When you’re doing a keto diet, and really any other low carb diet, most of them eliminate sugars completely (if they don’t eliminate them, they cut them down to next to nothing). You can still enjoy a good portion of that sweet and savory goodness though. Don’t put yourself out there simply because of the lack of sugar. You just have to know what sweeteners are the best sweeteners for you to get and use. In this article, we’ll go into detail about four of the top sweeteners you can find on the market today, and how to use them for as part of your keto diet today.
How do I Know if a Sweetener is Optimized For Low Carb Diets?
If you haven’t done your research yet, we’re here to educate you, so let’s start out by explaining the key factors to sweeteners that make them keto and low carb friendly.
1. They have a very low GI level
This means that the sweeteners don’t have a high glycemic index, and won’t run your blood sugar up much, if at all. Zero means that they don’t increase the number of blood sugars, or even affect your insulin production at all. When you are on a keto diet, or any other low carb diet, the main factor is that you want to be as close to that zero index when choosing the right sweeteners. The lower, the better.
2. The products are normally free of sugars
Well, if they have a low GI level, they are usually low on sugar. Mainly, the most common alternative sweeteners are “sugar free”, meaning they don’t pump your body with harmful carbohydrates that we are trying to avoid on a low carb diet. This means that fruit, and high levels of fructose should not be consumed quite as much too, if at all, because they give your body and blood many natural sugars, while albeit healthy, can keep you from getting to the state of ketosis you want to be with a keto diet, or adding sugar carbs to your diet, which if not burnt will store as water and fat later in other low carb diets (if you are lacking the physical activity required to burn sugars, you want to be sure not to consume them).
3. Many Options Don’t Have Starches or other Carbs
If you want to consume a good low carb sweetener, check to see if it has carbs. Many have low carbs, or no carbs. That is a major plus, no matter what type of keto diet or low-carb diet you may be planning to be on.
Do I Have To Sacrifice Flavor?
There are plenty of sweeteners out there on the market today, and many of them are used very widely in low carb and keto diet plans. However, many of them tend to have that “diet” taste that some people can find very unpleasant when you’re not used to them. But have no fear! There are a ton of them out there which are made from natural resources as compared to man-made ones, and these are actually the ones to watch for, as many of them don’t give a false sweet taste, and some are actually much sweeter than sugar.
The Best of the Best!
Now that we’ve gotten some of the scientific explanations out of our way, and listed why you want to do this, let’s get on with that championship list to see who comes out on top, starting from 4, down to the winner of our best low-carb sweetener challenge:
4. The Man-Made sweetener: Swerve
Swerve is a “man-made” natural sweetener, which utilizes many ingredients, but is also made by the enzymes of starchy roots. Do they have actual carbs or starches? Well, technically yes they do, but they aren’t digestible by our bodies, so they just go right through you. The main ingredient in this is oligosaccharides. That means it doesn’t affect any of our insulin production at all. While this item is “man-made”, it is still made from 100% natural ingredients. It actually has no GI, doesn’t have any calories to burn, and it has the consistency of fine sugar, so you can actually use it as an ingredient just like regular sugar. Many keto treats and baking dishes use this as one of their ingredients because it also contains prebiotics that can help your body’s probiotics naturally. At the same time, many people would rather use this, because it is a direct ounce for ounce comparison to sugar on the sweetness index. The benefit is that it has non-impact carbs. They do use just a little bit or erythritol and citrus flavoring in it though.
5. Fruit of the Monk… What?
The next sweetener on our countdown is sweetener made from the antioxidants of monk fruit. It provides a low calorie alternative to many sugars without all of the actual insulin increasing side effects that sugars can cause. Monk fruit in China and Thailand is called Luo Han Guo, and is cultivated usually by hand from local fruit orchards in secluded areas of the Hunan and other nearby mountains. The fruit itself is actually a member of the gourd family similar to squashes, and the fruit is known to be about 300 times sweeter than sugar, much like that of Stevia.
This sweetener also shares a common zero on the GI table and can actually help your body stabilize glucose in your blood. However, one of the biggest differences is that since monk fruit sweetener is literally completely natural, it doesn’t have the “diet” aftertaste that is common with other sweeteners. There is a chemical compound available in monk fruit called mogrosides, and these compounds have been scientifically proven that they have a chance to actually hinder the growth of tumors caused by pancreatic cancer.
Also, another key difference is that there are no health risks involved with using the sweeteners of this fruit, as long as you avoid any products that don’t have additional carbohydrates, or other sugars that can change the GI of the product itself.
So what’s the catch? While it is very readily available in the areas it is cultivated, it is somewhat hard to get your hands on it. It’s also pretty expensive. There are also alternatives which you can buy that can contain erythritol as well as a secondary ingredient. These can actually be purchased and shipped from Amazon, as well as Sam’s Club online, and other retailers. You are more likely to find it online and order it as compared to any walk-in stores.
6. The Runner Up: Erythritol
Erythritol is a common ingredient in many of today’s “sugar free” alternatives, from gums, candies, and more. It is actually a natural sugar alcohol, and even fruits and vegetables have fair amounts of this sweetener in it. So far, as long as it’s used sparingly, there haven’t been any reports of bad side effects with it. The way each molecule of erythritol is composed is what gives it the same taste as sugar. It only has about 0.23 calories for every gram, and thus has a zero GI just like Stevia. Unfortunately, you can’t get the same sweetness per ounce that you would get from sugar, so you generally need to use more of it as compared to sugar (in most cases, one tablespoon of sugar composes of a little bit more erythritol (about 1.24 tbsp instead).
One benefactor is that you can cause yourself gastric distress, and actually have a feeling of bloatiness or stomach cramps if not consumed in moderation. The difference between this and many other common sugary alcohols is that the most of it is absorbed from your small intestines, and it passes through your blood before becoming water soluble. It has less chance of causing colon problems though, unlike many of the others.
You can literally find erythritol powder just about anywhere, as well as more than likely at your local grocery store. If you should buy a sweetener that is erythritol, be sure to try and make sure that it doesn’t contain anything that can increase your net carbs or cause any change to your blood’s glucose levels.
Unfortunately, some side effects of excess use of erythritols, is that it can cause stomach aches, a small head ache, and some people have actually gotten diarrhea from eating this product in high amounts.
1. The Champion of All Top Sweeteners: STEVIA!!!
Everyone has heard of Stevia (well, almost everyone). From television commercials, to radio spots, and even magazine advertising (let alone online advertising), Stevia is number one on the list, and is still one of the most purchased and consumed zero GI sweeteners on the market today. Literally almost EVERY store in the world has it, and it is also used in other products that are low and no-carb sweeteners.
Stevia has many great benefits, including lowering gastrointestinal stress, as it contains chemical compounds of various types that can be beneficial to your bodies, such as apigenin and quercetin. Stevia also have a great contributing sweetness, as it’s about 2-300 times sweeter than regular sugar, just like its cousin monk fruit sweetener. Part of this amazing result of sweetness is because Stevia is derived from natural sources as well; particularly it is the herbal extract of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. That means that you barely have to use any of it in order to taste something sweet in your foods.
Stevia comes in a variety of forms, including Stevia powder (which usually comes in a bag), and a bottle or container of sweetener drops (liquid). Now that it’s been on the market for a long time, the marketed Stevia product doesn’t have the diet taste that it used to have when it first came onto the market. You have to be careful of other ingredients when buying Stevia products and Stevia-based products though. A lot of ingredients such as maltodextrin, dextrose, fructose, cane sugar, and other alternative sugars can be added and sold with stevia. These false alternative sweeteners can cause an increase in your blood glucose levels, as well as containing carbs that they don’t list (many people call these “secret” or “hidden” carbs). The Stevia Corp. company has come a long way since Stevia was first introduced commercially for industrial use in the 1990’s and denied. Since then, the company is netting an average of approximately 9.4M and has since been passed and approved by the FDA as an additive in foods on the market in the year 2008. This is a result in not only many manufacturing companies buying the product, but also the market of consumers themselves, who have been known to buy products out there such as Truvia, and other alternatives which contain Stevia as a sugar substitute.
So What’s The Big Idea?
No matter what kind of sugar substitute you are trying to use, be sure that they have a zero or low GI. Preferably, as with this list, there are products that are the best, and worst. If you’re wanting the best, be prepared to spend a little more on it (for example, Wal-Mart’s Great Value’s Stevia sweetener is actually mainly made of Maltodextrin, as we mentioned above about those “hush hush” fillers). But if you look a little harder, you can find Micro Ingredient’s Organic Stevia and you’ll notice about a $20 price difference, because it’s pure Stevia. The same will go with all other forms of these products. The purest of ingredients is a lot less wallet friendly, because they are harder and take more of the natural product that gives the sweetener that taste (such as monk fruit which is usually mixed with erythritol to allow it to be sold at lower prices, but sold more frequently). No matter how much you are willing to spend, there are a ton of additives to watch out for that can ruin the entire experience for you, and if you have too many hidden carbohydrates, this too can knock you off of your ketosis balance.