Natural keto sweeteners are essential in many low-carb recipes to keep them sugar-free, healthy, safe, and palatable, so we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on sugar substitutes for you to reference.
Cutting out sugar can be quite daunting for anyone that’s used to adding it to sweeten everything from coffee to snacks and desserts.
Luckily there’s a great variety of keto-friendly, low-carb, and natural sweeteners available that you can substitute sugar for, depending on what you’re cooking.
We use a variety of sweeteners in our keto recipes, and none of them will throw you out of ketosis.
All of the sweeteners and sugar substitutes that we use in our recipes are natural and healthier than sugar.
Both artificial and natural sweeteners have varied intensities and flavors. (we always keep our sweeteners natural).
Our recipes just wouldn’t be possible without sugar substitutes. The sweetener we use is dependent on the recipe we’re cooking.
If you’re ever concerned about whether a sweetener or any food is affecting your ketosis, use a Blood Ketone Meter (everyone on Keto should have one and track their ketone levels regularly).
1. Erythritol (Excellent for Baking)
Erythritol (along with erythritol blends) is our most used sweetener in cooking; we keep plenty of it on hand due to its easiness on the stomach and clean sweetness (no aftertaste).
Also, Erythritol makes an excellent bulking agent for low-carb keto baked goods.
Is Erythritol Keto Friendly?
Erythritol is a keto-friendly sweetener that we use liberally in our recipes, particularly in our low-carb desserts that require a crumbly consistency.
While we can tell slight variances in the taste of desserts with erythritol vs. sugar, we cannot tell which is the sugar dessert or the erythritol one. Just that there is a slight difference.
One point to note is that erythritol is not hygroscopic (it does not attract moisture).
For this reason, when making recipes that require a moist texture, we use a blend of erythritol and stevia such as Natvia (or another natural sweetener, depending on what we’re trying to achieve).
If there were one contender as the best sugar substitute for baking cookies or crackers, and we could only choose one, it would be Erythritol.
What is erythritol?
- Erythritol occurs naturally in fruits and from fermentation.
- It is a sugar alcohol;
- It has zero impact on blood sugar and no side effects unless eaten in large doses.
- When taken in large doses (that you just wouldn’t), nausea is the most common complaint.
- Erythritol is very easy on the stomach and doesn’t cause bloating or gas like some sweeteners do in higher amounts.
2. Monk Fruit Sweetener (Luo Han Guo)
Monk fruit sweetener is the natural sugar substitute that is extracted from the monk fruit. The botanical name for monk fruit is “siraitia grosvenorii”, and is also known as “luo han guo”, monk fruit is found in areas of South East Asia.
Monk fruit bears its name from the Buddhist Monks who would collect the melon-type fruit, then dry it and use it in herbal teas for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.
Is Monk Fruit Keto Friendly?
Monk fruit is very low carb and keto friendly; it contains no calories and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
This sweetness comes from a chemical within the monk fruit called mogrosides.
There are no known side effects to consuming monk fruit, and it’s recognized by the United States Food and Drug Administration as being safe.
Monk fruit is keto-friendly, and you can use it in low-carb baked recipes where sweetness is required. Start with adding a little bit at a time so as not to over-sweeten.
What is monk fruit?
- Monk fruit is an excellent sugar substitute for keto, paleo, and other low-carb baking recipes.
- Monk fruit is 200 times sweeter than sugar, so you require very little when cooking.
- Monk fruit is no carb and does not spike insulin.
- Monk fruit is generally free of side effects.
- There’s some suggestion that monk fruit may have anti-inflammatory benefits.
3. Xylitol Antibacterial Natural Sweetener
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that has antibacterial properties. It has a close resemblance to sugar without any aftertaste.
People often feel a slightly cold sensation in the mouth when eating xylitol. We use Xylitol sparingly as it can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Is Xylitol Keto Friendly?
Yes, xylitol is Keto friendly but limits it to some desserts that require only a little-added sweetness and the odd coffee as it can upset stomachs in higher doses.
What is xylitol?
- Xylitol has the added benefit of being anti-bacterial
- It has been used in medicine to control middle ear infections
- Xylitol’s anti-bacterial properties protect your teeth from decay-causing bacteria, and it is often found in sugar-free gum for this purpose.
- Gastrointestinal discomfort may occur in doses upward of 50gram of Xylitol.
Be aware that xylitol is toxic to dogs, so don’t feed your keto snacks to Scooby!
Stevia is a natural plant-based sweetener with a sweetness 150 times that of a corresponding amount of sugar.
We use Stevia, but only in certain recipes and often as a blend with Erythritol (see Natvia below).
Stevia has a unique aftertaste, kind of like aniseed when used on its own in things such as tea or coffee.
What is stevia?
- Stevia has no impact on blood sugar.
- Stevia contains magnesium, zinc, potassium, and vitamin B3.
- Due to its sweetness, a lot less of it is required.
Is Stevia Keto Friendly?
Stevia is Keto Friendly and has some great nutritional qualities, plus it is all-natural.
If someone could bring that aftertaste under control, it would be our favorite sugar substitute for baking.
But that aftertaste is intense, and it really needs to be blended with erythritol.
When stevia is used sparingly or blended with others, it makes a fantastic sugar substitute for low-carb baking on a ketogenic diet.
5. Natvia (Stevia and Erythritol blend)
Natvia is a blend of stevia and erythritol, which makes it excellent for low-carb, ketogenic baking it’s what we use in many of our baked keto recipes that require sweetening.
The sweetness of stevia is still evident in Natvia without the strong aftertaste.
Erythritol’s bulking properties remain to make it the perfect addition to cookie and cake recipes.
Natvia is available on shelves in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. If you’re from the United States or elsewhere, you can get Natvia here from Amazon.
6. Swerve (Natural Keto Sweetener blend)
Swerve is another blended Keto-friendly sweetener product that acts as an excellent sugar substitute in low-carb cooking.
Like Natvia, Swerve is a blend of erythritol but with oligosaccharides instead of stevia.
Swerve has no aftertaste and does not impact blood glucose levels.
Swerve is ideal for cooking and is equal to sugars sweetness pound for pound. It works excellently as a sweetener in tea and coffee also.
Many people have substituted Natvia in our keto recipes for Swerve when Natvia is unavailable to them.
The tip here is to add the sweetener sparingly at first until you get the sweetness you require.
What are Oligosaccharides?
Oligosaccharides are fiber carbohydrates (your body does not absorb them) found in certain fruits and vegetables.
Oligosaccharides have no impact on blood glucose and are beneficial in harvesting good bacteria in your digestive system.
7. Yacon Syrup
Yacon Syrup is made from the roots of the yacon plant. The syrup that is extracted from the Yacon plant is very sweet in taste and is excellent for making sugar-free sauces (not at high heat, though).
Yacon syrup is processed in a similar fashion to that of maple syrup using an evaporator.
Is Yacon Syrup Keto Friendly?
A 2009 study actually found yacon syrup contributed to weight loss in obese patients with insulin resistance. This was due to the yacon plants’ high concentration of fructooligosaccharides.
Be aware that Yacon Syrup should not be used for high-heat dishes as the fructooligosaccharides break down past boiling point.
What is yacon syrup?
- Yacon Syrup is high in antioxidants.
- Yacon Syrup is a great source of potassium.
- Yacon Syrup has been proven to improve insulin resistance in obese patients.
- Yacon Syrup is high in fiber (just be cautious in high doses).
The Best Keto Sweeteners
List of the best Keto Sweeteners that we use regularly.
- Monk Fruit Sweetener
- Yacon Syrup
Sweeteners To Avoid On A Keto Diet
Aside from sugar, there are a variety of other foods commonly used to sweeten food that you should avoid on a keto diet.
Any substance that is used to sweeten that spike insulin or raises blood glucose levels should be avoided at all costs on a keto diet.
List of the sweeteners that you should avoid on a keto diet:
- Coconut Sugar
- Palm Sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Splenda (contains dextrose and maltodextrin)
- Agave Syrup
- Cane Sugar (table sugar)
Beware of Maltitol in Low Carb Products
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol like erythritol. But unlike erythritol, maltitol has a high glycemic index (as you will see in our table of sweeteners below).
Though maltitol’s glycemic index (GI) is significantly lower than refined sugar, it still has a GI above 30 and will impact blood sugar levels.
Is Maltitol Keto-friendly?
Maltitol is not keto-friendly and should not be used to sweeten products or recipes for those wanting to achieve ketosis.
Despite maltitol’s high GI rating, manufacturers and retailers still try to sneak it into products to fool the unsuspecting consumer.
What is Maltitol?
- Maltitol has far too much of an influence on blood sugar levels for the keto diet.
- Many on-the-shelf “low-carb” protein bars contain maltitol as the sweetener.
- Maltitol does not legally have to be included in “net carbs” on nutrition labels, but it does have to be listed as an ingredient (look for it, if it’s there, don’t buy the product).
- Maltitol is one of the most common sweeteners used in low-carb powders, meal replacements, and low-carb baked goods.
If you want to avoid products containing maltitol, consider choosing them from a keto-specific food company that will not include misleading ingredients.
These types of specialty companies have a customer base that tends to be well educated on nasty fillers and sneaky sweeteners.
Smart companies are beginning to replace maltitol with natural sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol that do not impact blood glucose.
Grabbing the educated segment of the health food market as consumers get smarter about food labeling.
Nutritional Values of Artificial Sweeteners & Sugar Substitutes
Below you’ll find the nutritional values of the most common artificial sweeteners, natural sugar substitutes, sugar alcohols, and common sugars.
We’ve broken the different sweeteners in the tables below into four columns:
- Calories per gram
- Sweetness Index
- Glycemic Index
- The Calories per teaspoon equivalent
The nutritional values are as follows:
Is Sucralose Keto Friendly?
Studies have shown that sucralose does not affect blood glucose or ketosis so technically, it is keto-friendly.
But that does not mean that you should include it in your keto diet, especially if you want to stay natural.
Research states that at high heat, sucralose becomes unstable and produces hydrocarbons. Evidence suggests hydrocarbons are cancerous.
So at least do not cook or bake with sucralose as a low-carb sweetener at high heat.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener, so we tend to avoid it, especially when there are so many natural alternatives.
Is Splenda Keto Friendly?
Splenda is a blend of dextrose, maltodextrin, and sucralose. It is not recommended for keto diets (see sucralose above).
Better blended alternatives to Splenda are Swerve and Natvia, which are both blends of natural keto-friendly sweeteners.
We use both Swerve and Natvia they are excellent keto-friendly baking ingredients and work just as well as Slenda for taste as sweetness.
For more information, read our article on the dangers of maltodextrin.
Is Saccharin Keto Friendly?
Saccharin may technically be keto-friendly, but our tip is to avoid it when more preferable natural sugar alternatives are available.
This artificial sweetener is becoming increasingly hard to find in products anyway, so saccharin gets a big no.
References And Further Resources About The Safety Of Low-Carb, Keto-Friendly Natural, and Artificial Sweeteners:
If you have any cooking ideas with keto sweeteners and natural sugar substitutes, let us know below, we’d love to hear them.