For Keto, it’s best to avoid too much artificial sweetener. The point of the lifestyle is to omit sugar and fuel your body with fat to burn calories. Eating too much artificial sweetener can cause you to stall on weight loss, and can lead to tummy and digestive aches.
There are a staple sugar substitutes we use for baking treats and in other recipes. Here are my favorites:
Erythritol – This is an all-natural sugar alcohol, and the main ingredient of Truvia (along with Stevia). It is the closest thing to real sugar I’ve found. It’s 60-70% as sweet as table sugar, but almost entirely non-caloric and does not affect blood sugar or cause tooth decay. It’s partially absorbed by the body then flushed, and I find this sweetener to be the mildest on my digestive system. (See below for first source, 1)
I find it easy to modify regular recipes that call for sugar with about 1/2 to 3/4 Erythritol. To me, there is no weird chemical taste. This is my preference, and I can typically find the brand I like (Now Real Foods) on sale on Amazon or Vitacost.
Xylitol – Xylitol is another sugar alcohol used as a sweetener, and can be found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol has been known to be “tooth friendly,” which is unique for a sweetener, and can actually help prevent cavities. (See below for second source, 2)
Xylitol can cause digestive and tummy issues, so it’s one I use as a fallback in small quantities if I don’t have Erythritol on hand. When baking, if a recipe calls for sugar, this is a 1:1 to conversion (meaning you still would need the same amount of Xylitol to equal the sweetness of sugar). I also like the Now Real Foods brand, available at Amazon here.
Stevia – Stevia is a plant-based natural sweetener. It doesn’t have FDA approval for use in foods, so it’s considered a “dietary supplement.” It’s the other main ingredient in Truvia. Stevia isn’t absorbed in the bloodstream, and flushed from the body through your urine. (See below for third source, 3)
Stevia has a bitter taste,and leaves a bitter aftertaste. I avoid it alone. It’s become more available at restaurants and coffee shops, but I still tend to carry Truvia and use it if I have it on hand, only using Stevia in pinch if I’m on the go.
Swerve – Swerve is a popular sugar substitute used by many keto-followers in baking and other recipes. It is marketed as not being a bitter sweetener, and can be used in a 1:1 ratio in lieu of sugar. It’s probably so widely used and tasty because the main sugar substitute is Erythritol. It’s worth a try, but I’ve found there to be cost savings by just purchasing pure Erythritol. You can buy it here.
Splenda – Splenda is a sucralose-based artificial sweetener, and has gained popularity in lieu of saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low) and aspartame (Equal). Although marketed as a zero-calorie sweetener, it still has a slight caloric quality that compares to sugar. There has been some controversy on whether there are long term health consequences to using Splenda. (See below for fourth source, 4)
It is marketed as being used in baking on a 1:1 basis (meaning you can substitute the same amount of sugar in a recipe for Splenda). I have found that baking with Splenda is not great – the sweetener leaves a bit of a chemical taste (not surprising since it is a chemical!). I tend to avoid this on keto.
Other Sweeteners – Sweet ‘n Low, Equal and other sweeteners have their fan base. And I admit to being a recovered Sweet ‘n Low addict, having used it in tea and coffee most of my life. But given the availability and benefits of fruit-based natural alternatives, and the controversy on chemical sweeteners, I avoid and stick to Truvia and Erythritol for my keto lifestyle.
I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, and it’s always best to consult a doctor or nutritionist before starting a diet to make sure it’s appropriate for your particular situation.
- First Source: From Vasudevan, D. M. (2013). Textbook of biochemistry for medical students. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) LTD. p. 81. ISBN 978-93-5090-530-2; Noda, K; Nakayama, K; Oku, T (April 1994). “Serum glucose and insulin levels and erythritol balance after oral administration of erythritol in healthy subjects”. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 48 (4): 286–292. PMID 8039489.
- Second Source: Reusens, B. (2004). Remacle, Claude; Reusens, Brigitte, eds. Functional foods, ageing and degenerative disease. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-85573-725-9. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
- Third Source: McCaleb, Rob (1997). “Controversial Products in the Natural Foods Market”. Herb Research Foundation. Retrieved 8 November 2006.; Geuns, JM; Buyse, J; Vankeirsbilck, A; Temme, EH; Compernolle, F; Toppet, S (5 April 2006). “Identification of steviol glucuronide in human urine.”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 54 (7): 2794–8. PMID 16569078.
- Fourth Source: Abou-Donia, MB; El-Masry, EM; Abdel-Rahman, AA; McLendon, RE; Schiffman, SS (2008). “Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats”. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health Part A. 71 (21): 1415–29. PMID 18800291. doi:10.1080/15287390802328630.