Following a ketogenic diet involves cutting back on carbohydrate-rich foods like starches, desserts, and processed snacks.
This is essential to reaching a metabolic state called ketosis, which causes your body to break down fat stores rather than carbohydrates for energy.
Ketosis also requires cutting back on sugar, making it challenging to sweeten beverages, baked goods, sauces, and dressings.
Fortunately, there are several low-carb sweeteners that you can enjoy.
Here are the six best sweeteners for a low carb keto diet, plus 6 to avoid
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant. It is considered a non-nutritive sweetener, containing few calories or carbohydrates.
Unlike regular sugar, animal and human studies have shown that stevia can help lower blood sugar levels.
Stevia is available in liquid and powdered forms and can be used to sweeten everything from drinks to desserts.
However, the recipes call for less stevia to achieve the same flavor because it is so much sweeter than regular sugar.
For each cup (200 grams) of sugar, substitute only one teaspoon (4 grams) of powdered stevia.
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant that contains little or no calories or carbohydrates.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is not metabolized, which means that it passes through the body undigested and therefore provides no calories or carbohydrates.
Splenda is the most common sucralose-based sweetener on the market and is popular because it lacks the bitter taste found in many other artificial sweeteners.
While sucralose is calorie-free, Splenda contains maltodextrin and dextrose, two carbohydrates that provide about three calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates in each packet.
Unlike other sweeteners, sucralose is not a suitable substitute for sugar in recipes that require cooking.
Some studies have found that sucralose could produce harmful compounds when exposed to high temperatures.
Instead, use sucralose as a low-carb way to sweeten beverages or foods like oatmeal and yogurt, and stick to other baking sweeteners.
For most recipes, Splenda can be substituted for sugar in a 1: 1 ratio.
However, pure sucralose is 600 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you only need a small amount instead of sugar for your favorite foods.
Sucralose is a calorie and carbohydrate-free artificial sweetener. Splenda, a popular sucralose-based sweetener, provides fewer calories and carbohydrates.
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol, a class of natural compounds that stimulate the sweet taste receptors on your tongue to mimic the taste of sugar.
It is up to 80% as sweet as regular sugar but contains only 5% of the calories with just 0.2 calories per gram.
Also, although erythritol has 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon (4 grams), studies show that it can help lower blood sugar levels in your body.
Also, due to its lower molecular weight, it generally does not cause digestive problems associated with other types of sugar alcohols.
Erythritol is used in baking and cooking and can be substituted for sugar in various recipes.
Note that it tends to have a cooling mouthfeel and doesn’t dissolve as well as sugar, leaving food with a slightly gritty texture.
For best results, change about 1 1/3 cups (267 grams) of erythritol for every cup (200 grams) of sugar.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol 80% sweeter than regular sugar, with only 5% of the calories.
Studies show that the carbohydrates in erythritol do not affect blood sugar similarly to regular sugar.
Xylitol is another type of sugar alcohol commonly found in products like sugar-free gum, candy, and mints.
It is as sweet as sugar but contains only three calories per gram and 4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon (4 grams).
However, like other sugar alcohols, the carbohydrates in xylitol do not count as net carbohydrates. They do not raise blood sugar or insulin levels to the extent that sugar does.
Xylitol can be easily added to tea, coffee, smoothies, or smoothies for a low-carb flavor kick.
It also works well in baked goods but may require a little extra liquid in the recipe as it tends to absorb moisture and increase dryness.
Because xylitol is as sweet as regular sugar, you can swap it out for sugar in a 1: 1 ratio.
Remember that xylitol has been associated with digestive problems when used in high doses, so reduce your intake if you notice any adverse effects.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is as sweet as regular sugar.
Because the carbohydrates in xylitol do not raise blood sugar or insulin levels the same way as sugar, they do not count toward your total net carbs.
- Fruit of the monk or fruit-monk
As the name implies, monk fruit sweetener is a natural sweetener extracted from monk fruit, a plant native to southern China.
It contains natural sugars and compounds called mogrosides, which are antioxidants that account for much of the sweetness of the fruit.
Depending on the concentration of mogrosides, monk fruit sweeteners can be 100 to 250 times sweeter than regular sugar.
Monk fruit extract contains no calories or carbohydrates, making it an excellent option for a ketogenic diet.
Mogrosides can also stimulate the release of insulin, which can enhance the transport of sugar out of the bloodstream to help control blood sugar levels.
Check the ingredient label when buying monk’s fruit sweetener, as raspberry fruit extract is sometimes mixed with sugar, molasses, or other sweeteners that can alter the total calorie and carbohydrate content.
Monk Fruit Sweetener can be used anywhere regular sugar is used.
The amount you use can vary between brands based on what other ingredients may be included.
While some recommend substituting the same amount of monk fruit sweetener for sugar, others recommend cutting the sweetener in half.
Monk Fruit Sweetener is a natural sweetener 100-250 times sweeter than sugar but does not contain calories or carbohydrates.
- Yacon syrup
Yacón syrup comes from the roots of the yacón plant, a tuber that is widely grown in South America.
The sweet syrup from the yacon plant is rich in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of soluble fiber that your body cannot digest.
It also contains several simple sugars, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
Since your body does not digest a large serving of yacon syrup, it contains about a third of the calories of regular sugar, with only 20 calories per tablespoon (15 ml).
Also, although it has about 11 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon (15 ml), studies show that the carbohydrates in yacon syrup do not affect blood sugar in the same way as regular sugar.
Both human and animal studies have found that yacon syrup can help lower blood sugar and insulin levels to promote blood sugar control.
Yacon syrup is best used as a sweetener in place of sugar in coffee, tea, cereals, or salad dressings.
However, cooking with yacon syrup is not recommended, as fructooligosaccharides can break down when exposed to high temperatures.
Substitute an equal amount for yacon syrup in place of other liquid sweeteners such as molasses, corn syrup, or cane juice.
Yacon syrup is a sweetener rich in fructooligosaccharides, a type of fiber that your body cannot digest. Human and animal studies suggest that yacon syrup may help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
These are the sweeteners to avoid on a low carb Keto diet.
While there are many options for low carb sweeteners that you can enjoy on a ketogenic diet, many others are not ideal.
Here are some sweeteners that are rich in carbohydrates and can increase blood sugar levels and disrupt ketosis:
- La maltodextrin
This highly processed sweetener is produced from starchy plants like rice, corn, or wheat and contains the same calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar.
High-quality honey contains antioxidants and nutrients, making it a better option than refined sugar. However, it is still high in calories and carbohydrates and may not suit a keto diet.
- Coconut sugar
Made from the sap of the coconut palm, coconut sugar absorbs more slowly than regular sugar. However, it is also high in fructose, contributing to poor blood sugar control.
- Maple syrup
Each serving of maple syrup contains many micronutrients like manganese and zinc, but it is also high in sugar and carbohydrates.
- Agave nectar
Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which can lower your body’s sensitivity to insulin and contribute to metabolic syndrome, making it difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar levels.
This dried fruit is often used to sweeten desserts naturally. Despite supplying a small amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, dates also contain substantial carbohydrates.
Be careful with sweeteners high in sugar and carbohydrates when following a ketogenic diet. These include maltodextrin, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, and dates.
The bottom line
Following a ketogenic diet involves limiting your carbohydrate intake and reducing your added sugar intake to achieve a state of ketosis.
Fortunately, many sweeteners are available that can still be used on a low carb keto diet.