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Keto Sweeteners: The Best Low-Carb Options

Published December 14, 2018 (Revised: October 22, 2019) Read Time: 10 minutes
Kate Sullivan

Written By: Kate Sullivan, MS

Kate holds a MS in Business Psychology and is currently a PHD researcher in Well-Being and Performance Psychology.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Kate Sullivan, MS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "", "image": "" } }, "headline":"Keto Sweeteners: The Best Low-Carb Options", "datePublished":"2018-12-14", "dateModified": "2019-10-22", "description":"In this article, we will go over some of the best and worst keto sweeteners.", "image": "" } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Sugar on Keto</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Sugar Alcohol on Keto</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Natural Sweeteners on Keto</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Keto Sweetener Brands</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Sweeteners to Avoid on Keto</a></li> <li><a href="#section6">Sweetener Traps on Keto</a></li> <li><a href="#section7">Keto Sweeteners—Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>It’s widely accepted that sugar isn’t good for our health.</p> <p>Keto is all about a healthy lifestyle and switching your metabolism from one that relies on sugar for energy to one that burns fat instead. However, many find this transition of letting go of sugar to be a rough road. (Though you’ll find in this article that it doesn't have to be.)</p> <p>Sugar and processed sweeteners are clinically proven to inflame our tissues at the cellular level. 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<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>.</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="sugar cubes"> </picture> <p>A quick online search will point you in the direction of all the sugar free, low-carb and fatty foods keto has to offer. But, some people simply cannot do without a sweet experience here and there in their diet. For these people, there is good news in the form of <i>sugar alternatives</i>, or keto friendly sweeteners. So let’s talk about sugar’s place on keto.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>Sugar on Keto</h2> <p>Keto is a low-carb diet, and thus, regular sugar is not advised. </p> <p>Carbs and sugar break down into glucose in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which keeps one out of the fat-burning mode required on keto.</p> <p>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, 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. </p> <p>This is why we eat less 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. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <h3>Fiber and Sugar On Keto</h3> <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, fiber 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. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></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 carb. </p> <p>The math on net carbs is relatively simple:</p> <p><i>Total carbs - dietary fiber and other insoluble sugar = net carbs</i></p> <p>This does not solve the sugar problem on keto, because fiber doesn’t taste sweet. </p> <p>This brings us to look into our options for sugar alternatives. </p> <h3>Glycemic Index and Keto</h3> <p>Believe it or not, we have a lot of keto friendly sweeteners to save us from our sugar cravings...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. </p> <p>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 the sugar packet. </p> <p>The sweeteners you can have on keto, which we are going to discuss below, and which contain no regular sugar, have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup> This means they will have little to no result of knocking you out of ketosis.</p> <p>But, as with all things, these sweeteners must be used in moderation. Some sweeteners and sugar substitutes can have an effect on your blood sugar levels if you consume too much.</p> <p>Other sweeteners and sugar substitutes can leave your metabolism unaffected, but they can light up the ‘sweet sensors’ on your tongue and trigger fresh cravings for high-glycemic foods, like sugar, in your brain.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Sugar Alcohol on Keto</h2> <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>. </p> <h3>Erythritol</h3> <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 is one that we sign off on. It is one of the best keto sweeteners. </p> <p>Erythritol is one of the sweeteners we most commonly include in our <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">sweet treats</a> and recipes. 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.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></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. </p> <p>Sweeteners like erythritol, xylitol and maltitol (which we will talk about later) also go by the classification <i>polyols</i>, 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>.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup></p> <p>Not to worry, as it is entirely possible to control your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">stomach issues on keto</a>, 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 choosing their sweeteners. And remember, always consult your primary health care physician when making changes to your diet.</p> </section> <section id="section3"> <h2>Natural Sweeteners on Keto</h2> <h3>Stevia</h3> <p>Natural sweeteners come from plants with no chemicals added to create the final product.</p> <p><i>Stevia</i> is an excellent example of one of these keto 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 comes 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> <h3>Monk Fruit</h3> <p>One of the relatively new sweeteners on the market is <i>monk fruit</i>. </p> <p>Monk fruit is a natural sweetener and sugar alternative that comes from China and Thailand, and can be added into your diet to sweeten things up. </p> <p>Monk fruit even provides health benefits making it one of the best sweeteners for the keto diet, as it contains a compound proven to fight tumor growth.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup> Among the very potent natural sweeteners, monk fruit is also commonly used with erythritol to calm down its sweetness.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Keto Sweetener Brands</h2> <p>If it’s difficult to find some of our recommended sweeteners at your local grocery store, there are products you can find online. </p> <p>One is a brand called <i>Swerve</i>. We use it in many of our <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">recipes</a>. Swerve is an erythritol-based sweetener, and is made without any artificial ingredients.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup> We’ve found that the taste is not as sweet as monk fruit or stevia. </p> <p>Another brand of sweetener we use in our kitchen is <i>Lakanto</i>, a monk fruit and erythritol blend. Since monk fruit can be very sweet, the erythritol calms it down a bit. </p> <p>These are both great sweeteners, and sugar alternatives to use in any keto baking you do.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Sweeteners to Avoid on Keto</h2> <p>All of the options we’ve mentioned are great tools to help you maneuver through your personal keto journey, and to replace sugar. </p> <p>But, something all dieters should understand is that not all alternative sweeteners are beneficial to your health. Below are some sweeteners that we don’t recommend on the keto diet.</p> <h3>Xylitol and Maltitol</h3> <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.</p> <p>The biggest reason to avoid xylitol and maltitol is because 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, toothpastes, and dietary supplements<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.</p> <h3>Sucralose</h3> <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 <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Center for Science in the Public Interest</a> downgraded the sweetener from ‘Safe’ to ‘Avoid’ as further testing determined that sucralose caused leukemia in rats.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section6"> <h2>Sweetener Traps on Keto</h2> <p>Once you have become familiar with reading nutritional labels, it can become a cinch to determine whether a product is right for your diet or not. The place where you have to tread more carefully is in restaurants. </p> <p>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: <i>Caesar Salad Wrap: collard greens, romaine lettuce, mixed greens, chicken, Caesar dressing.</i></p> <p>That item may look like a perfect keto 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 should ask the waitstaff what really goes into the dressing. </p> <p>Keep this in mind with other common toppings, too, like syrup and jams (which 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>Menu “fine print” 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 <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">keto-friendly sauces and dressings</a> (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!</p> <p><i>Primal Kitchen</i>, 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. </p> <p>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’s 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> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section7"> <h2>Keto Sweeteners—Wrap Up</h2> <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. </p> <p>Understanding the relationship between sugar and inflammation is especially important if you have an insulin related illness like diabetes, or known heart problems. And, 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 the best fits for you. </p> <p>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> </section> </article>

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