Being on the keto diet means eliminating carbs and sugar from your diet. While this way of eating does a great job of resetting your taste buds so you’re not craving unhealthy foods, I find that my sweet tooth still kicks in every now and then.
Enter keto sweeteners. These life-saving sugar alternatives allow you to enjoy a sweet treat every now and then without causing insulin spikes and knocking you out of ketosis.
Not all low carb sweeteners are the same and so we’ll look at the best ones and the ones to avoid, zooming in on some of the most common keto sweeteners, namely monk fruit vs stevia vs erythritol.
It’s important to note that if you’re on the keto diet for weight loss primarily, you’ll still want to limit your intake of sweet treats, even these healthier alternatives. You can read about why having too many fat bombs and sweetened drinks can stall your weight loss progress here.
Why You Should Avoid All Low Carb Sweeteners on the Keto Diet
When I first started my keto diet, I was amazed that my intense sweet tooth was dissipating. I’m the type of girl that loves every type of dessert (except black forrest cake, go figure) and it was common for me to have a treat after dinner.
Ice cream on Sundays were a norm and I’d always be baking! Cheesecake was my specialty. Enter the keto diet. I found that being able to eat a very satiating diet of quality fats helped me to kick the need for anything sweet after dinner!
I was totally satisfied. I remember I would dabble in mug cakes in the evenings to satisfy my craving until I realised I could totally go without it and my “cravings” were more out of habit than it really was a need. Mindset is everything.
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Now that I have purchased some keto-approved sweeteners and started making keto desserts, I have found the research to be very true. All sweet treats affect your sugar cravings in the same way, no matter if you’re using a healthier sugar-alternative or not. You will find yourself wanting to eat more calories and more treats once you start to dabble in keto sweets.
When I first stumbled upon keto ice-cream and discovered how to make it creamier and eve more decadent, I started craving it every single night and my servings would get bigger and bigger. I knew I had a problem on my hands and went cold turkey on it because I wasn’t losing weight even though I was eating keto.
It’s easy to forget that calories still matter on this diet if you’re wanting to lose weight.
Now, I use my keto sweetener only for the occasional treat, not an everyday occurrence. I’ve even trained my taste-buds to love my coffee with creamer alone, no sweetener and with different flavour creamers that are actually MCT oil powder that helps to raise my ketone levels, it is still rich, creamy and delicious without causing any further sweet cravings.
The Best Keto Sweeteners
The best keto sweeteners are going to be those that have no carbs or calories and do not cause an insulin reaction in the body. These are the characteristics that make them safe for diabetics and low carb dieters to consume.
These low carb sugar alternatives should not kick you out of ketosis and so will be perfectly safe for an occasional sweet treat, just continue to be very aware that sweets of any type can trigger additional cravings.
It’s like consuming alcohol will trigger carb cravings. Who doesn’t want to shovel down a whole pizza and some greasy fries after a few fancy cocktails? Read about safe alcohol consumption on the keto diet here.
The most commonly available keto sweeteners that meet the above criteria are monk fruit, stevia and erythritol. Let’s look at them individually.
New to the keto diet? Start here! This will help you to figure out how to stick to this diet and make it a lifestyle for you
This is a fruit commonly cultivated by monks in China hence it’s popular name. It’s real name is Luo Han Guo and it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is now gaining popularity in the Western world because of it’s sweetness while also containing no carbs or calories.
The sweetener is made by crushing the monk fruit, infusing it with hot water and then heat-treating it to extract the sweetness that comes from mogroside found in the fruit’s meat. The result of this extraction is a light brown powder that can be up to 300 times as sweet as sugar, therefore needing much less to sweeten recipes.
Because of its sweetness, it is usually mixed with other sweeteners to balance it out and help with any bitter aftertaste. This makes it super important to read labels of sweeteners purchased to ensure they’re not using any fillers or other harmful ingredients.
Two popular brands of monk fruit keto sweeteners are Lakanto and SoNourished sweeteners. Both are mixed with erythritol to balance out the monk fruit’s sweetness and taste. Pure monk fruit is also rather expensive so mixing it with a cheaper sugar alternative makes for great value.
Erythritol is a substance found in some fruits and mushrooms. It’s a sugar alcohol made through a fermentation process. It does contain calories, only about .2 in a gram of the substance and is also around 65% as sweet as sugar.
It comes in a powder and granular form and if you taste it you will feel a cooling effect on your tongue. There’s no aftertaste really with erythritol which makes it a great ingredient to balance out other sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia which are both quite sweet on their own and will leave you with an aftertaste.
With erythritol being much less mild in sweetness than other keto sweeteners, it is the perfect substance to mix with them and get a 1:1 sugar substitute for baking and your other sweet recipes.
It’s also not as expensive as the others discussed here making it easier to get your hands on it in pure form.
I find the granular version works very well in teas, my keto ice cream and baked goods.
This is the brand I buy. The three pound bag lasts me a good two months especially since I have begun restricting how many treats I eat per week and have decided to get with the taste of pure unsweetened teas.
Stevia was the first natural no-calorie sugar substitute to enter the mainstream market. It’s derived from a plant in Paraguay, a country in South America, where it’s widely known and has been used for centuries.
It too can be as much as 300 times the sweetness of sugar and so a little goes a very long way. That’s why it’s common to buy stevia in a liquid form and use only drops of it in your drinks and recipes.
Stevia does have an aftertaste that some find off-putting. This is the reason it is also commonly mixed with erythritol to balance out its taste and sweetness. Pure stevia can be rather expensive as well. It’s very important to check the labels of stevia products you buy to ensure it’s not mixed with harmful fillers.
This is a great brand of pure stevia for those wanting it with nothing mixed in. This is an amazing brand of stevia and erythritol mix.
Monk Fruit vs Stevia Vs Erythritol: The Verdict
Anyone of these keto sweeteners are safe to consume while in ketosis. (And you can use these methods to get back in ketosis quickly if you’re knocked out).
What it boils down to is a personal preference for price, taste and texture.
Both monk fruit and stevia in pure forms are rather expensive. Stevia is great for drinks and making things like keto pancake syrups. Both of these natural sweeteners also have their own aftertaste.
Erythritol being a sugar alcohol derived through a fermentation process is much more widely available and a cheaper source of sweetness. It is low in carbs and calories like the other two mentioned and without an aftertaste, it makes for a great addition to your recipes.
Erythritol is also great to use to balance out the sweetness and price of the other two sweeteners since it is only about 65 – 70% of the sweetness of sugar where the other two are both up to 300% sweeter.
None of these keto sugar alternatives will spike your insulin or have any negative effects on your blood sugar when used in moderation. Stevia and monk fruit also carry other health benefits since they are naturally derived substances.
Sugar Substitutes to Avoid
When I just started my keto journey, I found a zero-calorie sweetener being sold in Jamaica that I thought was a great alternative to sugar. It was in powder form and sold in packets. It did have a slight aftertaste but was excellent at melting right out in my rinks whether hot or cold.
Turns out it contains maltilol, a sugar alcohol that’s just as bad as sugar itself. It raises blood sugar and insulin response and has about 2/3 the calories of sugar. Ugh. It also contained dextrose, another artificial sweetener that gets away with being called zero calorie but does in fact spike your blood sugar.
This is why it’s so important to read labels and make sure your sweeteners are pure. Other ingredients to avoid include maltodextrin, aspartame, saccharin and sugar alcohols other than erythritol.
Take it from a reformed sugar addict still trying to lose weight, it’s not worth it. Fat bombs and keto treats, although healthier than their mainstream counterparts, will still slow your progress and increase your cravings for more food.
Try to get used to having water, lime water, soda water, unsweetened teas and teas and water flavored with berries. Keep treats to once per week until you’re at your goal weight. Count your calories and stay within your macros if you want to lose weight and see long-term success on the keto diet.