Keto-Approved Sugar Substitutes for a Low-Carb Lifestyle
It’s no mystery that you need to give up traditional sugar when you follow a keto diet. Just a small amount can undo the hard work you’ve put in and kick you straight out of ketosis. Fortunately, there are numerous keto-approved sugar substitutes that you can use to get that sweet taste without boatloads of carbs.
When it comes to the best sugar substitutes for a ketogenic diet, you first want to think about what will and won’t kick you out of ketosis. However, that’s not the only thing you should consider.
If you’re following a ketogenic diet, chances are you’re committed to improving your health. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or boost your overall health and wellbeing, what you eat is important...in more ways that just counting carbohydrates. There are plenty of sweeteners that are low-carb or no-carb but are still horrible for your health. Because of this, you don’t want to use any sugar substitute that’s low in carbs.
When it comes to keto-approved sugar substitutes, there are great ones, mediocre ones, and ones that you will want to avoid. Most of the good ones are natural sweeteners, yet there are natural sweeteners that aren’t so great and artificial sweeteners that are acceptable.
We have broken our list into two categories. The first includes keto-friendly sugar substitutes in order from best to worst. The second are sweeteners that you should avoid when following a keto lifestyle. These lists can help you purchase sugar substitutes for at-home cooking and choose the best low-carb premade foods by reading the ingredient list on the label.
The Best Sugar Substitutes When Following a Keto Diet
1. Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is our top choice when it comes to great sugar alternatives. It’s a sweetener extracted from the monk fruit, a plant found in southern China. Monk fruit extract itself naturally contains zero calories or carbohydrates, and as such, is a good option for those following a ketogenic diet.
It is 100-250 times as sweet as sugar thanks to a high concentration of sweet antioxidants known as mogrosides. It may be beneficial for those with diabetes thanks to its ability to stimulate insulin release, which can help to lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, it reduces harmful inflammation in the body, helping to support optimal health.
Another great sweetener for those following a keto diet (and even those who aren’t) is stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. This plant grows naturally in South America where it has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. To this day, when you visit countries like Peru, you will find stevia used both in homes and at restaurants.
- Zero calories
- Sweeter than sugar by 50-350 times
You can find liquid stevia and powdered stevia, but try to avoid powdered versions and opt for liquid stevia. Why? Powdered stevia products often have other sugar substitutes added in that may be detrimental to your health.
For example, Stevia in the Raw is not just stevia, but stevia plus dextrose or maltodextrin. Both of these are forms of glucose derived from starches. Even though they are naturally sourced, they are both highly processed and may not be good for your health. Not only does this mean that they are not carb-free, but studies have found that maltodextrin can spike your blood sugar and may harm your digestive health.
3. Glycerol and Glycine
Glycerol is an incredibly unique compound. It’s not actually a carb, fat, or protein, but instead, its own macronutrient. It will not spike your blood sugar, although it does have a small carb count. It is great to use before or after a workout as it helps your body store extra water.
Erythritol is the only sugar alcohol that has made it onto our list of keto-approved sugar replacements. While its weird-sounding name might make you think that it’s a synthetic compound, it’s actually derived from plants.
Erythritol is different from other sugar alcohols because the vast majority of it is absorbed before it enters the bowel, reducing the uncomfortable bloating that can accompany sugar alcohol consumption.
When you read a food label and see sucralose, it’s alright to consume. However, it’s best to avoid powdered sweeteners like Splenda that have sucralose because they have other, less great, sugar substitutes as well. One word of caution: sucralose can kill beneficial gut bacteria, and therefore it should be used sparingly.
Aspartame is one of the most popular sugar substitutes around today. It’s found in diet soda and sugar-free candy. While it won’t trigger an insulin response, it is detrimental to your long-term health. While you can have it in moderation, it’s best to avoid aspartame.
The Sweeteners to Avoid When Following a Keto Diet
There are two reasons to avoid a sweetener when you’re following a low-carb lifestyle:
- It Triggers an Insulin Response: This means that it will likely kick you out of ketosis and have your body turn to carbs rather than fats for energy.
- It Isn’t Good for You: There are many artificial sweeteners that are technically alright on a keto diet because they will not kick you out of ketosis. However, many of these are not good for your long-term health. Plus, some of them will make you bloated and upset your stomach, not things you want for overall health.
Most of these sweeteners fall under the first category, but there are artificial sweeteners that probably won’t kick you out of ketosis that we included here anyways thanks to their detrimental health effects.
Sucrose / White Sugar / Table Sugar
You likely know that you should avoid sugar, particularly white table sugar. We did want to list it, however, as not everyone knows that sucrose means sugar. You will want to avoid all forms of sugar, including:
- White sugar
- Raw sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Powdered sugar
Maltodextrin is a synthetic sweetener often found in powdered low-carb or zero-carb sugar substitutes. This includes things like Splenda and powdered stevia, which you will often find in packets. You want to avoid this artificial sweetener as it can kill off your beneficial gut bacteria and may trigger a slight insulin response that could kick you out of ketosis.
Isomalt is a sugar alcohol that can harm your gut health. It kills off beneficial gut bacteria, can cause bloating, and has a laxative effect. It’s found in some diabetic candy, and while it may not kick you out of ketosis, we do not recommend that you eat products that contain it.
Honey and Agave
Honey and agave are two natural sweeteners that are quite high in fructose. They will both kick you out of ketosis, plus, fructose is easily stored as fat. This can lead to rapid weight gain.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the worst sweeteners out there in terms of both your overall health and ketogenic potential. It is a highly processed and highly addictive sugar substitute that is simply concentrated fructose. It will kick you out of ketosis, encourage sugar addiction, and harm your overall health.
Keep a list in your phone of the keto-friendly sugar substitutes and the ones that you should avoid. This can help you find the most success while still enjoying tasty treats like chocolate and ice cream in moderation.