After some time eating a ketogenic diet, your body will not crave sweets as it once did. For beginners, your body will still want that sweet taste and there are things you can do to satisfy your craving while staying in ketosis! It is extremely important to remember that even those high on the list need to be consumed in moderation and everyone’s body will react differently. When reading a nutrition label, even if it says 0g of sugar, it usually will still have one of the below sweeteners listed in the ingredients. You have to check the label of every food you eat to make sure you are not eating food that raise your blood sugar level.
On the table below, beside each sweetener’s name, you will see “GI” and then a number. This refers to the Glycemic Index, which measures how much your blood sugar is raised by a certain food. Many sweeteners are 0 GI, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar. The baseline is glucose, which measures up at 100.
|Sweetener||GI||Type||Net Carbs (Per 100g)||Calories (Per 100g)|
|Allulose||0||Natural||0 – 5||20 – 40|
|Monk Fruit||0||Natural||0 – 25||0 – 100|
1. Sugar/Raw Cane Sugar (Stay far, far away!)
Sugar, as most of us know, should be avoided at all costs. It is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, bad cholesterol, sugar addiction, and metabolic syndrome. It has no real nutrients and consumption typically leads to fat storage. It is labeled as many different things on nutrition packaging but a good rule of thumb is if it ends in “ose”, it’s sugar and should be avoided. Regular table sugar is broken down into fructose and glucose when it enters the bloodstream. Glucose is naturally occurring in our bodies, but fructose is not. Excess fructose from over consumption gets turned into glycogen but can also be stored as fat once overloaded. This can cause fatty liver disease (among other things).
2. Stevia (My personal Favorite)
Stevia is an herb, which is commonly known as “sugar leaf”. The extract from this herb is used as a sweetener and sugar substitute. Based on the USDA database, Stevia belongs to a group of non-nutritive sweeteners. This means there are no calories, vitamins or any other nutrients. Stevia does have a bit of an after-taste so if you decide that you don’t like it, there are other options. Be very careful using powdered stevia as they can contain other sweeteners such as dextrose and maltodextrin. The name of the product may even say stevia (e.g. Stevia in the Raw) so it’s important to read all nutrition labels before consuming it. You can find liquid and pre powdered stevia at any grocery store and most large chains like Wal-Mart or Kroger have their own brand of stevia that can be much cheaper.
3. Erythritol (Great for Keto)
Erythritol is naturally found in fruits, vegetables and fermented foods. It is a sugar alcohol that does not affect blood glucose and has zero calories. When you see these sugar alcohols on a nutrition label, you can subtract the grams from the total carbohydrates. For example, if something has 10 total carbs and 2 grams of any sugar alcohol, it actually only has 8 net carbs.
4. Monk Fruit Sweetener (Great for Keto)
Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo or longevity fruit, is a fruit native to China and northern Thailand. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat obesity and diabetes. It’s as sweet as stevia but without the bitter aftertaste of most stevia products. As with all products, you have to be careful what ingredients they contain. Although pure monk fruit is claimed to have no calories and carbs, most products contain other sweeteners like inulin, which contains a few calories.
5. Xylitol (Good for Keto)
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in the fibers of certain fruits and vegetables. It’s a sugar substitute that tastes like sugar but has fewer calories. Like Stevia, it doesn’t contain many nutrients but has some other benefits for dental health and may prevent osteoporosis. It’s also used in cosmetics and medicines. Xylitol should be used moderately as a sweetener. Also, be aware Xylitol can be toxic for animals, so keep it safe out of their reach! This is why it can be dangerous I personally don’t use Xylitol, as I experienced minor insulin spikes and digestive problems.
6. Other sugar alcohols (Not good for Keto)
Other types of sugar alcohols are Sorbitol, Maltitol, Lactitol, etc. Almost all of these affect blood sugar levels. Be careful with any “low-carb” or “zero-carb” products. All these commonly use Maltitol that affects blood sugar but is omitted from the net carbs count. It’s a good marketing strategy, so don’t be fooled!
7. Malitol (Not good for Keto)
Maltitol is very commonly used in sugar-free products as it is very similar to sugar. If the packaging says that a product is sugar-free, you will most likely find maltitol on the ingredient list. It cooks and tastes very much like the real thing, and is only half the calories of actual sugar. The downfall of this is that it has quite a large glycemic index – meaning it spikes blood sugars. However, due to the current laws we have, many products are allowed to calculate these out of the net carb counts and many people are secretly consuming hidden carbs. This one is best to avoid. On a low carb diet, it’s always best to be skeptical of products using this. Many times we see people over-consume on products using maltitol, which can lead to a slowing of weight loss. Many also complain of the laxative effects maltitol has. It’s commonly associated with stomach issues including bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
8. Sucrolose (Ok for Keto in moderation. This is in Mio)
Before we talk about sucralose, there is a slight controversy about the glycemic index. There are many sources claiming many different numbers, but on an average, we see that it’s about 80 GI in powdered bulked form (Splenda). The bad part about this is that it’s higher than sugar and can cause big spikes in blood sugar – so you should try to avoid the powdered form for the keto diet. The good part about it is that it typically can be found in pure form (liquid and powdered) too. This goes an extremely long way when it comes to sweetening things: it’s 600 times sweeter than sugar. The glycemic index for pure sucralose is 0, so you can use this as you would stevia. In pure form, it has little to no effect on blood sugar levels. The most commonly used brand of this product is Splenda (which is paired with other high GI bulking agents) and was extremely rampant in the low-carb communities in the early 2000’s. Definitely avoid using any non-pure forms of this sweetener as it contains other filler agents like maltodextrin with a much higher glycemic impact.
9. Aspartame (Not good for Keto)
Aspartame is probably the most controversial sweetener of all. It’s been behind many stories of multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, methanol toxicity, and blindness among many other things. It’s a very common sweetener that is used in many low carb products and diet drinks out there. Even though the negative claims haven’t been replicated in studies over the last 40 years (it’s one of the most thoroughly studied sweeteners), it may be best to stay away from this one as there are better alternatives. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. It can be used in many different cold dishes, but at higher temperatures, aspartame can break down during baking and cause bitter and strange aftertastes.
10. Saccharin (Not good for Keto)
First showcasing over 150 years ago, this synthetic sweetener is one of the oldest around. This is not very commonly found or used anymore, as the popularity for saccharin has gone down significantly. It is still in the top 3 synthetic sweeteners, which is why it is included but is dwindling in usage. In the 1970’s, all saccharin products had to place a warning label that it may induce cancer in man or animals. This was then removed during 2000, when the animal based testing couldn’t ethically be done on humans. There have been reports of many short-term side effects, but none that have been replicated in studies. Other than the controversy surrounding saccharin, another reason to avoid this is during the cooking process, it can cause an extremely bitter aftertaste. Since many of us are creating baked goods, it usually leaves an unpleasant taste.
11. High Fructose Corn Syrup (Stay far, far away!)
High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that’s highly processed and derived from corn. It became popular in the 70’s when corn prices were low because of government subsidies. It contains simple sugar and fructose, which have been shown to have many negative health benefits. Many studies have been done to compare HFCS and sugar, many of which show similar results. They’re practically the same thing – both very bad for us and should be avoided completely. It’s been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
12. Coconut Sugar (Stay far, far away!)
Coconut sugar is made from the flower of the coconut palm, where the sap is heated until the water is evaporated. The finished product is brownish in color. It retains some nutrients from the heating process and does contain some inulin, but is still not a good option for people on a low carb diet at 11g carbs per tablespoon. It is made up of mostly sucrose (not to be confused with sucralose), which is half fructose and half glucose. Again, over-consumption of fructose leads to fatty liver disease and the storage of visceral fat surrounding the stomach. It has a GI of about 35, which is lower than expected mainly due to the insoluble fiber in it; but, it will definitely spike your blood sugar and insulin levels when consumed.
13. Fruit Juices (Stay far, far away!)
Raspberries and blackberries are the 2 best types of berries to consume on a low carb diet due to the lower amount of sugars in them. While they can be consumed in moderation, it’s usually best to avoid fruit juices that are processed and used as a sweetener. Typically they contain fructose which has a very high glycemic index, resulting in both blood sugar and insulin spikes. Most fruit juices will contain at least 20g carbs per serving, so they have no place in a low carb diet.
14. Honey (Stay far, far away!)
Honey is one of the most nutritionally dense sweeteners but is packed full of fructose and, like the other sweeteners to avoid in this list, lead to negative health effects. Most processed honey also has added sugars and is usually pasteurized, losing most of the nutritional benefits it has. While honey is acceptable by some low carb dieters, it’s normally far too carbohydrate filled to be considered keto. There are many other ways to sweeten your foods with a much less glycemic index.
15. Maple Syrup (Stay far, far away!)
While maple syrup and honey are widely accepted on lesser low-carb, paleo diets they are not allowed on ketogenic diets. Keto is a very carb-restricted diet so you have to be very strict with your consumption. Maple syrup typically has 13g carbs per tablespoon which means it’s half of the usual daily consumption of carbs for a small amount. Maple syrup is a pretty nutritionally dense sweetener, it contains a high amount of magnesium, zinc, and calcium. It’s also rich in some vitamins and antioxidants but these can be found in many different forms of healthier food. ChocZero makes a good syrup that is keto approved!
16. Agave (Stay far, far away!)
Typically a very highly processed sweetener even though it’s marketed as a natural alternative. It can contain up to 80% fructose which has a very high impact on our blood sugar levels and is typically seen as one of the most damaging sources of sugar. It is made by pressing the agave plant until the sugars and fluid come out and then processed under heat similarly to high fructose corn syrup. Agave syrup is generally seen as a low GI sweetener due to their marketing efforts, but don’t be fooled. While Agave Syrup is about a 9.6 GI due to low glucose content, it is mostly fructose and damaging to our liver. Long-term use has also been linked with insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood sugar levels. It should be avoided, even in its natural state.
Happy living actually sugar free!
Did you know that sugar-free is not really sugar free? Have you noticed this in products you use? Is there anything I missed? Let me know!
Leave a comment below!