With so many options out there, what are the best keto sweeteners and low carb sugar substitutes? Take a look at how stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, and others compare in this keto-friendly sweeteners guide!
There are so many sugar alternatives to choose from! How do you pick the best sweetener to use for low carb desserts and adding sweetness to other keto foods? It really depends on your preferences and taste.
If you’re new to a low carb diet, keto-approved sweeteners can help you break away from any sugar addiction and still being able to enjoy sweet foods makes a low carb eating plan more appealing.
However, I always caution people to use them in moderation.
📔 Quick note
Using a sugar replacement with an intensely sweet taste and no calories can have a downside. There’s at least one study that showed that when sweetness and calories were not balanced, the brain tries to balance things out by stimulating the appetite to consume more calories.
The study mentioned above was based on a popular artificial sweetener. But, I’ve found that sweet foods do tend to trigger me into overeating. So I recommend limiting keto sweeteners for occasional treats, especially for those who need to lose a lot of weight.
As one breaks away from sugar by moving to a keto diet, sweet foods tend to become less desirable. Therefore, the amount of sugar substitutes used tends to diminish when following a low carb lifestyle long term.
🌿 Natural-based sweeteners
I find that the healthiest sweeteners are natural based. And with so many options, there’s no need to use artificial sweeteners!
That’s why I use natural sweeteners for all my low carb recipes.
You may also notice that I like to use more than one sweetener. Blending sweeteners have a synergistic effect which gives a better taste allowing less sweetener to be used. And, it’s the reason why the most popular brands like Swerve and Lakanto use a blend of sweeteners in their low carb sugar substitutes.
So, let’s take a look at the natural-based keto sweeteners available.
Sugar Alcohols As Sugar Substitutes
Sugar alcohols are all-natural sweeteners but they aren’t well tolerated by some people with food sensitivities to certain sugars.
Some of the most commonly used sugar alcohols are:
Packaged foods using sugar alcohols don’t include them in the total net carb count. However, all sugar alcohols with the exception of erythritol, need to have at least half their carbs counted because there is some impact.
Therefore, it’s much better to make your own keto peanut butter cups instead of buying ones pre-made in a package (just to give you an example)!
Let’s take a look at each of these a little more in-depth.
Because erythritol is such a popular keto sweetener, I’ll provide additional information on this sugar alcohol.
It’s regularly used in keto recipes because it’s been shown not to impact blood glucose or increase insulin. Plus, it doesn’t have a laxative effect like other sugar alcohols.
Erythritol is only 70% as sweet as sugar and it has zero calories. But there’s a somewhat minty cool aftertaste to it. However, blending it with other sweetener can lessen the undesirable taste.
Since the digestive system can’t break it down, the carbohydrates in erythritol have no impact but, this may have a negative side effect where the body considers it a harmful substance. And if that happens, the body may trigger inflammation.
I tend to get gas and bloating if I consume too much erythritol but, I find it’s a great keto sweetener so I still use it in moderation.
Another popular sugar alcohol is xylitol but I don’t recommend it.
The main reason is that some of the carbs do impact and it can stop or slow down ketone production. It can also cause gas and bloating for those sensitive to it. Plus, it’s toxic to animals so it needs to be kept away from pets like dogs and cats.
However, some people do use it on low carb so it’s an option if you prefer it over other options.
Stevia comes from a plant and it’s many times sweeter than regular table sugar. In fact, stevia is about 250-300 times as sweet as sucrose (white table sugar).
It contains zero calories and will barely raise insulin and blood glucose levels. Therefore, stevia is one of the best low carb sweeteners for many people.
Baking with stevia can be an issue because it’s so much sweeter than sugar. That’s why products like Sukrin, Truvia, and Pyure are stevia and erythritol blends. Just watch out for any stevia products using maltodextrin because it can affect blood sugar and insulin.
Different Forms Of Stevia
Because stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, it’s difficult to measure the right amount needed. If more of it is used than needed, the taste can become undesirable.
A common criticism of stevia is it possesses a metallic aftertaste, especially if too much is used. But, some liquid stevia varieties are closer on the sweetness scale to sugar.
Stevia glycerite is one example!
If you don’t like the taste of stevia or can’t tolerate it due to a sensitivity or allergy, monk fruit is an excellent alternative. Like stevia, monk fruit has zero carbs and zero calories.
This makes it one of the best keto sweeteners to use!
Monk fruit extracts are more than 100 times sweetener than white sugar. Some products have been shown to be as high as 250-300 times sweeter than sugar.
However, if controlling blood sugar and sweet cravings is important to you, it’s best to stick with pure monk fruit without other added low carb sweeteners.
What are the best keto-approved monk fruit sweeteners?
The biggest benefit to monk fruit is that it’s very low on the glycemic index and most people prefer it over stevia as it has a cleaner taste.
But, I like to combine the two sweeteners in most recipes like:
Does monk fruit impact insulin?
There seems to be conflicting results on whether monk fruit extract can spike insulin. Since there is no sugar or carbs, the extract doesn’t raise blood sugar.
However, there is a study where monk fruit did impact insulin. In this study, it was shown that mogrosides, the naturally sweet compounds in monk fruit, increased insulin secretion.
This increased insulin response may actually be beneficial, though. Stimulating insulin secretion benefits those with insulin resistance because it helps them to respond better to glucose.
Allulose Sugar Substitute
Allulose is the talk of the town right now in keto circles. Why? It’s a natural sugar that doesn’t raise blood sugar!
Since allulose behaves more like sugar, it gives homemade keto ice cream a softer texture so it’s more scoopable when frozen. And, using it in baked goods like cookies also provides the softness that’s often missing without conventional sugar.
Like monk fruit, allulose scores a zero on the glycemic index. This is because it isn’t metabolized like other sugars.
It’s known as a rare sugar because it’s found in very few foods. There are trace amounts of it in figs, raisins, dragon fruit and maple syrup.
How many calories are in one gram of allulose?
The calories in one gram of allulose are far less than regular table sugar. White sugar contains 4 calories per gram while allulose has only ⅓ of a calorie per gram.
There may even be benefits to consuming this rare sugar. One study shows that it can improve insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels.
However, because it’s still fairly new, allulose tends to be more expensive than other keto sweeteners. So, you may want to hold off until the price comes down.
Prebiotic Fibers: Inulin & Oligofructose
Prebiotics are the fiber that the probiotics in your gut snack on. Consider it food for your good bacteria.
The two main prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose.
- Inulin is often produced from chicory root.
- Oligofructose is a component of inulin that’s isolated by using an enzymatic process.
Fiber helps you feel full. Thus, if you’re using inulin (like chicory root) in your recipes, it might help with portion control.
Since inulin is only 35% as sweet as sugar, it’s often combined with another sweetener. The sweetener Swerve is probably the most popular keto sweetener containing prebiotic fiber. Swerve contains a blend of oligosaccharides and erythritol.
With a low glycemic index of only 3, tagatose may be an option.
However, it does contain more carbohydrates than other low carb natural-based sweeteners. There are about 35 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of tagatose.
It’s a simple sugar that’s usually isolated from the lactose in cow’s milk. And, since it caramelizes like sugar, it’s often added to keto brown sugar replacements like Sukrin Gold. Being 75-90% as sweet as sugar often allows it to be used as a one-for-one sugar replacement.
Pentose is a sweet component of the winter squash kabocha which is isolated to create a kabocha extract sweetener. It’s an ideal keto sweetener because it has zero calories and no impact on blood glucose!
🌟 Popular sweeteners
If you’re on a ketogenic diet and need to stay in a state of ketosis, stevia or monk fruit extracts are your best bet. BUT, stick to the pure extracts with no added erythritol or other bulk sweeteners.
Favorite Stevia Brand: SweetLeaf
The SweetLeaf Sweet Drops brand of liquid stevia is one of my favorites and it comes in a variety of flavors. Stevia in general contains about a handful of grams of carbs but, that’s not per serving (teaspoon). That’s per 100 grams, which is about 20 teaspoons.
As long as you use a pure stevia extract with no maltodextrin or dextrose (another sugar from corn), stevia is keto-friendly.
Favorite Monk Fruit Brand: Lakanto
When it comes to monk fruit, I like the Lakanto brand. But, like stevia, stick to the ones that aren’t blended with erythritol or other bulk sweeteners.
Blending the stevia with monk fruit often provides a better taste than using just one. I think it’s the perfect low carb sweetener blend!
Downside To Low Carb Sweetener Extracts
The downside of sweetener extracts is that they can be difficult to measure accurately. However, with zero measurable carbs per serving, I find them to be the best for ketogenic diets.
Because they are hard to measure and they lack volume, pure extract sweeteners don’t work that well for baking. So I recommend using stevia and/or monk fruit blended with erythritol when a bulk sweetener is needed.
🛑 Sweeteners to avoid
The best keto sweetener is one that contains zero measurable carbs per serving. Pure monk fruit and stevia extracts are excellent options.
I avoid the below sugar substitutes because of their high-carb content, which can increase blood sugar levels and interrupt ketosis:
- Honey: For a regular diet, pure honey is a healthy sugar substitute rich in antioxidants and other nutrients. As a keto sweetener, it is not ideal due to its high calorie and carb count.
- Maltodextrin: A sweetener made from rice, corn, and other starchy plants. Because it contains as many calories as regular sugar, avoid pure maltodextrin or any keto sweetener that has it.
- Coconut sugar: It has a high fructose content, which can be as troublesome as sugar during your keto diet.
- Dates: A healthy and natural alternative for sweetening desserts, but its high-carb content makes it an unsuitable keto sugar substitute.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup contains high levels of sugar and carbs, making it a no-no for your keto breakfasts.
- Agave nectar: Beware of any product that contains agave nectar. It is 85% fructose, causing insulin resistance and wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels.
🧪 Artificial sweeteners
With so many natural-based keto sweeteners to choose from, there’s no need to use artificial sweeteners. Many studies indicate that most artificial sweeteners can have some negative effects like stimulating the appetite resulting in overeating or altering gut bacteria.
That’s why I recommend sticking to natural sweeteners!
However, I’m providing information on popular synthetic sweeteners as they are used in some keto products.
Sucralose, often sold under the brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener that is created by chlorinating sugar to replace three hydroxyl groups with three chlorine atoms.
Recent studies show that sucralose does break down when heated so it isn’t a good choice when baking as potentially toxic chemicals are released. It’s also been shown to increase appetite making which can result in overeating.
If you choose to use sucralose, stick to the concentrated liquid version instead of the powder. The powdered kind like Splenda adds dextrose and maltodextrin which aren’t keto friendly.
Once a popular sweetener, saccharin is rarely used these days after animal-based tests concluded that saccharin was a potential cancer-causing substance.
Saccharin can also have an undesirable bitter taste, especially when cooked.
Acesulfame Potassium (K)
One benefit that Acesulfame K has over other artificial sweeteners is that it’s stable under heat. But, it does have a bitter aftertaste which is why it’s often blended with another sweetener.
It has been shown to affect the gut bacteria and body weight in animal studies so it’s best to avoid it.
Though popular in soft drinks, aspartame isn’t recommended for baking as it can break down and become bitter with an undesirable aftertaste. There’s a lot of reports linking the artificial sweetener to cancer, headaches, weight gain, and other potential ailments.
⚖️ Conversion chart
Now that you know more about low carb sweeteners, you may have chosen one or more as your favorites. But, how do you replace one sugar substitute for another?
I’ve come up with the following chart to help!
Since most of my recipes call for a one-for-one sugar replacement, I’ve added sugar at the top of the chart for reference.
|Sugar||1 tsp||1 Tbsp||¼ Cup||⅓ Cup||½ Cup||1 Cup|
|So Nourished Erythritol||11/4 tsp||1 Tbsp + 1 tsp||1/3 cup||1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp||2/3 cup||11/3 cup|
|Now Better Stevia||1/32 tsp||1/16 + 1/32 tsp||3/8 tsp||1/2 tsp||3/4 tsp||11/2 tsp|
|SweetLeaf Stevia Drops||5 drops||15 drops||1/2 tsp||2/3 tsp||1 tsp||2 tsp|
|NuNaturals Monk Fruit Extract||1/64 tsp||1/32 + 1/64 tsp||1/8 + 1/16 tsp||1/4 tsp||1/4 + 1/8 tsp||3/4 tsp|
|It’s Just Monk Fruit Extract||1/32 tsp||1/16 + 1/32 tsp||3/8 tsp||1/2 tsp||3/4 tsp||11/2 tsp|
|Lakanto Liquid Monk Fruit Extract||4 drops||12 drops||3/8 tsp||1/2 tsp||3/4 tsp||11/2 tsp|
|NuNaturals Monk Fruit (liquid)||8 drops||24 drops||3/4 tsp||1 tsp||11/2 tsp||3 tsp|
|Lakanto Classic||1 tsp||1 Tbsp||1/4 cup||1/3 cup||1/2 cup||1 cup|
|Pyure All Purpose||1/2 tsp||11/2 tsp||2 Tbsp||2 Tbsp + 2 tsp||1/4 cup||1/2 cup|
|Truvia Spoonable||3/8 tsp||11/4 tsp||1 Tbsp + 2 tsp||2 Tbsp + 1 tsp||31/2 Tbsp||1/3 cup + 11/2 Tbsp|
|Hoosier Hill Farms Allulose||1 1/4 tsp||1 Tbsp + 1 tsp||1/3 cup||1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp||2/3 cup||11/3 cup|
|Micro Ingredients Inulin||1 Tbsp||3 Tbsp||3/4 cup||1 cup||11/2 cup||3 cups|
|Zint Xylitol||1 tsp||1 Tbsp||1/4 cup||1/3 cup||1/2 cup||1 cup|
|NuNaturals Tagatose||1 tsp||1 Tbsp||1/4 cup||1/3 cup||1/2 cup||1 cup|
|BochaSweet Kabocha Extract||1 tsp||1 Tbsp||1/4 cup||1/3 cup||1/2 cup||1 cup|
🧮 Conversion calculator
NOTE: Conversion may vary by brand so check the single-serving amount which is typically equivalent to the sweetness of 1 tsp sugar and adjust accordingly.
For small measurements, use a mini measuring spoon set. A “pinch” measure can be used for 1/16 tsp and a “smidgen” measure can be used for 1/32 tsp. I also recommend buying a complete measuring spoon set that has a 1/3 tsp measure and a 1/16 tsp spoon!
Even with all this information, it can be confusing to wade through all the choices. Here are some answers to the questions I get the most about low-carb sugar substitutes.
Why Avoid Sugar During a Keto Diet?
White or brown sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, delivering 100% carbs. Adding real sugar, in any form, to your diet will stop your body from entering ketosis and burning fat instead of carbs for energy.
What is Worse Than Sugar?
A sugar substitute to avoid at all costs is fructose. It is more dangerous than real sugar because it goes straight to the liver, causing fatty liver and insulin resistance when consumed in excessive amounts.
Many manufacturers market fructose-sweetened products as low glycemic because, unlike white sugar, it slowly raises blood sugar. That doesn’t change the fact that the product is high in carbs and unhealthy.
Are Diet Soft Drinks Safe During a Keto Diet?
Diet soft drinks may not contain real sugar, but they do have lots of artificial sweeteners. The wrong sugar substitute will ruin your keto diet and lead to substantial weight gain. Also, consuming sweet-tasting things too often will lead to cravings for more sweets, which is bad for your health and diet.
Stick to drinking only water, tea, coffee, or sparkling water during your keto diet. Alternatively, make a low carb smoothie out of berries and unsweetened yogurt.
Can I Use Zero-Calorie Sweeteners Without Limits?
When on a diet, everything you ingest must be in moderation, including how you use zero- or low-carb sweeteners.
Also, be careful when picking zero-calorie sweeteners!
Many products advertised as low-carb sweeteners contain carbs due to their use of other ingredients, such as glucose and maltodextrin. Examples of such products are:
- Splenda packets
- Stevia in the Raw
- Sweet’ n Low
Are Synthetic Keto Sweeteners Safe?
Synthetic or artificial sweeteners come from combining various chemicals. According to the FDA, most artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption when used in moderation. However, several studies indicate that products, such as Equal, may cause adverse effects, such as triggering overeating or altering gut bacteria.
📚 Related resources
If you found this whole post about keto sweeteners to be helpful, take a look at some of these other resource posts I’ve put together to help you!
- How To Start A Low Carb Diet
- Low Carb vs. Keto: Which Is Better?
- The Best Keto Foods For Burning Fat Efficiently
- Ultimate Guide To Baking With Coconut Flour
- Best Keto Recipes At Low Carb Yum
Post updated in November 2020. Originally published July 2018.