KETO-FRIENDLY SWEETENER

Sugar-Free or Low-Carb Sweetener

On my quest to discover all keto-friendly sweeteners across the United States, I found over 300 products. I list them here in two groups:

ZERO CALORIE & KETO

< 5 cal per serving.

0 to 100 cal per cup.

Sugar Free. 

 
 

REDUCED CALORIE & KETO

Low-digestible carbohydrates.

25 to 90% fewer calories than table sugar.

​Often less sweet than table sugar.

Offer digestive benefits and adverse effects.

Sugar Free.

 

Quick Facts about the Keto Diet

  • The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, allows the body to produce ketones from fat. The liver converts fat into ketones. Ketones are an alternative fuel source for the body and brain, used when the main source of energy (glucose) is in short supply.

  • The keto diet is a very low-carbohydrate and very high-fat diet. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. When 60 to 80 percent of your daily calories come from fat, your body takes about one to three days to begin producing ketones, entering a metabolic state called ketosisWith very low blood sugar and insulin levels, fat burning increases dramatically. It it becomes easier to access fat cells to burn them off.

 

  • The keto diet is known for benefits such as weight-loss, increased energy, and better mental clarity, but it is not easy to stick to it. One of the essential factors of success on the keto diet is having the right foods around you, and sweeteners can be a helpful tool.

Keto Sweeteners

Glycemic Index of a Sweetener

  • A keto friendly sweetener has minimal to no effect on blood glucose levels. The glycemic index (GI) is the potential of a sweetener to increase blood glucose levels. Sweeteners containing carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have high GI while those that break down slowly and release glucose slowly in the bloodstream have low GI. The glycemic index is a relative measure because it is relative to pure glucose, which is taken as 100. Sweeteners are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100. When 50g of a sweetener is compared to 50g of glucose, a GI > 70 is high, a GI of 56 - 69 is medium, and a GI < 55 is low. 

 

  • From the University of Sidney Glycemic Index database, medium to high GI sweeteners include table sugar (sucrose) with a GI of 67, honey has 44 to 78, and coconut sugar has a 54. Polyols have a low GI (lactitol = 3, xylitol = 7, maltitol = 26, sorbitol = 9) as they are not completely absorbed. Erythritol and soluble fibers (inulin, fructooligosaccharides) are not broken down or digested into glucose in the small intestine, but are fermented by gut microbiota in the large intestine. As a result they do not affect blood glucose level and trigger a minimal glycemic response. Their GI is almost 0. Rare sugars such as tagatose and allulose have GI of 3 and almost 0, respectively.

 

  • The GI does not tell you how high your blood sugar could go when you actually eat the sweetener. To understand a sweetener's complete effect on blood sugar, you need to know both how quickly it makes glucose enter the bloodstream and how much glucose per serving it can deliver. Another measure called the glycemic load (GL) does both. It gives you a more accurate picture of a sweetener's real-life impact on your blood sugar. For one serving of a sweetener, a GL > 20 is considered high, a GL of 11–19 is medium, and a GL < 10 is low. Table sugar, for example, has a high glycemic index (67). But a serving of table sugar (one teaspoon) has such a low carbohydrate (4g) content that its glycemic load is only 3. Ten teaspoons of sugar have a GL = 26.

Low-Carb not the Same as Low-GI

  • The GI and GL can be used as guidelines to help you find a keto friendly sweetener, but they make it more complicated to choose what to eat. Keto is a very low-carbohydrate diet with fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates intake per day. And it can be as low as 20 grams. The total amount of carbohydrate and the serving size in a sweetener, rather than the GI and GL, can be an easier predictor if a sweetener is keto friendly or not (unless it contains polyols, allulose, and soluble fibers)

 

  • The term "low carb" is widely used but is not defined by law and may not be used in food labels. Low carb is about the quantity of carbohydrate, meaning a serving of the sweetener does not contain much carbohydrate at all. Splenda (maltodextrin + sucralose) is low carb, even though the filler (maltodextrin is a carbohydrate with a short chain of glucose) has a high GI (100). Sucralose has a GI of zero, zero calories, and no carbs. One serving (1 teaspoon) of Splenda has about 0.5g of carbohydrates, which is rounded to zero on the nutrition facts label.  

 

  • Stevia in the Raw (glucose + stevia leaf extract) is a low carb sweetener even though the filler glucose is high GI. One serving of this sweetener is a packet and it has less than one gram of carbohydrates. Like Splenda and Stevia in the Raw, most sweeteners available to you in stores are blends of a variety of ingredients but even if you pay attention to the labels, read the ingredients list, serving size, and total carbohydrates, it is not easy to be sure a sweetener is keto friendly or not. For your convenience, I sorted out keto-friendly sweeteners by spending hundreds of hours researching them so you don't have to. Hope that helps!

What is the glycemic index of polyols_

Net Carbs of Sweeteners

Some sweeteners are not sugar-free nor carbohydrate-free but are promoted as having zero "net carbs". The terminology net carbs does not have a legal definition, but it is not prohibited under federal law and is in fact often used by manufacturers to promote their sweeteners. If you are tracking your carbohydrate intake and their impact on blood sugar level - such as in the the keto diet - it is useful to know it.

  • Net carbs are the total amount of digestible carbohydrates in a serving of a sweetener. There are several types of carbohydrates and our body digests them differently. They may be completely, partially or not digested at all. So the total amount of carbohydrates is not always the same as the net carb. Sweeteners act in one the following ways: (1) affect blood glucose dramatically; (2) low or minimal effect on blood sugar levels, or (3) no impact on blood sugar. Sugars (table sugar, honey, maple syrup) have a high glycemic response. Sugars alcohols (except erythritol) are slow-digestible or low-digestible carbs and so, are low glycemic sweeteners. Erythritolallulose, and dietary fibers are non-digestible carbohydrates and have no glycemic response. 

 

  • Net carbs are also referred as "available carbohydrates" or "counting carbohydrates". The net carbs of a sweetener are calculated by subtracting carbohydrates that have a low glycemic response from the total carbohydrates listed on the nutrition label. See image below for the formula.

How to calculate net carbs for sweetener
  • Note that sugar alcohols are not completely subtracted, with the exception of erythritol. Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that the body cannot digest into glucose at all (learn why here) so you subtract the total amount.

 

  • Keep in mind that a meaningful net carbs value may only be obtained in the actual food your consume with the sweetener and calculating the glycemic response in accordance with the actual serving size of the food.     

 

  • Example: Sola brand of sweeteners is promoted as having "0 grams of net carbs" but contains three sweet carbohydrates. Two are sugar alcohols (erythritol and maltitol) and one is a rare sugar called tagatose. Erythritol (2.5g) is not metabolized into glucose and, as a result, has a GI of zero. Maltitol (0.5g) does impact blood glucose levels but not dramatically.  Tagatose (1g) is a rare sugar that is not completely metabolized (provides 1.5 calories per gram; versus 4 calories per gram of regular sugars). Tagatose minimally affects the glycemic level. Therefore, Sola contains 4 g of carbs (1g of tagatose + 2.5g erythritol + 0.25g maltitol) but almost zero net carbs. Net carbs = 4 - (1+2.75) = 0.25 grams, which is rounded to zero by the manufacturer. 

What Sweeteners Are Not Allowed on Keto?

I list below sweeteners that are not keto-friendly and should be avoided:

  • Sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates, are the smallest and simplest type of carbohydrates. They are easily digestible and absorbed by your body, and even though some have a low GI (fructose = 19), they are NOT keto friendly:  

 

Sugars (also known as Caloric Sweeteners)

Blends with Less Sugar (Reduced-Sugar Sweeteners)

  • Be aware of zero calorie sweeteners with fillers such as maltodextrin or glucose. They contain minimal amount of carbohydrates per serving but they are NOT keto friendly if you are having too much of it. 

Stevia with Maltodextrin and/or Sugars

Monk Fruit with Maltodextrin and/or Sugars 

Aspartame with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose 

Saccharin with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose

Sucralose with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose