While most of us love to indulge in something sweet we don’t necessarily want to deal with the extra weight and other health problems that may be the result of regular sugar consumption.
Fortunately, there are some delicious sugar substitutes that can satisfy your sweet tooth without adding calories and low-calorie sweeteners are ideal for this purpose.
With this in mind, this guide will provide all the information you need to choose the right low carb sweetener while you’re on a keto diet.
Sugar Alcohol Sweeteners Erythritol and Xylitol
What Is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a low-calorie sweetener that’s a type of sugar alcohol. It can be found naturally in certain fruits like pears and it’s also produced in mushrooms and food that have gone through a fermentation process including soy sauce, sake, beer, wine, and cheese.
How is erythritol made?
This sweetener is commercially produced using fermentation of a simple sugar derived from corn, called dextrose.
Benefits of erythritol?
The benefits of Erythritol are many but the most important one is that currently is considered the only sugar alcohol that contains zero calories. It can be used to replace calories from carbohydrates and sugars in foods and beverages.
It does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels.
Humans can’t digest erythritol – it’s absorbed into the bloodstream and then excreted unchanged in the urine.
Erythritol is non-cariogenic which means it doesn’t cause dental cavities. It’s also considered a compound that inhibits the growth of the oral bacteria associated with cavities (Streptococcus mutants).
Side effects of erythritol
A small percentage of erythritol lands up in the colon and can cause some digestive side effects but only as a result of large intake.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is also a sugar alcohol type that naturally occurs in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables. Our bodies also produce xylitol during normal metabolism.
Xylitol is not calorie-free. In fact, it’s as sweet as sugar but has 40% fewer calories. These are empty calories as xylitol doesn’t contain any vitamins, minerals or protein.
Xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram compared to regular sugars 4 calories per gram
How is xylitol made?
Xylitol is extracted from birch and other hardwood trees to make this sweet sugar substitute.
Benefits and side effects of xylitol
1. Low glycemic index (GI)
Xylitol has a very low glycemic index (GI) which means it is digested and absorbed slowly and doesn’t affect blood sugar dramatically.
As a result, xylitol helps diabetics to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
2. Weight loss aid
Xylitol can help people to lose weight because it contains way less calories compared to sugar.
3. Sugar substitute in baking
Unlike other sweeteners, Xylitol, doesn’t break down at high temperatures. This makes it a perfect sugar substitute for any recipe.
4. Promotes dental health
One of the additional benefits of this natural sweetener is that it may help to prevent tooth decay. The compound is thought to prevent the growth of the acid bacteria that leads to cavities.
Many chewing gums and toothpaste contain xylitol.
Plant-based Keto Sweeteners – Monk Fruit, Stevia and Chicory Root
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo or Swingle fruit, is a small round fruit native to regions of Southeast Asia, including some parts of Thailand and China.
Buddhist monks in the 13th century were the first to cultivate the fruit, which is where the name of the fruit comes from.
Monk fruit contains natural sugars like fructose and glucose, but interestingly, the fruit doesn’t get its sweetness from these sugars. Instead, it’s the unique antioxidants in the fruit that give Monk fruit its intense sweetness.
Monk fruit sweetener
Surprisingly, Monk fruit sweeteners are 150-200 times sweeter than regular sugar but don’t add any calories to foods and beverages.
To make monk fruit sweeteners, the seeds and skin of the fruit are removed, the fruit is then pulped. The resulting juice contains no calories.
Because of such intense sweetness, many manufactures add other substances to monk fruit just to make it a bit less sweet.
Monk fruit side effects
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Monk fruit sweeteners as generally safe (GRAS) since 2010. No evidence has been found that monk fruit sweeteners have harmful side effects.
What is stevia?
This sweetener’s a herbal shrub plant native from South America.
What is stevia made of?
This natural sweetener is made from stevia leaves. It is the result of steviol glycosides, compounds found in the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Also, it does no calories and is about 200-350 times sweeter than regular sugar.
Stevia side effects?
It’s important to know that the FDA only considers high-purity steviol glycosides to be safe for human consumption but has not yet approved crude stevia extracts and stevia leaves as a food additive. Highly purified stevia is not thought to cause adverse side effects.
What is chicory root?
Chicory root comes from the chicory root plant. Chicory roots contain a water-soluble fiber called inulin which is very sweet. This substance has only 35% the sweetness of regular sugar.
The New Sweetener – Allulose
What is allulose?
Allulose is a low-calorie sugar with no after taste. Although it has the taste and texture of sugar it’s only about a tenth of the calories of regular sugar.
Allulose is a natural sugar found in very small quantities in wheat, and some fruits including jackfruit, figs, and raisins.
Additionally, it’s also found in small quantities in sweet foods like caramel sauce, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Because it is found in such small amounts and only in a few foods it’s often referred to as a “rare sugar”.
Allulose is a monosaccharide or simple sugar. As a result, it’s absorbed by the body, but not metabolized so it’s nearly calorie-free.
Allulose has the chemical structure of carbohydrates but without the calories associated with carbs. Its use does not raise blood sugar levels.
How is allulose made?
Manufacturers have used enzymes to convert fructose from corn and other plants into allulose.
Sweeteners To Avoid On Keto
When you are on a Keto diet, you might want to sweeten some of your food but you want to make sure that you don’t add carbs. Here we discuss what sweeteners are best to avoid if you are on a Keto diet.
Natural sugar sweeteners
Here are a few sweeteners that are high in carbs. They affect blood sugar levels negatively and can interrupt ketosis.
Sweeteners that raise blood glucose levels should be avoided on a keto diet. With this in mind, here’s a list of all the natural sweeteners should be avoided.
Maltodextrin is one of those “natural” products that is derived from plants but is actually highly processed.
It is processed from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. You should avoid it as it has the same calorie index as regular sugar.
Although this may be a good source of micronutrients and antioxidants, honey is best left off the diet as it has the same effect on the body as sugar.
3. Coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is not derived from the actual coconut, but from the liquid in the coconut palm. This palm juice is high in fructose which can raise blood sugar levels.
4. Maple syrup
While it’s true that maple syrup is high in micronutrients it is also high in sugar and carbs.
5. Agave nectar
Agave nectar is too high in fructose to be included in a keto diet. Fructose interferes with the body’s ability to deal with insulin effectively leading to impaired regulation of blood sugar levels.
This natural sweetener contains too many carbs to be considered for use in a keto diet.
The glycemic index for pure sucralose is zero, so it has little to no effect on blood sugar levels. It is not absorbed by the body – most of it is excreted in the feces, and the rest is excreted in the urine.
It is recommended that people on a keto diet skip sucralose and rather go for monk fruit extract, stevia extract, and/or erythritol instead. These sweeteners are seen as safer and healthier. Keep in mind that sucralose should not be heated.
A lot has been written about aspartame. It is the most intensively researched sweetener of all. It is widely used in food and drinks.
The recommendation is to avoid aspartame. There is a lot of controversy around aspartame but none of the negative claims about it have been proven.
Yet, it’s best to use other alternatives that are known to be not harmful. My rule of thumb is; if it is chemically made then it is not meant for me to consume.
3. Saccharin – GI: Variable
This synthetic sweetener has been around for a long time but its popularity has dwindled. Over the years there has been some discussion about the impact it may have on health. Particularly, there has been some talk about saccharin causing cancer and that it may have other harmful health effects.
Saccharin’s use in the keto diet is limited as it can’t be used in baking since heat causes it to have a bitter aftertaste.
It is better to avoid saccharine during a keto diet. Your best bet is sweeteners like stevia extract, monk fruit extract, erythritol, and xylitol.
How To Use Keto Sugar Substitutes:
According to Health Line, the 6 best sweeteners for a low-carb keto diet like the keto are Stevia, Sucralose, Erythritol, Xylitol, Monk Fruit Sweetener and Yacon Syrup.
Since stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, you can use less to get the desired sweetness you’re used to. For each cup (200 grams) of sugar, you need only 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of powdered stevia.
Sucralose should not be heated; it is not suitable for baking. Use sucralose to sweeten drinks or oatmeal, granola, and yogurt. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than regular sugar, so be sure to use only a tiny amount.
Erythritol stimulates the sweet taste receptors on your tongue to mimic the taste of sugar.
additionally, it also has 80% the sweetness of sugar but it has only 0.2 calories per gram. You need 1 1/3 cups (267 grams) of erythritol for every cup (200 grams) of sugar.
The sweetener Xylitol has the same sweetness as sugar but has only 3 calories per gram and only 1 carb per gram.
Since this sweetener has the same sweetness as sugar you can simply replace any amount of sugar with the same amount of xylitol.
Monk Fruit sweetener
This is a natural sugar that is 100 – 250 times sweeter than your regular one. Monk Fruit sweetener is an ideal sweetener to use on a keto diet as it has neither carbs nor calories. You need only a tiny amount to get a very sweet taste.
Be sure to check the label when buying Monk Fruit sweeteners like sugar, molasses, and other sugars are sometimes added to it – avoid these makes when you follow a keto diet.
Yacón syrup is a sweetener that’s made from the tubers of the yacón plant which grows in the Andes. The yacón has few calories and low sugar levels and consists of a soluble fiber that humans can’t digest.
Yacón syrup has only 20 calories per tablespoon and 8 grams of carbs per tablespoon.
As a result, it’s safe to say you can use yacón syrup to sweeten your drinks but you should keep in mind you can’t use it to cook.
Sugar Substitutes for Low Carb Baking
With all this information in mind, the following list has the best keto-friendly sweeteners for baking:
- Monk Fruit sweetener
- Natvia, a Stevia and Erythritol blend
- Swerve, a natural Keto Sweetener blend