The majority of people who follow the ketogenic diet - or any low-carb diet - find that sugar cravings go away eventually. However, this process takes times and it may feel difficult for you to give up sweets right away.
Especially as a beginner on keto, you are bound to crave sweets every so often. This is completely normal and shouldn’t discourage you!
Luckily, there’s a way to stay low carb while still satisfying your sugar cravings.
In this Keto Beginners Series, we’re going to talk about the best low-carb sweeteners to use on a low-carb diet and which ones to avoid.
List of Keto-Approved Sweeteners
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t make it a habit to use low-carb sweeteners as a total replacement for sugar.
Instead, use them as a tool to help you wean off sugar cravings until eventually you no longer have the desire for it.
Stevia is one of the most popular zero-carb sweeteners on the market. It’s an herb also referred to as the “sugar leaf”. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) labels stevia as a non-nutritive sweetener which means it contains zero calories and nutrients.
Unlike regular sugar, some animal and human studies have found that stevia may actually help lower blood sugar[*].
Stevia is sold in both powdered and liquid form and can be used on any food or drink to help satisfy your sugar cravings.
We encourage people to get liquid drops whenever possible because some powdered stevia products may contain artificial sweeteners like maltodextrin or dextrose. If your local grocery store doesn’t have the liquid form, make sure to check the ingredients list for any hidden carbs before buying powdered stevia products.
#2. Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is another great zero-carb sweetener that contains compounds known as mogrosides. These are antioxidants that are responsible for the sweetness of monk fruit sweetener[*][*].
In fact, monk fruit sweetener is known to be up to 200 times sweeter than normal sugar. The mogrosides also help release insulin which helps move sugar out of the bloodstream.
Between the antioxidant properties of mogrosides and the zero-calorie content, monk fruit sweetener is one of the best keto-friendly sweeteners you can use.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that’s just as sweet as sugar and only contains 3 calories per gram.
It naturally occurs in the fibers of vegetables and fruits and is most commonly found in food products like sugar-free candy and gum.
Use xylitol sparingly because higher doses have been linked to digestive problems like diarrhea with too much use.
Sucralose, which you may know as Splenda, is an artificial sweetener that passes right through your body without getting digested which means it doesn’t provide any carbohydrates or calories[*].
Similar to other popular “low-carb” sweeteners, many products such as Splenda also contains dextrose and maltodextrin which can kick you out of ketosis. So while sucralose itself is zero-calorie, make sure you aren’t purchasing anything that contains hidden carbs.
Note: Sucralose is not an ideal sugar substitute for baking. There are some compounds that may release bad toxins after going through high temperatures.
Erythritol is another sugar alcohol that has zero calories and does not affect your blood glucose.
The molecular structure of erythritol is lighter which means it will not cause any digestive issues that are often reported with other sugar alcohols.
Erythritol is best used for cooking and baking and you may not want to use it to mix in your drinks because it’s harder to dissolve than other sweeteners.
Do NOT Use These Sweeteners on Keto
Now that you know which low-carb sweeteners are keto-approved, let’s quickly go over some sugar substitutes that should be avoided at all costs.
The following sweeteners are known to kick you out of ketosis and spike your blood sugar.
While some people think fruit is perfectly healthy, when you’re on keto you’ll want to avoid sugar at all costs. This dried fruit contains a large amount of carbohydrates directly from sugar.
Maltodextrin is often found mixed in with low-carb sweeteners. It is highly processed from starchy plants and should be avoided altogether.
Coconut oil and coconut flour is perfectly fine on the ketogenic diet but, coconut sugar should be avoided at all costs. Even though it’s absorbed slower than regular sugar, it’s still high in fructose which can knock you out of ketosis.
This sugar substitute is mostly fructose which is known to spike your blood sugar and also exacerbates insulin resistance.
Stick to Stevia or Monk Fruit Sweetener
Out of all the zero-calorie sweeteners, stevia and monk fruit sweetener seem to have the best health benefit as well as containing zero carb content.
When you’re shopping for keto-friendly sweeteners, it’s extremely important to check the label for any hidden carbs.
And remember, use these zero calorie sweeteners only as a tool to help you wean off your sugar cravings rather than relying on them for consistent use.
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.