February 20, 2019
January 28, 2019 by Dr. Varner in Ketogenic Diet
If you have a major sweet tooth, I know how difficult it can be to make the transition to keto.
Thankfully, there are a number of alternatives to sugar that can do just the trick, from fruit extracts and natural sugars, to artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. You can make all kinds of delicious desserts with them, and yes… even ice cream!
While most sweeteners are much better than sugar, not all of these are appropriate for those on keto. Because on keto, we’re really concerned with one thing: insulin.
And here’s where we find that not all sweeteners are created equal. Some raise your insulin and blood sugar levels, others don’t.
To help you make sure the sweeteners you’re eating are not going kick you off keto, here’s a quick guide to which ones are keto-friendly and which ones are not.
And trust me, once you get the knack of doing desserts with keto-friendly sweeteners, you won’t ever want to go back.
Monk fruit sweetener (luo han guo)
Let’s start off with my favorite, monk fruit. In my opinion, monk fruit tastes just like sugar, and I love that it doesn’t leave any after taste.
Monk fruit contains no calories and does not spike insulin levels, making it perfect for anyone on keto. It is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, meaning you don’t have to use much.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that monk fruit may have anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
You’ve probably heard of this one, because it’s found in a lot of chewing gum. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that slightly spikes your blood sugar and thus insulin, but it has other benefits to counteract this.
It doesn’t have much of an aftertaste, and has natural antibacterial properties, killing lots of bad bacteria in your mouth and keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
There are some caveats, however. First, it’s toxic to pets, so keep it well hidden if you have animals around the house (and no, that relative of yours you don’t like doesn’t count). Second, it can cause a bit of an upset stomach if you consume too much, so use it sparingly.
Stevia is an all-round good substitute, but it does come with a distinct aftertaste. The best option is to use real stevia leaves to sweeten things like tea. But when that’s not an option, the liquid and powdered versions are also acceptable.
The main selling point of stevia is its lack of impact on blood sugar, making it perfect for keto. It also comes with a bonus of nutrients, including magnesium, zinc, potassium and vitamin B3.
Like monk fruit, stevia is far sweeter than sugar, meaning you won’t run out quickly.
Erythritol is a keto classic. Most keto recipes use it when they’re trying to make sweet desserts, and it’s not hard to see why.
It doesn’t have an aftertaste and it’s easy on the stomach (unlike xylitol). It tastes very similar to sugar, to the point where you can’t really tell the difference.
The main downside is that it’s kind of dry, which is why it gets blended into other sweeteners for specific recipes. Other than that, it’s a strong performer for dry-baked goods.
This one isn’t as well known as the more chemical sounding sweetners that we have in the West, but it’s similar to monk fruit in that it comes straight from a plant.
One of the key things that makes yacon stand out is that it doesn’t really work at high heat, which causes a lot of beneficial compounds in it to break down.
It’s high in antioxidants, potassium, and as an added, much-needed benefit, it can reduce insulin resistance, helping keto-goers repair their body.
Sweeteners that will kick you out of keto
Honey, agave syrup, coconut sugar, palm sugar, maple syrup, dates
There is a long list of natural sweeteners that have long been touted as healthier alternatives to white and brown sugar. But unfortunately, these are no better when it comes to spiking blood sugar.
This is probably one of the biggest differentiators between the paleo and keto diets. As paleo typically allows sweeteners that come from natural sources, regardless of their carb count.
But on keto, every carb matters, regardless of where it comes from. So it is imperative to stay away from these carb-loaded sugar alternatives.
Maltitol is from the same family as erythritol, that being sugar alcohols. But unlike erythritol, maltitol significantly spikes your blood sugar.
This makes it near useless for keto. The whole point of keto is to avoid glucose spikes and crashes, and rely on ketones for us to lose weight.
Maltitol is a common ingredient in a number of sugar-free chocolates and other low-carb products, so watch out when you’re at the supermarket! Make sure you always read the label!
Making the decision to go keto means cutting out as many sugars and carbohydrates as possible. You want to spike your blood sugar as little as possible and reduce the role of insulin in your body.
Therefore, if you’re a sucker for sugary food, one of the best things you can do to stay on the keto diet long-term is to adjust to using some of the keto-friendly sweeteners listed above. But always remember, not all sweeteners are equal. Just because it’s not explicitly sugar, doesn’t mean it won’t have the same effect on your body. Pick carefully, read the labels, and stick to the good ones.
Which is your favorite keto-friendly sweetener? Let us know below.