of those people who simply cannot do without a sweet experience here and there in their typical diet. For these people, there is some good news in the form of <i>sugar alternatives</i>, or, sweeteners, on keto. But first, let’s talk about whether sugar has a place on keto. </p> <p>In this article, we will go over some of the best and worst keto sweeteners.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Sugar on Keto</header> <p>First, let’s talk about whether or not sugar ever has a place in the keto diet. Keto is a low-carb diet, and thus, the consumption of regular sugar is not advised. The reason for this is that carbs break down into sugar (or, glucose) in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which keeps your body out of the fat-burning mode required on keto. When carbs break down to this size, they are small enough to be absorbed into the body. When it comes to the bottom line of reaching ketosis, the amount of broken down glucose your body absorbs is the main thing that determines whether you are burning sugar or burning fat for energy. </p> <p>When we remove sugar and the foods that break down into sugar in our typical diet, our bodies look for a new energy source. This is why we eat fewer carbs and increase our fats on keto: we are giving our body no choice but to switch from a sugar-burning to a fat-burning metabolism. </p> <p>Now, there is one type of sugar on keto that does not get in the way of ketosis: we commonly call it dietary fiber. Yes, you read that right! It is actually a type of sugar. It is comprised of different kinds of plant sugars that our GI tract cannot completely break down or absorb. </p> <p>Food nutritional stats always include dietary fiber and the total amount of carbs. Because it is considered a sugar molecule, dietary fiber is included in the total carbs on the nutritional label. Therefore, a lot of keto dieters find it helpful to calculate their daily macros based on the <i>net carbs</i> they have in their diet as opposed to the total carbs.</p> <p><b>The math is relatively simple.</b></p> <div class="sub-head">Total carbohydrates - dietary fiber and other insoluble sugars = net carbs<sup>2</sup></div> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="diabetes-monitor"> </picture> <p>This does not solve the sugar problem on keto, because fiber does not taste sweet. If we do not want to dip into the dangers of sugar, what are our sugar alternatives? Well, believe it or not, we have a lot. They are all considered <i>low-glycemic</i> sweeteners. </p> <p>The <i>glycemic index</i> is what we use to measure a food’s effect on blood sugar levels. Sugar is naturally very </i>high-glycemic</i>. When we down a pack of sugar, it hits the bloodstream fast and causes a dramatic blood sugar spike. When we consume fruits, with high sugar counts, or high-glycemic fruits, we still get a spike in blood sugar, but it is not as dramatic of a blood sugar spike as that which is caused by sugar. </p> <p>The sweeteners you can have on keto, which we are going to discuss here, and which contain no regular sugar, have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels. This means they will have little to no effect on knocking you out of ketosis. </p> <p>But, as with all things, these keto sweeteners must be used in moderation. Some sweeteners and sugar substitutes <i>can</i>. have an effect on your blood sugar levels if you consume too much. Other sweeteners and sugar substitutes can leave your metabolism untouched, but they can light up the sweet sensors on your tongue and trigger fresh cravings for high-glycemic foods, like sugar, in your brain. As such, it’s important to be careful not to overdo it, even when using the best keto sweeteners in your regular diet.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Best Sugar Alternatives</header> <p>So now that you know for sure that you should probably do what you can to avoid regular sugar while on the keto diet, you might be asking yourself, what is the best sweetener for keto? Here are a few of the best keto sweeteners, according to our recommendations.</p> </section> <section> <header>Sugar Alcohol on Keto</header> <p>Our first sugar alternative to investigate on keto is <i>sugar alcohol</i>. It is a group of different sugar compounds that get put into a lot of “sugar-free” products. They can be identified by the last two letters of the sugar alcohol’s name. They commonly, but not always, end in <i>-ol</i>. Two examples of this substitute are <i>erythritol</i> and <i>xylitol</i>. See? They end in -<i>ol</i>!</p> <div class="sub-head">Erythritol</div> <p>Not all sugar alcohols are recommended to add to your keto diet. We’ll later discuss a few that we don’t recommend. But, erythritol <i>is</i> one that we sign off on. It is one of the most common keto-friendly sweeteners. Here at Warrior Made, erythritol is one of the sweeteners we most commonly include in our sweet treats. Erythritol often gets paired with other natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit (which we discuss below) to create a taste much like regular sugar. It also has a “cooling effect” on the tongue that is diluted when paired off, and besides pairing well with other sweeteners, erythritol has little to no effect on blood sugar levels. </p> <p>It is important to note that using sugar alcohols as sweeteners in our diet, even our friend erythritol, can get sticky for those on keto who have been diagnosed with chronic stomach issues like IBS or IBD. Sweeteners like erythritol, xylitol, and maltitol (which we will talk about later) also go by the classification <i>polyols</i><sup>3</sup>, which are known to ferment in the gut at high rates. They make up the “P” in the diet that is recommended to combat these bowel conditions: the <i>Low-FODMAP diet</i>. Not to worry, as it is entirely possible to control your stomach issues on keto, and in fact, many dieters find that their gut health takes a turn for the better. But people with these health concerns should avoid sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, and maltitol when picking their keto sweeteners.</p> </section> <section> <header>Natural Sweeteners on Keto</header> <div class="sub-head">Stevia</div> <p>Natural sweeteners come from plants with no chemicals added to create the final product. <i>Stevia</i> is an excellent example of one of these sweeteners. It is a sugar alternative to incorporate into your keto-friendly diet. It comes from a plant native to South America and has a much sweeter taste than most people are used to (regular sugar is not the sweetest substance on the market). </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="stevia leaves"> </picture> <p>Stevia is one of those sweeteners that come in many forms, from dark liquid to a powdery white substance. Many sweeteners that are sold as alternatives to sugar are mixed with other types of fillers or sugar alcohols, so be sure to read the label to know exactly what you are getting. </p> <div class="sub-head">Monk Fruit</div> <p>One of the relatively new sweeteners on the market is <i>monk fruit</i>. Monk fruit is a natural sweetener and sugar alternative that comes from China and Thailand and can be added to your diet to sweeten things up. Monk fruit even provides health benefits, as it contains a compound proven to fight tumor growth<sup>4</sup>. Among the very potent natural sweeteners, monk fruit is also commonly used with erythritol to calm down its sweetness.</p> <div class="sub-head">Natural Sweeteners Online</div> <p>If it’s difficult to find some of our recommended sweeteners at your local grocery store, but there are products you can find online. One is a brand called Swerve. We use it in many of our recipes. Swerve is an erythritol-based sweetener and is made without any artificial ingredients<sup>5</sup>. We find that the taste is not as sweet as monk fruit or stevia. Another brand of sweetener we use in our kitchen is Lakanto, a monk fruit, and erythritol blend. Since monk fruit can be very sweet, the erythritol calms it down a bit. These are both great sweeteners, and sugar alternatives to use in any keto baking you do. </p> <p>Feel free to experiment with Swerve and Lakanto when you bake recipes from the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made Keto Sweet Treats Cookbook</a>, where we’ve compiled 77 keto-friendly, low-carb sweet treats that you can weave into your daily diet. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Sweeteners to Avoid on Keto</header> <p>All of these options are great tools to help you maneuver through your personal keto journey and to replace sugar. But, something all dieters should understand is that not all alternative sweeteners are created equal. Below are some sweeteners that we don’t recommend on the keto diet.</p> <div class="sub-head">Xylitol and Maltitol</div> <p>Like erythritol, xylitol and maltitol are common commercial sweeteners and are sugar alcohols. But, keto dieters should steer clear of xylitol and maltitol as chosen sweeteners for their diet. The biggest reason to avoid xylitol and maltitol is that they are known to affect blood sugar levels. Xylitol and maltitol can be found in products like gum and confections and are also used as thickeners and sweeteners in over the counter medicines, toothpaste, and dietary supplements<sup>6</sup>. </p> <div class="sub-head">Sucralose</div> <p>Sucralose is another one to stay away from. It is a prevalent sugar alternative, being used in soft drinks and ‘zero calorie/zero sugar’ foods, such as the popular sweetener Splenda. But, sucralose is artificially made, and over the past decade, the Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded the sweetener from ‘Safe’ to ‘Avoid’ as further testing determined that sucralose caused leukemia in rats<sup>7</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Sweetener Traps</header> <p>Once you get into the habit of reading nutritional labels on food, it can become a cinch determining whether a product is right for you or not. The place where you have to tread more carefully is in restaurants. Yes, that salad wrap meets all of your macro criteria, but does it have any sauces mixed in? On menus, you will frequently see the big ingredients listed: </p> <p><b>Caesar Salad Wrap: collard greens, romaine lettuce, mixed greens, chicken, Caesar dressing</p></b> <p>That item may look like the perfect lunch, but Caesar dressing is not a whole ingredient; it is made up of different things. If that salad wrap is promised to be low-carb or low-sugar, you have to ask the waitstaff what really goes into the dressing. Keep this in mind with other common toppings, too, like syrup and jams (which may include added sugar and fruit sweeteners). Artificial sweeteners are to be avoided when eating out, as they are generally processed, or have added sugar. </p> <p>Little menu tricks like this can make eating out on the ketogenic diet, and avoiding sugar, tricky to navigate at first, but you are not alone. With the rise of keto’s popularity have come keto-friendly sauces and dressings (which do not include added sugar) that you can take out to restaurants with you. Just ask for no sauce, and bring your own instead! Primal Kitchen, for example, sells already-made dressings and sauces online and in your local health foods store that you can incorporate into your diet.</p> <p>Within your own kitchen, it is much easier to have full domain over everything you are eating and to avoid sugar at all costs, but few of us can claim to cook one hundred percent of our own meals. And because the keto diet is all about finding a healthier way to live your life, it would be wrong of anyone to ask to you give up eating out with friends or enjoying the holidays with family. That is why it is so essential to arm yourself with knowledge about what healthy options work for you when it comes to making changes to your diet, like eliminating sugar and using healthy alternative sweeteners instead. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="utensils-in-sugar"> </picture> <p>Unfortunately, sugar is not a healthy option for anyone’s diet, but considering all of the sugar alternatives out there, eating sweets is by no means impossible. Understanding the relationship between sugar and inflammation is especially important if you have an insulin-related illness like diabetes or known heart problems. </p> <header>Wrapping up</header> <p>If you are planning to try the keto diet for the first time, or on adding any of the sweeteners we recommend to your current diet, make sure to consult a healthcare professional to ensure which sugar alternatives are the best fit for you. As a start, by reading this article, you are more prepared to keep sugar off your plate and out of your body―where it belongs. </p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li>Keto Answers Podcast, Episode 41 <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">How to Calculate Net Carbs</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Sugar Alcohol</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Antiproliferative Activity of Triterpene Glycoside Nutrient from Monk Fruit</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">What is Swerve Sweetener?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Xylitol</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">CSPI Downgrades Splenda From "Safe" to "Caution"</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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