Following a keto diet and craving sweets? You don’t have to completely give up on desserts when you eat this way. There are healthy keto friendly sweeteners out there that you can use from time to time that won’t derail your efforts.
So, you have finally made the decision to go keto, to eat a high, healthy fat, low carbohydrate diet. What took you so long? Maybe it was the fear that you would have to give up all sweets to fully embrace a ketogenic lifestyle. You are not alone – for many, this is a serious roadblock not only to embarking on the diet but also the success of the diet. Although sweeteners are a bit of a tricky mix on the ketogenic diet, there are some keto sweeteners that won’t completely derail you. This is good news for those who were hinging their dive into keto on their sweet tooth.
A little about the ketogenic diet and how it works
Burning stored fat for fuel (which you do no the keto diet), is not some new trendy fad, although it may seem that way. What is happening is that the mainstream is now catching on to what researchers have known for some time. Drastically slashing carbs and increasing healthy fat can have a measurable positive impact on health for some people. These impacts include fat loss, increased energy, improved mood, and cognitive functioning, balanced hormones, slashed risk of metabolic deficiencies and improved blood sugar – to name a few.
While the keto diet may not work for everyone, a large number of individuals are feeling and looking better than ever before thanks to fat. However, what are all these people doing to sweeten their food without compromising their efforts? Let’s take a look.
Top keto friendly sweeteners
Keep in mind that it is best to use the following keto friendly sweeteners in moderation. Although they have a small or immeasurable impact on blood sugar, some even reducing blood sugar, consuming anything with a sweet taste can cause cravings for more sweet foods to follow. For some, this can be rocky ground.
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It contains negligible calories and carbs, making it a nonnutritive sweetener. One of the best things about stevia is that it may even help to lower blood sugar levels. You can find stevia in both powdered and liquid form, just be sure that you are getting the real thing. There are numerous imposters out there! Stevia is quite a bit sweeter than regular sugar so you need considerably less. For each cup of sugar, you only need one teaspoon of powdered stevia.
Erythritol is categorized as a sugar alcohol, meaning a group of naturally occurring compounds that trick the sweet taste receptors on the tongue to taste similar to sugar. It is less sweet than sugar – about 80% as sweet and has only 5% of the calories at 0.2 per gram. Like stevia, studies show that erythritol may help to reduce blood sugar levels in the body. While other forms of sugar alcohol may cause digestive distress, erythritol has a very small molecular weight which helps reduce or eliminate gastrointestinal issues. You can use this sugar alcohol in baking and cooking with an exchange of 1 ⅓ cups to replace one cup of sugar. Be ready for a slightly gritty texture as it does not dissolve as well as sugar
This is another form of sugar alcohol that is often found in sugar-free gum, mints, and candy. It is just as sweet as sugar but only contains 3 calories per gram and 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon. As with other sugar alcohols, xylitol does not raise blood sugar and is thus not counted as net carbs. Xylitol is a favorite for sweetening beverages such as coffee and teas well as shakes or smoothies. If you use it in baked goods, be sure to add a little more liquid because it absorbs moisture. Use an exchange ratio of 1:1 for xylitol and sugar. When used in large amounts, xylitol may cause digestive issues.
Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit is a plant that is native to southern China that contains natural sugars and compounds known as mogrosides. These antioxidants are what makes the fruit so sweet. The sweetness of monk fruit extract varies depending on the concentration of mogrosides – it can range between 100-250 times sweeter than sugar. Here is the best part about monk fruit sweetener, it contains zero calories and zero carbs – this makes it a fantastic option for the keto diet. Additionally, the mogrosides may also stimulate insulin, which helps with the exportation for sugar out of the bloodstream. Be sure that you are getting 100% monk fruit sweetener as it can sometimes be mixed with molasses or other sweeteners that you don’t want. When using monk fruit sweetener in place of sugar, experiment and find your best ratio. Some say 1:1, while some suggest cutting the monk fruit sweetener in half.
Sweeteners to avoid on the ketogenic diet
Here is a list of sweeteners that are best to avoid when on the keto diet. These may raise blood sugar and impact your success while you are on the diet.
- Honey – Raw and unrefined honey contains powerful nutrients and antioxidants but the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as sugar. While honey is better than regular sugar, it is not a good choice for a sweetener when in ketosis.
- Coconut sugar – It may seem like coconut sugar would be an excellent and healthy option when on the keto diet. While it is absorbed more slowly than sugar, it is high in fructose which can interfere with blood sugar regulation.
- Agave nectar – Marketing efforts by those who process agave nectar will try very hard to convince you that it is healthy. However, it is 85% fructose. Fructose can reduce your body’s sensitivity to insulin and also lead to metabolic syndrome. This sweetener is no good on keto or off keto.
- Maple syrup – Maple syrup is loaded with healthy micronutrients such as manganese and zinc, but it is also quite high in sugar and carbs, making it a no, no on the keto diet.
Dates – Dates are frequently used to naturally sweeten desserts. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but also quite a bit of carbohydrates – enough to kick someone right out of ketosis.
Maltodextrin – This sweetener is off the any time list! It is a highly processed sweetener made from high starch plants including rice, wheat, and corn. Maltodextrin contains the same amount of calories and carbs as regular sugar.
Don’t let the wrong choice of sweeteners throw your keto diet off-kilter, you have options.
I know this is an old post, but I wanted to comment on your recommendation of monk fruit as a keto friendly sweetener. While the manufacturers have tried to portray its potential insulin-raising effect as a positive, it’s actually a negative for people who are doing keto or intermittent fasting for weight loss. Insulin inhibits lipolysis (fat-burning) and promotes lipid storage (storing energy such as ingested fats, proteins, and carbs as fat). This is the opposite of what you want your body to be doing on keto or while doing IF — the whole purpose is lowering insulin levels to permit your body to access your stored energy. If insulin goes up, this can knock you out of keto. The problem isn’t high blood sugar per se, it’s insulin.
I know people see monk fruit as a healthy sweetener alternative because it is “natural”… but the truth is, even natural things can have undesired side effects. Increasing insulin is one of these for people who are wanting to have more lipolysis and less lipid storage.
Thank you for this info regarding sugar. I needed to read this,today!!