What is a low-carb sweetener? Is it safe? Does it work? These common questions and thousands of others like them have been answered by the low-carb sweeteners community, who have put together a great visual guide to help you avoid the pitfalls of the sweetener market.
High-carb sweeteners are manufactured to taste great and have virtually no nutritional value, while low-carb sweeteners are often loaded with vitamins and minerals. The difference between the two can be seen in the table below: High-Carb Sweeteners Low-Carb Sweeteners Glycerol Maltitol Sugar alcohols 2 teaspoons = 5gFrom , medical opinion from – June 2021
What sweeteners can I use on a low-carb diet? See the visual guide below. The sweeteners on the left contain very few carbohydrates and generally have little effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. Sweeteners on the right, in the red zone, should be avoided.
The above figures are based on the effect of each sweetener on blood glucose and insulin response for the same amount of sweetener compared to white sugar (100% pure sugar). Many packets of sweeteners contain small amounts of dextrose, which is pure sugar.
For example, one packet of Splenda provides about the same sweetness as two teaspoons (8 grams) of sugar. Each packet contains approximately 0.9 grams of dextrose carbohydrates. This equates to 0.9 / 8 = 0.11 times as much sugar, with the same sweetness. 100% pure sugar has the number 100, so Splenda has the number 100 x 0.11 = 11.
If you want to follow a low-carb diet, avoid the sweeteners listed on the right in the image above. We recommend using mainly stevia, erythritol, monk fruit or xylitol.
Possible adverse effects of all sweeteners
Note that while the sweeteners listed at the top left have minimal direct effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, they can have other potential negative effects.
The question marks over the zero-label sweeteners mean that they appear to have no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, but their effects on obesity, diabetes, gut health and long-term risk of metabolic diseases are not yet known. Further research is needed into the long-term effects of these sweeteners.
In addition, the effects of artificial sweeteners on pregnant women, the developing fetus, and young children are unknown and could potentially be detrimental to long-term metabolic health. Again, more research is definitely needed.
In addition, all sweeteners can promote cravings for sweet foods. And when added to foods – like muffins or yogurt – they can provide a greater sense of reward.
All sweet tastes, whether real sugar or sugar substitutes, act on the same sweet taste receptors on the tongue and can trigger similar reward pathways in the brain, which some researchers believe can encourage sugar addiction and cravings.
So when you add sweeteners to your diet, you increase the risk of ending up eating more than you need to. This can slow down weight loss or even cause weight gain. However, this is not the case for everyone.
If you have the option, it is best to avoid all sweeteners. Keep in mind that with a low-carb diet, the desire for sugary foods diminishes over time, making it easier to stay away from them.
However, we do know that moderate use of sugar-free sweeteners can help some people stay low-carb. For example, after a glass of wine at dinner, they may find an after-dinner low-carb brownie perfect.
If you do want to consume sweeteners occasionally, read on to learn how to make better low-carb choices.
Use of sugar as a sweetener
Note that many sweeteners – white or brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and dates – have a number of exactly 100. That’s because these sweeteners are made from sugar. Sugar is also known as sucrose, which consists of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
With the same sweetening power as white sugar, these sweeteners have similar effects on blood sugar, weight and insulin resistance.
Sugar is potentially bad for you – no surprise – so none of these foods are good options, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet. Avoid.
Worse than sugar: Fructose
Some sweeteners may even be more problematic than sugar in the long run.
Normal sugar contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
However, some sweeteners contain more fructose than glucose. These sweeteners raise blood sugar more slowly, resulting in a falsely low glycemic index (GI) – a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing product raises blood sugar after consumption. Yet they can have potentially dangerous effects.
Excessive consumption of fructose can increase the risk of developing fatty liver and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of weight gain and future health problems.
Sweeteners with high fructose content – high fructose corn syrup (soda), fruit juice concentrate, honey and agave syrup – can be slightly more harmful than pure sugar in the long run. So we give them a number of 100+. Which sweetener has the highest fructose content? Agave syrup (also called agave nectar).
Agave syrup and other healthy sweeteners high in fructose are often touted as low glycemic index products because they don’t cause blood sugar spikes like white sugar. But they can be an even worse choice than white sugar when it comes to your weight and health, due to the harmful effects of fructose.
Therefore, in addition to avoiding sugar, it is important to avoid these sweeteners that are high in fructose when following a low-carb diet.
Our top 4 recommendations
If eating sweets occasionally helps you stick to your low-carb diet, here are our top four options:
- Monk fruit
Option 1: Stevia
Stevia comes from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is native to South America and has been used there for several hundred years. The stevia glycosides extracted from the plant are responsible for the sweet taste.
- Stevia contains no carbohydrates or calories and does not raise blood sugar levels.
- It appears to be safe and has a low toxicity potential.
- Because stevia is very sweet, you need very little.
- Stevia does not taste like sugar. It has a licorice-like aroma and a distinctive aftertaste when consumed in moderate to large quantities. We therefore recommend using it sparingly.
- It is difficult to cook to achieve results similar to sugar, and it is often impossible to replace it in existing recipes.
- There is not enough long-term data on stevia to be sure that it actually has health effects on people who consume it frequently.
Sweetening power: 200 to 350 times sweeter than table sugar.
The best options: Stevia liquid or stevia powder or granules 100% pure. Note that some packages of granular stevia, such as. B. Stevia in the Raw, contains dextrose. The Truvia brand contains erythritol (see below), but not dextrose.
Option 2: Erythritol
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a compound similar to sugar, but only partially digested and absorbed by the body.
Erythritol is found in small amounts in plants such as grapes, melons and mushrooms. However, as a commercial sweetener, it is usually made from fermented corn or corn starch.
- Erythritol does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels.
- It contains almost no calories and virtually no carbohydrates. Once absorbed, it passes into the urine without being used by the body.
- In granulated or powdered form, it can easily be used to replace real sugar in recipes.
- Compared to other sweeteners, erythritol may be beneficial for the prevention of plaque and cavities.
- Erythritol has a noticeable cooling effect on the tongue, especially when consumed in large quantities.
- Although it causes less digestive problems than most sugar alcohols, some people have reported flatulence, bloating, and loose stools after consuming erythritol.
- Although erythritol appears to be safe for absorption into the bloodstream and excretion through the urine, there are potential health risks (currently unknown).
Sweetness: 70% sweeter than table sugar.
The best options: Erythritol in granular or powdered form or mixtures of erythritol and stevia.
Option #3: Monk fruit
Monk fruit is a relatively new sugar substitute. Monk fruit, also called luo han guo, is commonly dried and used in Asian medicine in herbal teas, soups and decoctions. It was cultivated by monks in Northern Thailand and Southern China, hence its more familiar name.
Although the fruit as a whole contains fructose and sucrose, the sugar content of monk fruit comes from non-caloric components called mogrosides. In 1995, Proctor & Gamble patented a process to extract mogrosides from monk fruit using a solvent.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that monk fruit is generally considered safe. It has not yet been approved for sale by the European Union.
- It contains no calories and does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
- It has a better flavor profile than stevia. In fact, it’s often mixed with stevia to keep costs down and to reduce the aftertaste of stevia. It is also mixed with erythritol to reduce its consumption and improve its use in cooking.
- It does not cause digestive problems.
- It’s very soft, so a little is enough.
- It’s pretty expensive.
- It is often mixed with other fillers such as inulin, prebiotic fiber, and other undeclared ingredients.
- Beware of labels with a proprietary blend, as the product may contain very little monk fruit extract.
- It is a very new drug and there are no studies on its long-term effects.
Sweetening power: 150 to 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
The best options: Grain mixtures with erythritol or stevia, pure liquid drops or liquid drops with stevia. Also used in substitutes such as artificial maple syrup sweetened with monk fruit and chocolate syrup.
Option #4: Xylitol
Like erythritol, xylitol is a sugar alcohol found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables. It is produced on an industrial scale from corn or birch cobs. Xylitol is one of the most widely used sweeteners in sugar-free chewing gum and mouthwash.
Unlike the other three sweeteners listed above, xylitol is only low-carb, but not carb-free. Therefore, it may not be the best choice for a keto diet (less than 20 grams of net carbs per day) unless used in very small amounts.
- Xylitol has a low glycemic index of 13, and only 50% is absorbed in the digestive tract. In small amounts, it has little effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Although it tastes like sugar and has the same sweetening power as sugar, xylitol contains 2.5 calories per gram, while sugar has 4 calories per gram.
- Like erythritol, it helps prevent tooth decay compared to most other sweeteners.
- Since 50% of xylitol is not absorbed but is fermented by bacteria in the colon, moderate to high consumption can lead to digestive problems (e.g. bloating, loose stools, flatulence).
- Although xylitol is safe for humans, it is toxic and potentially deadly to pets such as cats and dogs. If you use xylitol, make sure to keep it away from your pets.
Oh, sweetheart: Sweetness similar to table sugar.
The best options: pure xylitol granules from corn cobs or birch wood extract.
Although we prefer erythritol in most of our dessert recipes, xylitol is used in some ice cream recipes because it freezes better.
Other low-carbohydrate sweeteners
For a more complete list of sweeteners, see our keto sweetener guide.
Low-calorie sweeteners containing almost 100% carbohydrate
Bags of Equal, Sweet’n Low and Splenda are labeled as calorie-free, but that’s not true.
According to FDA regulations, foods containing less than 1 gram of carbohydrates and less than 4 calories per serving may be labeled as calorie-free. So the manufacturers cleverly add about 0.9 grams of glucose/textrose as a dry mix to a small dose of artificial (synthetic) sweetener.
See – a packet of sweeteners full of carbohydrates that can have zero calories without the risk of a trial.
In fact, the packets contain nearly 4 calories and almost 1 gram of carbohydrates each. While 0.9 grams of carbs may not seem like much, they can make a difference in a low-carb diet, especially if you consume several packs a day. Ten packets equal 9 grams of carbohydrates.
So at least keep that in mind. We do not recommend these sweeteners because of their misleading marketing. In addition, some synthetic sweeteners, including aspartame and sucralose, give rise to serious health concerns.
Why maltitol is not a good option
Maltitol is the most commonly used type of sugar alcohol in candy, desserts, low-carb and sugar-free products because it is much cheaper than erythritol, xylitol and other sugar alcohols.
Maltitol is not a good choice for people on a low-carb diet. About 50% of this sweetener is absorbed in the small intestine, which can raise blood sugar and insulin levels, especially in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. It also contains about three-quarters of the calories of sugar, which is more than most low-carb sweeteners.
In addition, about 50% of what is not digested is fermented in the colon. Studies have shown that maltitol can cause significant digestive problems (flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, etc.), especially when consumed in large quantities.
Light soft drinks – yes or no?
Can I drink light soft drinks if I follow a low-carb diet? It’s better to avoid them.
Some studies show that diet drinks, although low in calories, can make it harder to lose weight.
Moreover, a 2016 study found that most studies that showed a favorable or neutral relationship between sugary drinks and weight were industry-funded and riddled with conflicts of interest, research bias, and unverified conclusions.
However, if you feel the need to drink diet drinks, it can at least help you stick to a low-carb diet. Regular soft drinks sweetened with sugar or HFCS quickly lead to high carbohydrate consumption, which negates the positive effects of a low-carb diet.
A final word on low-carb sweeteners
While some sweeteners are better than others, the best strategy for optimal health and weight loss is the habit of enjoying real food in unsweetened form. Over time, you will learn to appreciate the subtle sweetness of natural, unprocessed foods in a new way.
However, some people don’t get rid of their sweet tooth. If you are one of them, the occasional use of sweeteners can make following a low-carb diet easier.
Deciding whether it makes sense to include low-carb sweeteners in your diet is the key to long-term success.
Is giving up sugary foods nearly impossible for you? Here’s what you can do. Here’s something you might be interested in: our course on sugar addiction and how to take back control.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best low carb sweetener?
The best low carb sweetener is erythritol.
What is the safest healthiest artificial sweetener?
The safest and healthiest artificial sweetener is stevia.
What sweeteners will kick you out of ketosis?
The following sweeteners will kick you out of ketosis: Aspartame Acesulfame-K Saccharin Sucralose Stevia Xylitol What are the best keto-friendly sweeteners? The following sweeteners are considered keto-friendly: Stevia Xylitol Erythritol Maltitol Isomalt
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