The keto diet can do your health so much good, but what it won’t do is make your sweet tooth magically disappear.
Luckily, there are plenty of keto-friendly sweeteners to help satisfy your sugar cravings. Just scroll our pages, and you’ll discover a whole world of keto sweetness made possible thanks to these keto sugar substitutes.
But there’s something else you need to know: not all sweeteners labeled natural, sugar-free, low-carb, and zero-calorie are good for you on the keto diet. Some of these sugar substitutes can raise your blood glucose and insulin levels, while others are bad for health or don’t go well in baked goods.
Aside from the quite obvious offenders — sugar, honey, maple syrup, and molasses — here is a short but sweet list of less-known sweeteners to avoid on keto.
Most coconut foods are keto-friendly, but coconut sugar is a different story.
Coconut sugar is a natural sugar that has become popular lately, likely because it is less processed than table sugar and thus more nutritious . It also seems to have a lower glycemic index (GI) than table sugar, which may be another reason it has attracted the attention of those trying to lower their carb intake.
Coconut sugar (5g):
20 calories | 0g fat | 5g net carbs | 0g protein
Granulated sugar (4g):
16 calories | 0g fat | 4g net carbs | 0g protein
As you can see, coconut sugar is pretty high in digestible carbs, which will definitely show on your blood glucose levels.
Here’s another sweetener that’s attracted attention in the keto community. Yacon syrup is a natural product derived from yacon tubers with fewer calories and carbs than traditional sweeteners.
Here’s a nutritional breakdown of yacon syrup (1 tbsp) :
20 calories | 0g fat | 11g carbs | 0g protein
Notice that it has 11g of carbs per tablespoon, which is a lot on keto. However, most of these are fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which many classify as dietary fiber. In fact, studies found that over 20% of its carbs are FOS .
However, yacon syrup also contains some amount of digestible carbohydrates, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
How much FOS and digestible carbs this syrup will have depends on how yacon tubers are grown and processed, so amounts may vary. That’s why it is best to avoid this sweetener on the keto or use it only in small quantities.
Wondering what sweeteners to avoid on keto that belong to the sugar alcohols group? Maltitol definitely tops the list. This sugar alcohol is commonly recommended as a sugar substitute on low-carb and diabetic-friendly diets. However, it is not the best choice for keto.
Sugar alcohols, while generally keto-friendly, vary in calorie count and GI. Maltitol can be found higher up the list at 2 calories per gram and a GI of 35. For reference, table sugar has 4 calories per gram and a GI of 45 . In other words, maltitol has half the calories of table sugar. However, it is slightly lower on the GI, so the difference between the two isn’t significant enough to make maltitol keto-friendly.
You will find maltitol sold as a pure low-carb sweetener, but it is more commonly seen as a bulking agent in products labeled “sugar-free” and “low-carb.”
Make sure always to read the ingredients list on these products as many of these labels can be misleading.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener sold under several brand names, notably NutraSweet® and Equal®. While technically a zero-calorie sweetener, aspartame is controversial both as a keto ingredient and general sugar substitute.
First of all, unlike most other artificial sweeteners, your body can metabolize aspartame. As a result, aspartame provides 4 calories per gram — the same level as table sugar . However, since it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, you can achieve a high level of sweetness at very low doses. For example, a 1g packet of aspartame provides the sweetness of 2tbsp of sugar but near-zero calories.
Still, it’s one of those alternative sweeteners to avoid since it’s hard to predict how it will affect your individual insulin response to it. Furthermore, studies have found that aspartame increases subjective feelings of hunger in some people, and there’s limited understanding of its safety as a food ingredient .
Another keto artificial sweetener to avoid is saccharin. It’s sold under the brand name Sweet’N Low and is up to 400 times sweeter than sugar. The body can’t metabolize it, so it has virtually zero calories. However, saccharin is not the healthiest of sugar substitutes, and it doesn’t make the best baking ingredient.
Saccharine has been linked to a host of health problems, including a greater risk of certain cancers, changes in gut health, and even pre-term delivery . Saccharine also leaves a metallic aftertaste in baked goods and an unpleasant texture. Stick to natural and keto-friendly sweeteners instead!
A Final Word on Sweeteners to Avoid
Not all non-nutritive sweeteners and sugar substitutes are good for the keto diet. Some are simply caloric sweeteners masquerading as low-carb ingredients. Others are overall bad for your health. And then there are also those that don’t make the best baking ingredients.
Knowing which sweeteners to avoid on keto can help you enjoy low-carb desserts and get your keto diet benefits along the way. Make sure to stick to tried-and-true keto sugar substitutes and read the label before purchasing baking ingredients and sweets.
- Erythritol, the Sweet Ketogenic Diet Ingredient
- Monk Fruit: The Sweet Keto and Low Carb Ingredient
- Is Stevia Keto?
- Is Allulose Keto? A Beginner's Guide
- Swerve & Keto: Is Swerve Keto Friendly?
- Sucralose: Can You Use Splenda on the Ketogenic Diet?
- Homemade Low-Carb Keto Sweetener Blend
- Asghar MT, Yusof YA, Mokhtar MN, et al. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) sap as a potential source of sugar: Antioxidant and nutritional properties. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;8(4):1777-1787. Published 2019 Sep 30. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1191
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. COCONUT SUGAR. Apr 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/520260/nutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Sugars, granulated. Dec 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746784/nutrients
- Silva MFGD, Dionísio AP, Abreu FAP, et al. Evaluation of nutritional and chemical composition of yacon syrup using 1H NMR and UPLC-ESI-Q-TOF-MSE. Food Chem. 2018;245:1239-1247. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.11.092
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Organic Yacon Syrup. Jun 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/975017/nutrients
- Saraiva A, Carrascosa C, Raheem D, Ramos F, Raposo A. Maltitol: Analytical Determination Methods, Applications in the Food Industry, Metabolism and Health Impacts. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(14):5227. Published 2020 Jul 20. doi:10.3390/ijerph17145227
- Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(2):101-108. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/
- Sharma A, Amarnath S, Thulasimani M, Ramaswamy S. Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe?. Indian J Pharmacol. 2016;48(3):237-240. doi:10.4103/0253-7613.182888