Keto-Friendly Sweeteners: A Comprehensive Guide

Originally published on October 15, 2019
Updated on September 19, 2020

Successfully starting and maintaining a low-carb diet requires a strict limit on carbohydrate intake. But does that mean that sweets are totally off-limits on a keto diet? Thankfully, no! Thanks to a multitude of sweeteners, keto dieters can satisfy their sweet tooth in fun and creative ways. However, not all sweeteners are compatible with a low-carb lifestyle. In this article, we review the best keto-friendly sweeteners that won’t kick you out of ketosis while keeping your sweet cravings at bay.

Table of Contents

The Best Keto-Friendly Sweeteners

In the graphic below, we’ve compiled nutritional information for over 30 common natural and artificial sweeteners. We’ve plotted each sweetener based on two essential metrics: net carbs per 5g serving, and average glycemic impact. The best keto sweeteners that have both low net carbs per serving and low glycemic impact are displayed in green on the left. Sweeteners with high net carb count and/or high glycemic impact are in magenta on the right.

keto friendly sweeteners

Comprehensive Sweetener Information for Low Carb Diets

There are many varieties of natural and artificial sweeteners available on the market today. In order to find accurate nutritional information for your sweetener of interest, we have divided our information into three important categories:

  1. Pure Sweetener Nutritional Information

    This list contains glycemic and nutritional information for many natural and artificial products in their pure form. If you find these products in the ingredients list of a food item, this table can help you determine if that food is keto-friendly. All values listed are for 5g servings, which is just over 1tsp.

  2. Brand-Name Sweetener Blends

    Many sweeteners aren’t sold as pure products, because artificial sweeteners can be hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. To combat this sweetness, manufacturers often combine artificial sweeteners with ‘bulking agents’ or mixes of other artificial sweeteners to cut their product’s sweetness to a palatable level. Unfortunately, some of these bulking agents contain carbs, and should be avoided on keto. Our brand-name sweetener list will help you determine which products are compatible with keto.

  3. Sugars to Avoid Completely

    Our final list contains the known remaining sweetening agents that you should definitely avoid on a low carb diet. We’ve included them here just as a reference.

1 – Pure Sweetener Nutritional Information

FoodKeto Friendly?ServingCaloriesGlycemic IndexTotal CarbsFiberSugar AlcoholsNet CarbsSweetener TypeGI Source LinkNutrition Info Link
Stevia (liquid/pure)Yes
5g2.600.61000.61Non-nutritiveUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Saccharin (liquid/pure)Yes
5g0.400.1000.1Non-nutritive-USDA
Sucralose (liquid/pure)Yes
5g000000Non-nutritive-USDA
Aspartame (liquid/pure)Yes
5g000000Non-nutritiveWikipediaWikipedia
AlluloseYes
5g205000MonosaccharideWikipediaUSDA
PolydextroseYes
5g505500PolysaccharidePubmedWikipedia
Erythritol (powder)Yes
5g105050Sugar AlcoholUSDAUSDA
XylitolYes
5g12135050Sugar AlcoholPubmedUSDA
MannitolYes
5g805050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
IsomaltYes
5g1095050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
LactitolYes
5g1065050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
SorbitolYes
5g1395050Sugar AlcoholPubmedBMC Medicine
MaltitolNo
5g15355050
Sugar AlcoholPubmedBMC Medicine
GlycerolYes
5g2005050Sugar Alcohol--
Monk FruitYes
5g000000Natural-Wikipedia
HoneyNo
5g15.2584.12004.12
NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Agave (liquid)No
5g15.5103.82003.82
NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Maple SyrupNo
5g13543.35003.35
NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Coconut SugarNo
5g18.8544.38004.38
NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA

2 – Brand-Name Sweetener Blends

FoodBrand Name(s)Keto-Friendly?ServingCaloriesTotal CarbsFiberSugar AlcoholsNet CarbsSweetener TypeNutrition Info Link
Stevia (powder)Truvia®, Stevia in the Raw®Yes
5g05000Non-nutritiveUSDA
Sucralose (powder)Splenda®No
5g16.84.56004.56
Non-nutritiveUSDA
Acesulfame-KSunett®, Sweet One®Yes
5g00000Non-nutritiveWikipedia
Saccharin (powder)Sweet’N Low®, Sugar Twin®, Hermesetas®No
5g184.46004.46
Non-nutritiveUSDA
Aspartame (powder)Equal®, NutraSweet®No
5g18.34.45004.45
Non-nutritiveUSDA

3 – Sugars to Avoid Completely

FoodKeto Friendly?ServingSweetener TypeCaloriesGlycemic IndexTotal CarbsFiberSugar AlcoholsNet CarbsGI Source LinkNutrition Info Link
GlucoseNO5gMonosaccharide201005005PubmedBMC Medicine
Dextrose (d-Glucose)NO5gMonosaccharide201005005PubmedBMC Medicine
FructoseNO5gMonosaccharide20205005PubmedBMC Medicine
GalactoseNO5gMonosaccharide20205005Pubmed-
LactoseNO5gDisaccharide20475005Pubmed-
MaltoseNO5gDisaccharide201055005PubmedBMC Medicine
SucroseNO5gDisaccharide20625005PubmedBMC Medicine
TrehaloseNO5gDisaccharide20705005PubmedBMC Medicine
MaltodextrinNO5gPolysaccharide201105005Pubmed-
High Fructose Corn SyrupNO5gSaccharide Mix20735005PubmedBMC Medicine
SucromaltNO5gSaccharide Mix20~485005PubmedBMC Medicine

Sweeteners to Avoid on Keto

In the lists above, we’ve highlighted which sweeteners are “Keto-Friendly” and which aren’t. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to steer clear of any sweetener with high net carb count or high glycemic impact. In this section, we detail why some common sweeteners are not keto-friendly.

  • Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, which means that it is not processed like normal sugar in your gastrointestinal tract. While most other sugar alcohols have very little or no glycemic response, Maltitol can significantly raise blood sugar levels when ingested. For that reason, it is not compatible with low-carb diets. It’s best to avoid products that are sweetened with maltitol, including several “low carb” Atkins dessert products (always check the ingredients list!).

  • Honey is an all-natural sweetener, but it’s packed with sugar. A single tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories, making it incompatible with a ketogenic diet.

  • Agave is a natural sweetener that is comprised mostly of sugar (>50% fructose). It is still relatively high in carbohydrates and is not keto-friendly.

  • Maple syrup is another classic sweetener that people use in place of sugar, but it is full of carbohydrates. Steer clear of maple syrup on low carb diets.

  • Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palms and is absorbed more quickly than sugar. However, it is also jam-packed with fructose and is often associated with high blood sugar. One hundred grams of coconut sugar has 88g of carbs and about 375 calories, which is only slightly lower than traditional granulated sugar.

  • Powdered Sucralose (Splenda®) is marketed as a ‘zero calorie’ sweetener, but that is far from the truth. Splenda contains sucralose, which is a non-nutritive sweetener, but it’s over 100 times sweeter than sugar. In order to cut down the sweetness of sucralose, Splenda is actually a mixture of sucralose with dextrose and maltodextrin, which are both pure carbohydrates. Since a Splenda packet technically contains fewer than 5 calories, in the USA it can be marketed as 0 calories. But that’s technically not true! It’s best to avoid powdered sucralose, and instead find a pure, liquid form that doesn’t contain additives. Check out our complete review of Splenda and powdered sucralose for more information.

  • Powdered Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®) is a sweetener blend that is similar to Splenda. Even though the artificial ingredient (saccharin) is zero-calorie, powdered saccharin is packaged with dextrose (pure sugar) to cut its sweetness. Since it’s technically below 5 calories per packet, it is marketed as 0 calories. Similar to sucralose, it’s best to avoid powdered saccharin blends like Sweet’N Low.

  • Maltodextrin is highly processed and derived from plants like rice, wheat, and corn, meaning that it is full of starch. Maltodextrin has an equivalent amount of calories and carbs compared to white, granulated sugar, so it is definitely not keto-friendly.

Complete List of Natural and Artificial Sweeteners

This table is a complete, concatenated version of the info from above. It is searchable and contains up-to-date nutritional information for most natural and artificial sweeteners. If there are any additional sweeteners that you’d like to see on this list, please let us know in the comments below the article.

FoodKeto Friendly?Brand NamesServingCaloriesGlycemic IndexTotal CarbsFiberSugar AlcoholsNet CarbsSweetener TypeGI Source LinkNutrition Info Link
Stevia (liquid/pure)Yes5g2.600.61000.61Non-nutritiveUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Saccharin (liquid/pure)Yes5g0.400.1000.1Non-nutritive-USDA
Sucralose (liquid/pure)Yes5g000000Non-nutritive-USDA
Aspartame (liquid/pure)Yes5g000000Non-nutritiveWikipediaWikipedia
AlluloseYes5g205000MonosaccharideWikipediaUSDA
PolydextroseYes5g505500PolysaccharidePubmedWikipedia
Erythritol (powder/pure)Yes5g105050Sugar AlcoholPubmedUSDA
XylitolYes5g12135050Sugar AlcoholPubmedUSDA
MannitolYes5g805050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
IsomaltYes5g1095050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
LactitolYes5g1065050Sugar AlcoholPubmedPolyols.org
SorbitolYes5g1395050Sugar AlcoholPubmedBMC Medicine
MaltitolNo5g15355050Sugar AlcoholPubmedBMC Medicine
GlycerolYes5g2005050Sugar Alcohol--
Monk FruitYes5g000000Natural-Wikipedia
HoneyNo5g15.2584.12004.12NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Agave (liquid)No5g15.5103.82003.82NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Maple SyrupNo5g13543.35003.35NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Coconut SugarNo5g18.8544.38004.38NaturalUniversity of SydneyUSDA
Stevia (powder)YesTruvia®, Stevia in the Raw®5g05000Non-nutritive-USDA
Sucralose (powder)NoSplenda®5g16.84.56004.56Non-nutritive-USDA
Acesulfame-KYesSunett®, Sweet One®5g00000Non-nutritive-Wikipedia
Saccharin (powder)NoSweet’N Low®, Sugar Twin®, Hermesetas®5g184.46004.46Non-nutritive-USDA
Aspartame (powder)NoEqual®, NutraSweet®5g18.34.45004.45Non-nutritive-USDA
GlucoseNo5g201005005MonosaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
Dextrose (d-Glucose)No5g201005005MonosaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
FructoseNo5g20205005MonosaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
GalactoseNo5g20205005MonosaccharidePubmed-
LactoseNo5g20475005DisaccharidePubmed-
MaltoseNo5g201055005DisaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
SucroseNo5g20625005DisaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
TrehaloseNo5g20705005DisaccharidePubmedBMC Medicine
MaltodextrinNo5g201105005PolysaccharidePubmed-
High Fructose Corn SyrupNo5g20735005Saccharide MixPubmedBMC Medicine
SucromaltNo5g20~485005Saccharide MixPubmedBMC Medicine

Printable List: Comprehensive Guide to Keto Sweeteners

CLICK HERE to download a printable Guide to Keto Sweeteners that features nutritional information for over 30 natural and artificial sweeteners.

sweetener printable list


What is Glycemic Index (GI)?

The most important part of a keto diet is getting your body to enter and maintain a state of metabolic ketosis. In order to achieve ketosis, your sugar consumption needs to be minimal. Consuming too many carbohydrates can raise your blood sugar levels and stop ketosis from occurring. To find out how much a particular food impacts your blood sugar, you can look at its glycemic index.

Glycemic index is a measurement of how much a particular food will increase your blood sugar after consuming it. All foods can be scored on a standardized glycemic index scale from 0 to 100. This score reflects the food’s effect on blood sugar following a meal.

Foods containing no carbs, like chicken or steak, have glycemic index values close to (or exactly) zero. Low glycemic index foods are digested, absorbed, and metabolized slowly, which leads to a slower and more shallow increase in blood sugar.

Foods with higher carbohydrate content like fruits and grains have glycemic index values ranging from 50-100. These foods will cause more dramatic and rapid increases in blood sugar, which can shift the body’s metabolism from ketosis to glycolysis (using carbs for energy).

On a low-carb ketogenic diet, foods with the lowest glycemic index are the best at keeping your body in ketosis. This means that your average sweeteners like white sugar, honey, or maple syrup (high GI values) need to be avoided for the best results.


Our Picks: The Top 5 Best Keto-Friendly Sweeteners

So, what sweeteners are best for a keto diet? With over 70 different types of sweetener available on the market today, choosing the “right” sweetener might seem like a daunting task. Below are our choices for the top 5 keto-friendly sweeteners, as well as some additional information for each.

1. Stevia

Description: Stevia is our pick for the best keto-friendly sweetener. Both liquid and powder forms of stevia are low calorie and low carb, and have no glycemic impact. Since stevia is much sweeter than sugar, only ~1tsp is required to replace an entire cup of white sugar.

Nutrition: Low carb, low calorie, no glycemic impact

Sweetness: ~30-150x sweeter than sugar

Safety: Approved for food use in the US, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere

2. Erythritol

Description: Pure erythritol is a great keto-friendly sugar substitute. It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is slightly less sweet than plain sugar. Erythritol is not almost zero-calorie (only 0.2 calories per gram), has no effect on blood glucose, and is available in powdered and liquid formulations. It is a great substitute for keto baking.

Nutrition: Low carb, low calorie, no glycemic impact

Sweetness: ~70% as sweet as sugar

Safety: Widely approved for use in more than 60 countries. When consumed in large quantities, some sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect.

3. Monk Fruit

Description: Monk fruit sweeteners are derived from concentrated extracts of the luohan guo (a.k.a monk fruit) plant. These extracts contain naturally occurring compounds called mogrosides that give them a sweet flavor. Since monk fruit is highly concentrated, it is often co-packaged with other keto-friendly bulking agents like erythritol. Be sure to check the label of monk fruit sweetener blends to ensure that they contain only keto-friendly ingredients.

Nutrition: Low carb, low calorie, low glycemic impact

Sweetness: ~100-200x sweeter than sugar

Safety: Naturally occurring compounds, broadly approved for food use.

4. Allulose

Description: Allulose is a naturally occurring monosaccharide that is only minimally absorbed by the intestines, and is thus a great sugar replacement for low carb diets. It’s about 70% as sweet as sugar, so it’s also a good, bulky substitute for sugar in keto baking.

Nutrition: Low carb, low calorie, low glycemic impact

Sweetness: ~70% as sweet as sugar

Safety: Widely approved for food use.

5. Polydextrose

Description: Polydextrose is a bulky sugar substitute for low carb diets. It’s commonly included in low carb foods as a bulking agent since it is only 10% as sweet as sugar while containing almost no calories or carbs.

Nutrition: low carb, low calorie, no glycemic impact

Sweetness: ~10% as sweet as sugar

Safety: Widely approved for food use. Excessive consumption might lead to flatulence.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best sweetener for keto baking?

A: In our opinion, it’s a tie between erythritol and allulose. In powdered form, both products are similarly sweet to sugar (~70%), which means that you can use a similar amount when baking. Since volume is important for consistency in baked goods, these sweeteners are good 1:1 sugar replacements for baking. Another good option for keto baking is a monk fruit and erythritol blend, which is slightly sweeter than erythritol alone.

Are artificial sweeteners okay on keto?

A: Depends. Many pure artificial sweeteners are okay to consume on a keto diet since they have no carbs, no calories, and no glycemic response. Some commercial artificial sweetener blends (like Splenda) have added carbs and should be avoided on keto. Check our list above to see which artificial sweeteners are keto compatible.

Can you drink Diet Coke on keto?

A: Yes. Diet Coke is sweetened with pure aspartame, which is non-nutritive and cannot be absorbed by the body. You can drink Diet Coke on keto.


Summary: the best keto-friendly sweeteners

Using these artificial sweeteners can help you to kick your craving for sweets without raising your blood sugar levels. They’re perfect substitutes for someone with type 2 diabetes or someone that wants to lower their blood sugar levels in general.

Though these sweeteners are low-calorie and low-carb, eating too much can still kick you out of ketosis. Be sure to track your intake so you don’t eat too many carbs in one sitting. Everything is good in moderation!

Keto can do great things for your body while still allowing you to explore different flavors and cuisines. Don’t think of it as a diet where you need to give up your favorite foods- just tweak them a bit to make them healthier and low carb.

Have any questions or comments? Want some more info on any of the sweeteners we listed (or one we overlooked)? Reach out to us in the comment section below and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

References

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