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? The answer is (thankfully) no! Thanks to a multitude of sweeteners, keto dieters can satisfy their sweet tooth in fun and creative ways. BUT – not all sweeteners are created equal, and unfortunately, not all are compatible with a low-carb lifestyle. Here we review the best keto-friendly sweeteners that won’t kick you out of ketosis while keeping your sweet cravings at bay!
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.
What is Glycemic Index (GI)?
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 more 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.
So, what sweeteners are best for a keto diet? As you may have guessed, sweeteners with the lowest glycemic indexes! With over 70 different types of sweetener available on the market today, choosing the “right” sweetener might seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-GI sweeteners out there!
To start, we’ve narrowed this huge list to the top 6 sweeteners that will not interrupt your body’s ketogenic state. These top six keto-friendly sweeteners are stevia, sucralose, erythritol, xylitol, saccharin, and aspartame. These sweeteners all have low GI values, almost no net carbohydrates, and only a few calories per gram.
|Name||Type of Sweetener||Glycemic Index||Calories||Product Link|
|Stevia||Non-nutritive||0||0 per gram||Order Online|
|Sucralose||Metabolized||0||0 per gram||Order Online|
|Erythritol||Sugar Alcohol||1||0.2 per gram||Order Online|
|Xylitol||Sugar Alcohol||12||3 per gram||Order Online|
|Saccharin||Non-nutritive||0||4 per gram||Order Online|
|Aspartame||Non-saccharide||0||4 per gram||Order Online|
Don’t see your favorite sweetener on this list? Check out this database for a complete list of sweetener GI values or check the end of this article for additional information.
Stevia is considered a nonnutritive sweetener; meaning that it has no calories or carbohydrates and is perfect for a keto diet. It is naturally derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant, which means that it faces much less processing during the packaging process.
At the end of the day, stevia is likely going to be the best option for someone on a keto diet. It is good for baking, hot drinks, or cold drinks. It’s also available in both liquid and powdered form and has a glycemic index of zero. Another small bonus for stevia is that it is naturally much sweeter than white, granulated sugar. To get the same level of sweetness, one teaspoon of stevia is equivalent to about one cup of white sugar.
Sucralose is another artificial sweetener that is keto-approved. It is considered a metabolized sweetener, which means that it does not get digested in the body, and does not contain any calories or carbs. Some studies have found that sucralose can produce harmful compounds when exposed to high temperatures, so it is not a suitable substitute when it comes to baking.
The most popular commercial brand of sucralose is Splenda, which is best for sweetening hot and cold drinks or foods like oatmeal or yogurt. Though sucralose is a zero-calorie sweetener, Splenda also contains small amounts of dextrose and maltodextrin, which brings each packet to about 1g net carbs and 3.3 calories per gram. Consuming Splenda in small quantities is still fine on a ketogenic diet. Keep this in mind in order to properly track your carb and caloric intake accurately in order to get the best results from the keto diet.
Erythritol is a “sugar alcohol” – which is a naturally occurring compound that is supposed to mimic the flavor of sweetness on your tastebuds. It is a little less sweet than white, granulated sugar for only 5% of the calories. A gram of erythritol contains about 0.2 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates. It has a glycemic index of 1.
Because erythritol is a sugar alcohol, it does not dissolve quite as well as regular sugar, so using it in liquid preparations is usually not recommended. However, it can be used as a substitute in both baking and cooking. Because erythritol is naturally less sweet than sugar, you should use about 1 ⅓ cup of erythritol to replace 1 cup of sugar in an average recipe.
Xylitol is fairly similar to erythritol because it is also a sugar alcohol. It is a tad sweeter than erythritol, so it tastes more comparable to granulated white sugar. It has 3 calories and 1 carb per gram, and is 100% keto-friendly!
Xylitol does not actually count towards your net carbs for the day because of the way that it affects your blood sugar and insulin levels. It has a glycemic index of about 12, so it raises your blood sugar much slower than traditional sugar. Because of the similarity in taste, it can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio to replace regular sugar in just about anything: tea, coffee, and even baked goods. Xylitol does tend to soak up liquids, so it’s generally recommended to add a bit of extra water to a baking recipe.
Saccharin is another non-nutritive sweetener, and is commonly purchased in the form of Sweet n’ Low; so those pink packets at the end of your local diner’s table are good to go if your coffee needs a little extra flavor. It has a zero glycemic index and contains about 4 calories per gram. This low-carb sweetener is a great, keto-friendly way to sweeten up your food. Overall, Saccharin can be used as a direct substitute for sugar in cooking, baking and both hot and cold beverages with a one-to-one ratio. However, a common complaint with this sweetener is a bitter or metallic aftertaste.
Aspartame is commonly known as sweeteners like Equal or NutraSweet – which are both keto-friendly. It is a non-saccharide sweetener that does not have the same metallic aftertaste as something like Sweet n’ Low. Aspartame is much sweeter than sugar; so you should use about ¼ cup in order to replace 1 cup of sugar.
Overall, aspartame is a great artificial sweetener for things like cereal, oatmeal or hot and cold beverages, but should not be used when making baked goods, as it starts to dissolve at high temperatures and will harm the structural integrity of your dessert. Much like saccharin, it has 4 calories per gram and a glycemic index of 0.
Sweeteners to avoid on a keto diet
There are some sweeteners to avoid at all costs on the keto diet. These include maltitol, maltodextrin, honey, coconut sugar, and maple syrup.
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.
Honey is a non-keto sweetener, which surprises people fairly often because it’s all-natural. However, a single tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories. Even though honey is natural sugar, it is incompatible with a ketogenic diet.
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 100g of carbs and about 375 calories. While these numbers are less than traditional granulated sugar, it is definitely not keto-approved.
Maple syrup is another classic sweetener that people use in place of sugar, but it is full of carbohydrates. When it comes to counting calories and carbs, it has the same nutritional value as white, granulated sugar.
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!
Other common keto-friendly sweeteners
|Name||Type of Sweetener||Glycemic Index||Calories|
|Mannitol||Sugar Alcohol||2||1.6 per gram|
|Isomalt||Sugar Alcohol||2||1.9 per gram|
|Lactitol||Sugar Alcohol||3||2.0 per gram|
|Sorbitol||Sugar Alcohol||4||2.6 per gram|
|Glycerol||Sugar Alcohol||5||4 per gram|
|Agave||Modified Sugar||15||4.2 per gram|
|Monk Fruit||Natural Sweetener||0||3 per gram|
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!
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