The things most people miss when on a Low carb or Keto diet is desserts and sugar in their tea and coffee.
Good thing, there are various Low carb sweeteners that can be used to enjoy the occasional dessert while following such diets.
The sweeteners that can be used into three major categories Natural Sweeteners, Synthetic Sweeteners and Sugar Alcohols. Let’s look a little more in detail.
1. Natural Sweeteners
These are plant-based sweeteners. Made from edible plants. Using a natural plant based sweetener is a good choice but that does not mean all natural sweeteners are healthy, some might contain carbs which would kick you out of ketosis.
It is necessary to make a good informed choice when choosing which sweetener to use.
Following are the natural sweeteners one can use:
- Stevia: Stevia is a natural non-nutritive plant based sweetener. It has a 0 glycemic index, 0 calories and 0 net carbs. It is about 100-300 times sweeter than sugar. It does have a unique bitter aftertaste of its own, but is generally a great alternative to sugar on a keto diet or for people for diabetes. While buying make sure it is 100% pure stevia as it is sometimes mixed with other carb heavy sweeteners.
- Monk Fruit: Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from monk fruit plant. It contains natural sugars. It has a 0 glycemic index, 0 net carbs and 0 calories. It is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar. But make sure to read the nutritional label while buying since it is sometimes mixed with sugar or molasses. The only downside is that it tastes a little different than sugar but is still palatable than most other sweeteners. There are no harmful side effects and it also contains antioxidants which fight inflammation.
2. Synthetic Sweeteners
These are synthetically produced artificial sweeteners.
Even though generally considered as safe these artificial sweeteners may or may not cause you to eat more, hinder you gut micro biome and cause inflammation.
Some synthetic sweeteners maybe better than the others. Let’s look at a few:
- Sucralose: It is a zero calorie artificial sweetener. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Pure sucralose has a 0 GI and can be used similarly as stevia. It does not get absorbed by the body. Since it’s an artificial sweetener, it’s better to take it in moderation only.
- Saccharin: It is one of the oldest synthetic sweeteners available. It is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar and is needed is very small quantities. Even though it is heat stable so good for baking and cooking, it has a bitter aftertaste and other sweeteners need to be used In order to mask it. Other than that there is a lot of controversy related to the side effects it causes, so it is best one skips it.
- Aspartame: Aspartame is probably the most controversial sweetener of them all. It is associated with several side effects and better to be avoided.
3. Sugar Alcohols
This is a category of carbohydrates which are resistant to digestion. They can be naturally or artificially produced. Made up of a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule but are different to the alcohol which causes intoxication.
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They may cause certain amount of digestive discomfort when used in higher amounts.
Following are some of the sugar alcohols available:
- Erythritol: Since it is a sugar alcohol and passes right through the body. It is natural sweetener and has 80% the sweetness of sugar. It does not impact blood glucose or insulin levels in individuals. Has no side effect unless consumed in high doses. It might cause some digestive discomfort but that’s it. It is safe and causes no impact on ketosis or weight loss. Is extensively used in baking and is also quite affordable.
- Xylitol: It is the most similar to sugar in terms of sweetness. It is a natural sugar alcohol. Has a very good impact on dental health it prevents cavities and increase calcium absorption in teeth. Commonly used in chewing gums. It causes a higher amount of digestive discomfort than erythritol so people with digestive issues best avoid it. It is found that xylitol is toxic to cats and dogs. So be careful if you have pets. It is affordable and anti-bacterial in nature. It works well for use in most desserts since it is the most similar to sugar. May cause a little decrease in ketone production.
- Maltitol: Maltitol is commonly used in sugar free products. Its bakes and taste very much like sugar and has half the calories of sugar. Its spikes the glucose and insulin levels in the body. Its better avoided. Many also complain of the laxative effects maltitol has. It’s commonly associated with stomach issues including bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain, more so than xylitol and erythritol.
GI, Net carbs and Calories in Various Sweeteners:
|Sweetener||GI||Type||Net Carbs (Per 100g)||Calories (Per 100g)|
|Allulose||0||Natural||0 – 5||20 – 40|
|Monk Fruit||0||Natural||0 – 25||0 – 100|
We need to avoid Sweeteners like table sugar, Jaggery, Honey, Coconut Sugar, High Fructose Corp Syrup( HFCS), Dates, maple syrup.
All in all, we would recommend you use either stevia, monk fruit or erythritol since they can be easily incorporated in recipes and are safer than the others.