Keto Diet and Sweeteners: The Best and Worst Choices

Keto Diet and Sweeteners: The Best and Worst Choices

Sometimes you just need sweets in your keto diet. Fortunately, you do not have to immediately reach for sugar and you can still remain in ketosis. How? The answer is; Sweeteners. 

Now there are quite a few choices you can make. We would like to list the best and worst choices, so that you, as a sweet tooth, can enjoy carefree every now and then.

What sweeteners are there?

There are 2 types of sweeteners: natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners are known as sugar, syrup and honey. As the name suggests, these are extracted from nature. 

The artificial sweeteners are made in a factory or laboratory, contain fewer calories and carbohydrates than regular sugars and are therefore often used in diet and light products.

As with most “low-carb” products, you have to pay attention to what exactly is in it. Even if it says ‘carbohydrate free’ or ‘sugar free’ on the product, it can still contain enough net carbs to get you out of ketosis. 

In case you don’t already know, net carbs is the total number of carbs minus the fiber contained in the product. And when following a keto diet, you should make sure that you do not consume too many net carbohydrates.

Fortunately, there are several keto-friendly sweeteners that will give you all the sweetness without the carbs.

How to recognize sweeteners

Because sweeteners come in many types and forms, many people can no longer see the forest for the trees. Which are healthy and which are unhealthy? 

With a keto diet, it is best to avoid natural sweeteners, with the exception of Stevia (which is not completely natural, but we’ll get to that later). These contain a lot of carbohydrates. 

The artificial sweeteners can be divided into two categories: polyols and intensive sweeteners.

Polyols are very similar in taste to sugar, but do not have an unpleasant aftertaste like many other sweeteners. Polyols are found in natural products but are generally made industrially. Because your body can digest polyols poorly, the majority of the calories are not absorbed. You can recognize polyols by the name: it usually ends in -ol (such as Xylitol and Erythritol).

intensive sweeteners are 30 times stronger than sugar in terms of taste, but they have hardly any nutritional value. The most famous of these is Aspartame, which you often find in the light products. 

Sweeteners and the impact on your keto diet

In a keto diet, your body switches from burning sugar from carbohydrates to burning fat because you are in ketosis. This ensures that you burn fat 24/7. Fat burning increases drastically when the insulin levels in your blood become very low. This makes it easier for your body to access and use the fat stores.

Of course, that’s what you want when you’re trying to lose weight, but there are other benefits that are less obvious as well. This way you experience less hunger because your body uses the fat stores. You also no longer suffer from the blood sugar peaks and troughs that you can experience after carbohydrate-rich meals thanks to the steady supply of energy. This can make you feel more alert and focused. The fastest way to get into ketosis is to fast, but of course you can’t keep this up for very long. The keto diet ensures that you get into ketosis by eating as few carbohydrates as possible. This allows you to enjoy the same benefits as fasting, including weight loss, without having to stop eating for a long time.

When you follow a keto diet, you eat less carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pasta, rice, processed snacks and sugary fruits. This is necessary to get into ketosis, so that your body uses fat reserves to produce energy instead of carbohydrates. Ketosis and sugar don’t mix, because sugars are carbohydrates. Do you still want to make your baked goods, dressings, sauces and drinks a bit sweeter and tastier? Then there are various sweeteners you can use. We compare the three best options for you: Erythritol, Xylitol, and Stevia.

Top 3 Natural Keto Sweeteners

If you believe that sweeteners will help you maintain your ketogenic diet, these are the 3 best options:

  • Erythritol
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol

First Choice: Erythritol

Erythritol is made from fermented corn or maize starch and has about 70% of sweetness of regular sugar. This is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in small amounts in fruits and fungi such as grapes, melons and mushrooms. Erythritol is only partially absorbed and digested by the intestinal tract and is generally recognized as safe by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

There are several benefits to Erythritol that make it our top choice as a sweetener in a keto diet. Benefits of Erythritol are:

  • It contains a negligible amount of calories and carbohydrates
  • It does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels
  • The active substance is excreted in the urine without being used by the body
  • In granulated or powder form, it is easy to use real sugar in recipes replacement
  • may plaque and cavities occur compared with other sweeteners

Cons:

  • it does not have the same mouthfeel as sugar – it has a cooling sensation on the tongue
  • may in some people cause bloating, gas and diarrhea (although not as much as other sugar alcohols)
  • Taking up erythritol and then eliminating it through the kidneys can potentially have negative health effects (none are known at this time)

Second choice: Stevia

Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves in its most natural form of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. When we talk about Stevia, it’s about the concentrated steviol glycosides. This is a collective name for a number of substances, including stevioside, steviol bioside, steviol and rebaudioside. It is considered a sweetener with no nutritional value, which means that Stevia contains almost no calories and carbohydrates. 

Various studies, which have been carried out on animals and humans, have also shown that, unlike other sugars, stevia can lower blood sugar. This liquid is available in the supermarket, both in liquid form and in powder form. Stevia is suitable for sweetening everything from desserts to drinks. However, this sweetener is a lot sweeter than regular sugar. This means you need a lot less of it in your recipe to get a similar taste.

Benefits of Stevia:

  • It contains no calories and no carbohydratesdoes not
  • Itincrease blood sugar or insulin levels
  • It appears to be safe with a low potential for toxicity
  • Stevia is very sweet so you only need a little bit of it

Cons:

  • Although it is intensely sweet , it doesn’t taste exactly like sugar
  • Some people find that Stevia has a bitter aftertaste More
  • difficult to cook with because you cannot exchange the amount of sugar in a recipe for the same amount of Stevia

Third choice: Xylitol

If you chew sugar-free gum, you usually chew on xylitol. It is the most common sugar-free sweetener in gum and mouthwash. Like erythritol, xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from plants. It is produced commercially from the fibrous, woody parts of corn on the cob or birch trees through a multi-step chemical extraction process. The result is a grainy crystal that tastes like sugar, but is not sugar. Xylitol is low in carbohydrates, but not free from carbohydrates. In a keto diet it should therefore only be used in very small amounts, because xylitol has a small effect on blood sugar.

The benefits of xylitol:

  • Xylitol reduces tooth decay
  • Has a similar granular sugar structure
  • Xylitol has a low glycemic index which keeps blood sugar levels stable
  • The sweetener has antibacterial properties

Cons:

  • Can cause significant digestive problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea)
  • Is highly toxic to dogs and others pets
  • Contains 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon
  • Has a slight effect on blood sugar

Other good options

There are many more products that you can use as a replacement for sugar. Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from a fruit and is many times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is free of carbohydrates and calories and is therefore often used as a substitute. Yacon syrup is also popular. Yacon syrup contains fructooligosaccharides, which are a type of fiber that the body cannot digest. This sweetener can even help lower insulin levels. Finally, there is sucralose, mainly known by the name Splenda. This artificial sweetener contains no carbohydrates or calories.

The best sweetener for your keto diet

Of all sweeteners, erythritol has the smallest impact on blood sugar and insulin secretion. Erythritol is available in different variants and simply for sale in the supermarket, organic store and online. This sweetener contains a negligible amount of calories and carbohydrates, does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels compared to other sweeteners and prevents plaque and cavities.

Although sweeteners are a great alternative to make your dishes taste sweeter without the negative impact that sugar has, it is good to get used to less sugars. Usually after 1 or 2 weeks you are used to less sugar and you will notice that you “need” it less. In this way, you actually enjoy the taste that pure nature already occurs in the dishes you prepare.

Sweeteners to Avoid

While there are a wide variety of low-carb sweetener alternatives to sugar that you can use on a keto diet, there are many others that are less suitable. 

We have listed a number of sweeteners that you should avoid. For example, these contain a lot of carbohydrates, so they can increase your blood sugar and thus interrupt the ketosis.

Maltodextrin. This is a highly processed sweetener made from starchy plants such as wheat, corn or rice. Maltodextrin contains just as many calories and carbohydrates as normal sugar.

Honey. Honey is a better choice than refined sugar because it contains antioxidants and nutrients. However, honey is also rich in carbohydrates and calories and is therefore not suitable for a keto diet.

Coconut sugar. This type of sugar is produced from the juice of the coconut palm. This type of sugar is absorbed more slowly than normal sugar, but it does contain a lot of fructose. This is not good for blood sugar.

Maple syrup. Maple syrup is better than sugar because it is also high in micronutrients such as manganese and zinc. On the other hand, maple syrup is also rich in sugar and carbohydrates, which makes it unsuitable for a keto diet.

Agave syrup. This sweet syrup can reduce the insulin sensitivity in the body because it consists of about 85% fructose. Agave syrup can contribute to metabolic syndrome. This makes it difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar.

Dates. Fruit sugars from dates are often used to sweeten desserts in a natural way, for example. Dates contain vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as a significant amount of carbohydrates.

Sugars from alcohol

Drinking alcohol is not advisable with a ketogenic lifestyle. It is possible but only with food and in moderation. 

If you go for alcohol, it is best to drink alcohol with an alcohol content of 40 percent with no added sugar, such as rum, gin, vodka, whiskey and tequila. 

Beer, sweet wines, cocktails, mixed drinks and liqueurs contain a lot of sugars and it is really not recommended to drink these drinks.

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