We all know that sugar is something you have to avoid on a keto diet, but what about sugar substitutes on a keto diet?
In this post, we will discuss the things Dr. Keith has tried and discovered regarding sugar substitutes on his ketogenic journey.
Can I Use Sugar Substitutes on My Keto Diet? 2 Fit Docs Answer The Questions [Video]
We Get Asked This Question A Lot…
This is 2 Fit Docs, where we turn weight loss resistance into weight loss success. We have been following Keith as he completely overhauled his diet and transformed his body for the past year. Keith has lost a total of 80 pounds following a ketogenic diet.
Of course, one thing that does not work on a ketogenic diet is sugar. In fact, we often get this question from people that are trying to follow along with what you’ve been doing:
“Can I use sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners on a keto diet?”
So, Keith, what are your thoughts on this question?
Yeah, well, you know, there are some sugar substitutes that we say yay and some that we say nay.
The Blue, Pink, & Yellow Packets
Okay, let’s start with an easy one. So, we’ve got the blue, pink, and yellow packets. These are the sugar substitutes that many of us are familiar with; You’ll find them in restaurants.
We would give all three of these packets a thumbs down. So, let’s just quickly go through why we would say no to them.
Equal (Blue Packet)
Okay, so we’ve got aspartame, which is Equal. This is a sweetener primarily used in products like diet coke.
I believe it is considered an excitatory?
Yes, aspartame. So the chemical in aspartame (aspartate) acts as an excitotoxin for your brain cells, which can’t be good.
Anytime you hear the word ‘toxins,’ it’s usually not good.
Splenda (Pink Packet)
Right, so Equal is out. Let’s talk about Splenda.
Splenda is sucralose, which means it begins as sugar, but then it is chemically transformed into a sugar alcohol.
Yeah, it’s kind of sneaky.
So, sucrose is the chemical name for sugar, and sucralose is what we find in Splenda. So sucralose comes from sugar, which means it does have a caloric value.
Right, this one has some ill effects, especially if you have any thyroid issues. This is because it causes problems with the digestion of and absorption of iodine and zinc.
Yeah, and iodine is the nutrient for the thyroid. So if you do have hypothyroidism, I would steer clear of Splenda. It can cause your body to not absorb iodine as well. Iodine is what activates your thyroid hormones, so you definitely want to stay clear of that.
Sweet’n’Low (Yellow Packet)
Sweet’n’Low, which is saccharine.
When I think of this one, I think of the early days of dieting. We’re old enough to remember Tab. I don’t know if anyone else does, but yeah, it was like a terrible after-taste.
So, there again, we don’t go for any of these three packets.
Now, a problem with a ketogenic diet is that being in ketosis will cause acid production. Acid comes with acetone (a type of ketone), and it will also cause bad breath.
Right, acetone is one of the ketones your body makes, and the way it is excreted is through your breath. This leads to you getting ‘keto breath.’
So, if you work with the public, as Keith does, that presents a problem. What is your solution to that?
Well, I drink a lot of coffee, but that presents its own set of problems. But typically, I have to have something; A breath mint or gum, just something, and finding a breath mint or gum that works with my diet can be challenging.
I’m in the office for eight hours a day, face-to-face with patients, and I need to find some way to make my breath not stink.
So, we looked at a lot of different gums to combat this problem, and Orbit sugar-free gum is where we have settled. (shown below)
The reason this one is okay is that it contains xylitol.
Xylitol has some pros and cons. The big con is if you get too much of it, it can give you some stomach distress. However, I don’t think that a few pieces of gum are going to cause that to happen to me.
The pro is that it has been found to prevent bacteria that cause tooth decay in your mouth from forming and getting in there. So that is a plus side to this sugar substitute.
Right, so that is why we picked a chewing gum that is sugar-free with xylitol.
Xylitol is not necessarily one of the least safe, (Is that the way to say it?), but it also could help with tooth decay.
So now we don’t do a lot of baking; We pretty much stay away from sweets, and we really don’t do a lot of artificial sweeteners, for that matter. This is because we don’t want to introduce all those sweets, but that’s a story for another day.
However, when we do bake something, we use Swerve.
One recipe in our 21-day challenge is our chocolate peanut butter fat bombs, which are very good.
They are excellent.
For that we’ll use swerve confectioner type.
Keith also makes a fat-fortified coffee with Swerve. It’s kind of like your version of keto coffee. For that, you use the granular type of Swerve.
These are mainly just consistency preferences.
Right. In my blended coffee, I’ve started adding a tablespoon of 100% cacao baking powder. It’s very bitter, so I found that I need to take that bitterness away. To do that, I use a teaspoon or so of the granular swerve, and it takes that bitterness away. As you said, we don’t use many sweeteners, but sometimes it is helpful for certain recipes.
Right, and there’s a couple of positives to swerve. One positive is that it can be used as a one-to-one ratio when you are baking something.
So if you have decided to go no sugar, but you have a family recipe that you just don’t quite want to give up, I would recommend that you experiment with swerve.
If your baking, I would use the confectioner’s swerve. For example, if the recipe had called for a cup of sugar, just use a cup of Swerve, experiment with it, and see what you think of the taste.
So that’s one of the pluses. The other plus I would say is that the artificial sweetener used in this tends to be a safer sugar alcohol, and I always have trouble pronouncing its name. What is it, Keith?
Erythritol. So I’ll just point to you every time I want to say…
Thank you. This is a sugar alcohol, and sugar alcohol kind of gets a bad reputation because it can cause some digestive issues. That’s not the case with…
…because of the way it’s handled by your body.
For the most part, it passes through without being digested, so it is just kind of eliminated from the body. It also has…
Those are actually a natural product taken from certain vegetables, beans, and other things like that. So, that component makes it through your digestive tract and can go down into your gut, where the bacteria of your gut can digest it.
It then acts like fertilizer in your gut. That’s what we refer to when we talk about prebiotics. It’s kind of like fertilizing those good bacteria in your gut. So there could be some pluses there.
Anything else we want to talk about with this?
No, I don’t think so. I mean, we don’t use a lot of sugar substitutes on a keto diet. We don’t want to feed our sweet tooth.
But sometimes, you need to have them in recipes, and we try to normalize our life as much as we can.
One last sweetener that we wanted to talk about because we get many questions about it is stevia. Also, some people just want to know what you can use instead of one of the packets.
We think stevia is fine to use, but you have to pick the right brand.
Sweet Leaf is absolutely a brand that you would want to choose. Here are a couple of reasons why:
Do you want to cover that one?
Well, when we were first looking in the grocery store for stevia, I think we must have spent ten minutes looking at every single packet of stevia. Almost all of them had bulking agents added, and most of the bulking agents turned out to be sugar, maltodextrin, or dextrose.
Yeah, those sneaky names for sugar. They don’t just put sugar on the ingredients list, but they will add maltodextrin or dextrose, which is basically sugar.
Also, they have to put some type of bulking agent into the stevia, and there is a good reason for it. Stevia leaves are very, very sweet, and it is a very intense sweetness. I think it’s like 300 times that of sugar.
So you would only need a few tiny crystals, right? Well, you can’t just pack up a few small crystals. So the food manufacturers have to put a bulking agent in there so that it is usable and so it can sit on the shelf.
Unfortunately, probably to save cost and things like that, many of them will put in maltodextrin or dextrose or something like that. Well, you want to stay clear of those.
Sweet Leaf actually uses inulin, which is derived from onions and other vegetables in that family. Again, they can act as a prebiotic in your gut. So, Sweet Leaf, or another brand that also uses inulin, is the much better choice if you are going to go with stevia.
Need A Place To Start?
All right, so that gives you an idea of how we utilize sugar substitutes on our keto diet. To try to maintain some health value, we don’t use a whole lot of them, but we do have a few recipes in our 21-day challenge that utilize swerve. So if you want to check that out, you can learn through our website.