Best Sweeteners for Low-Carb Keto Diets Plus Sugar Substitutes to Avoid!

Best Keto Friendly Sweeteners For Low Carb Diets
Best Keto Friendly Sweeteners For Low Carb Diets

We know that the keto diet is a very low-carb diet which means that all of the food that we eat must be sugar-free.

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 sweeteners available that you can substitute sugar for, depending on what you’re cooking.

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Low Carb Sweeteners & Sugar Substitute for a Keto Diet
Our collection of Sugar Substitutes and Low carb Sweeteners for our Keto Diet.

We use a variety of sweeteners in our keto recipes, 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).

For example, we wouldn’t use pure Stevia in a fat bomb recipe that we wanted to taste like strawberries.

We might use Stevia if we wanted to create a sugar-free licorice, though.

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).

The Best Keto Sweeteners

1. Erythritol (Excellent for Baking)

Erythritol is a keto friendly sweetener that we use liberally in our recipes particularly in our low-carb desserts that require a crumbly consistency.

Also, Erythritol makes an excellent bulking agent for low-carb keto baked goods.

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).

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 bearing 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.

Monk fruit contains no calories and is 200 times sweeter than table sugar [1].

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 use 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 requires very little in 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.

Though people often feel a slight cold sensation in the mouth when eating xylitol. We use Xylitol sparingly as it can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Limit xylitol to some desserts that require little-added sweetness and the odd coffee.

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.
  • 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!

4. Stevia

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).

As 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

Stevia has some great nutritional qualities and it is all natural. If someone could bring that aftertaste under control, it would be our best 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 many of our baked keto recipes that require sweetening.

The sweetness of stevia is still evident in Natvia without the strong aftertaste.

Erythritols 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 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 a fiber carbohydrate (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 [2].

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)

Find yacon syrup here.

Sweeteners That You Should 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. The sweeteners you should avoid on a keto diet are:

  • Coconut Sugar
  • Honey
  • Palm Sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltitol
  • Sucralose
  • Splenda (contains dextrose and maltodextrin)
  • Agave Syrup
  • Cane Sugar (table sugar)
  • Dates
  • Dextrose
  • Maltodextrin

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 [3].

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 its 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 asp; 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:

Artificial Sweeteners

Table of artificial sweeteners with sweetness index, glycemic index, calories per gram and calories per spoon equivalent.

Read more about artificial sweeteners and the keto diet below.
NameCalories / GramSweetness IndexGlycemic IndexCalories / Spoon-Equiv
Sucralose060000
Saccharin030000
Aspartame418000
Cyclamate04000

Is Sucralose Ok On Keto?

A common question seems to pop up often and that being, 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 it is 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 that evidence suggests are cancerous [4].

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 good as Slenda for taste as sweetness.

For more information read our article on the dangers of maltodextrin.

Is Saccharin Keto Friendly?

Whether saccharin is keto friendly or not is debatable but there is so much controversy around it that we avoid it.

Saccharin may technically be keto friendly but our tip is to avoid it when there are more preferable options available.

This artificial sweetener is becoming increasingly hard to find in products anyway, so saccharin gets a big no.

Sugar Alcohols Sweeteners Nutritional Values

It is recommended that people on a Ketogenic Diet not consume food containing Maltitol due do its Glycemic Index.

More about sugar alcohols on low-carb keto diets below.
NameCalories / GramSweetness IndexGlycemic IndexCalories / Spoon-Equiv
Erythritol0.20.6511
Xylitol2.411210
Maltitol2.40.93511
Sorbitol2.60.55419
NameCalories / GramSweetness IndexGlycemic IndexCalories / Spoon-Equiv
Stevia030000
Monk Fruit030000

Natural Sugars Nutritional Information

It is recommended that no sugar is consumed on a ketogenic diet whether to sweeten or in or in fruits etc.

The below table shows the calorie and glycemic index of sugars all of which will spike insulin and blood glucose levels throwing you out of ketosis.
NameCalories / GramSweetness IndexGlycemic IndexCalories / Spoon-Equiv
Fructose41.7239
Sucrose416516
Glucose40.7510021
Dextrose40.7510021
Trehalose40.457036
Galactose40.32353
Maltose40.310553
Lactose40.1545107

Natural Caloric Sweeteners (other than sugar) Not Recommended For Keto

Honey and palm sugar are often substituted in "health" food shops as natural non-processed alternatives to refined sugar.

Both honey and palm sugar have a hi glycemic index rating and are not recommended for low-carb keto diets.
NameCalories / GramSweetness IndexGlycemic IndexCalories / Spoon-Equiv
Honey41.15014
Coconut Palm Sugar413515

References And Further Resources About The Safety Of Low-Carb, Keto Friendly Natural and Artificial Sweeteners:

[1] Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States

[2] Effects of oral administration of maltitol on plasma glucose, plasma sorbitol, and serum insulin levels in man

[3] Yacon syrup: Beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans

[4] Sucralose, A Synthetic Organochlorine Sweetener: Overview of Biological Issues

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If you have any cooking ideas with keto sweeteners and natural sugar substitutes let us know below, we’d love to hear them.

11 thoughts on “Best Sweeteners for Low-Carb Keto Diets Plus Sugar Substitutes to Avoid!”

  1. I live in the US, I see a lot of your recipes call for Natvia, however it’s rather pricy on Amazon. I already have erythritol and stevia, what ratio would you suggest I blend the two to substitute for Natvia? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Belinda,

      I believe Natvia is approximately 85% Erythritol and 15% Stevia, mixing your own will be a bit of trial and error based on whether you are using granulated, powdered or liquid version.
      If you don’t wish to mix, Erythritol can be substituted in the place of Natvia.
      I hope this helps

      Gerri

  2. Excellent article! I just couldn’t take any more of Stevia’s aftertaste. I was able to purchase several of the cited products with the exception of xylitol; the link kept redirecting me back to the beginning of the article. Thank you for your research, this article answered several questions for me.

    • Thanks Cheri,
      Yes Stevia has a destinct taste thats for sure, it would make an ecellent ingredient for licquorice or something.

      Thanks for letting us know about the link, we’ve fixed it ;).

  3. This is so good, and very helpful to a newbie:)
    THANK YOU!

    What can I use in my coffee/tea? I tried stevia and found the after taste to be too much

    • Hi Latoyia,

      Stevia does tend to have a funny aftertaste. I would recommend trying a brand of erythritol like Swerve, or a mixture of erythritol and stevia like Natvia.

    • Hi Lyn,

      Xylitol is the sweetener that acts the most like sugar and will make a nice thick syrup and takes a few weeks before crystallization starts. Keep in mind that sweeteners are different to sugar and working with them will take a little experimentation to get good results. I hope that helps 🙂

  4. I found this article extremely helpful and useful!~
    I would suggest however in listing the limitations/cautions with each sweetner, that Xylitol is deadly/poisonous to pets! I use it sparingly and because I have a cat and dog, if I was not aware of this fact, I may inadvertently shared some thing I made with them and it could have been deadly.

    • Hi Tina,

      We always warn about xylitol effects on pets in our recipes that use it. It’s very important that pet owners are aware of the foods that are toxic to their fur children!

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