If you’re going keto, you know that you need to focus on eating lots of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and very few carbs. But what about sugar or sugar substitutes? With so much information floating around, often it can be difficult to determine just exactly what the ketogenic diet’s stand is as far as sugar is concerned. The answer is pretty simple: it’s best to avoid sugar when on the ketogenic diet. That said, there are some sugar substitutes that many on the keto diet turn to occasionally if they’re needing something sweet.
Sugar and the ketogenic diet
Regular sugar is hard on your body whether you’re in ketosis or not. High levels of sugar intake have been linked to a number of different health conditions including diabetes, obesity, and even cancer and heart disease. Sugar is also addictive. It causes the release of dopamine which drives the body to crave even more sugar, often leading to overeating, which typically means excess calories and carbs.
Sugar is not only addictive and linked to a number of health diseases, but it also contains carbohydrates. Ketosis is when your body burns ketones instead of glucose for fuel, and eventually, instead of using carbs as energy, your body breaks down fats and uses them. In short, if you are getting too many carbohydrates, it’s hard for your body to make the shift to ketosis. Since sugar does contain carbs and has a number of other negative effects, it’s best to cut it out of your diet if you are aiming for ketosis.
Are sugar substitutes good for you?
If sugar is bad on the ketogenic diet, what about sugar substitutes? The benefit of sugar substitutes is that they generally contain few or no carbohydrates and are significantly sweeter than sugar. You should be aware, however, that some sugar substitutes are better than others. Natural sugar substitutes or natural sweeteners, for instance, are often seen as healthier than artificial sweeteners, as they generally come from more natural sources and contain fewer synthetic ingredients.
What are the most common sugar substitutes and sweeteners?
Some of the most common sugar substitutes are stevia sweetener, aspartame, sugar alcohols, yacon syrup, saccharin, cyclamate, coconut sugar, monk fruit sweetener, erythritol, sucralose, xylitol, and acesulfame.
What are the healthiest sugar substitutes?
Which of all of the sugar substitutes are the healthiest for you? There are pros and cons to almost every sugar substitute, but generally, the closer it is to the earth, the better. Natural sugar substitutes that are derived from plant sources, for instance, are generally argued to be healthier than their artificial counterparts. While there are a number of options, many keto dieters turn to stevia or monk fruit if they need a little something sweet.
Stevia vs sugar
When it comes to the stevia vs sugar debate and your overall health, stevia clearly wins. Stevia sweetener is derived from Stevia rebaudiana plant that grows most often in Brazil and Paraguay. Stevia sweetener is made up of high-purity steviol glycosides and in this form it is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. Unlike sugar, stevia has few or no calories and poses no major noted health concerns; it also has very few carbs. And not only is Stevia less harmful than sugar, it actually has a fair number of health benefits. It has been shown, in fact, that it can help significantly lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and may help those with diabetes. When it comes to the keto diet, it’s clear to see why stevia is that winner in the stevia vs sugar debate.
Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is made from monk fruit extract. While still very sweet, some believe it to be slightly less sweet than stevia. Much like stevia, monk fruit has almost no calories or carbs. Generally, monk fruit is also less refined and more expensive, and some say it has an unpleasant aftertaste. That said, monk fruit sweetener is thought to be one of the most natural sugar substitutes you can use, which is what makes it a sought-after solution. Keep in mind that you may pay a premium, but that it’s worth the cost.
Which sugar substitutes should you avoid?
In general, it’s best to avoid anything that is excessively artificial. Aspartame is generally seen as one of the more harmful sugar substitutes. That is largely because of the negativity surrounding it on the internet. Some have claimed that it is linked to cancer, but the American Cancer Society itself has largely debunked that myth. That said, when aspartame is digested by the body, it breaks down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. At very high amounts, methanol can be toxic. Aspartame is most commonly found in tabletop sweeteners and diet sodas.
So, while aspartame it is not the best for you, it’s hard to say that it would cause cancer. To put it in perspective, a person would have to drink more than 14 cans of 20 ounce diet soda per day to even reach the FDAs maximum acceptable daily intake, which is designed to be around 100 times less than the littlest amount that may result in health concerns for lab rats. In general, it’s best to avoid artificial sweeteners anyway, so aspartame should still be near the top of that list.
Healthy sugar substitutes: The big takeaways
While sugar on the keto diet is generally not advisable because of its addictive quality, calories, and carbs, a little bit of it is not going to kill you. That said, if natural sweeteners can be found and implemented, that is ideal. Better yet, completely avoiding sugar will keep your mind more sharp and focused on your goal. Often you’ll find that if you cut sugar out of your diet, you’ll stop craving it. You’ll not only find it easier to reach ketosis, but you’ll also lessen your risk of diabetes and other health conditions.