Have you ever asked yourself why sweet things taste so good? Essentially, glucose is the first (but not the healthiest or only) source of energy our bodies use first, so that’s most likely the reason why we have evolved to find it so deliciously attractive.
However, when avoiding sugar entirely, we tend to reach out for other ways to satisfy our sweet tooth’s desire in the form of sweeteners. Today we’re going to see how sweeteners affect our bodies and what kind of sweeteners are appropriate when following a ketogenic diet.
Artificial sugars and your body
The consumption of sugar, as we all know, has a negative impact on our health, both in the short and long run. It can make us gain weight, which can cause weight-related illnesses, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc. Artificial sweeteners were made to taste exactly like sugar but without its calories. The main goal was to have a sweetener that we could eat and use like sugar, but without the health side effects of sugar. But, as we have mentioned in several articles, calories are the least of our worries.
What remains unknown for many, is that however, some artificial sweeteners sometimes have negative effects on the body and brain as well. In fact, they can have some negative effects that sugar does not. Real and artificial sugars are processed differently in our brains, stomach microbes, and pancreas. This can cause us to eat and crave more sweet foods, gain more weight, and have a harder time digesting the real sugars that our bodies need, most importantly, some can even raise our blood sugar levels, to an extent, our insulin levels as well. Artificial sweeteners and real sugar should be consumed in moderation. The thing with artificial sweeteners is that they kind of trick our brains and bodies into thinking they are treats or sugar, and sometimes they can have some negative health consequences, as we’ve seen.
It’s fair to say, that not all sweeteners are created equal. Not all of them are artificial. Natural sweeteners like honey, dates, stevia plant, fruit, monk fruit, allulose, erythritol sweetener, etc. are good for our overall health and can be enjoyed without guilt. That means that you can still enjoy snacks or desserts with clean ingredients, or a bit of sweetener on your morning coffee without harming your health. So, keeping all that in mind, let’s see what kind of sweeteners can be used while following a ketogenic diet.
How the Glycemic Index (GI) affects our blood sugar
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own. The higher the GI of a food, the greater it raises blood sugar. When the body has too much glucose, it begins to produce insulin, to combat a higher carbohydrate and higher glycemic-index diet and to bring the blood sugar level down.
The GI is a tool that’s always used to promote blood sugar management. Several factors influence the GI of a food, including its nutrient composition, cooking method, ripeness, etc.
The GI can not only help increase your awareness of what you’re putting on your plate and in your body but also help understand weight loss, decrease your blood sugar levels, and reduce your cholesterol.
What sweeteners can I use on a ketogenic diet?
As we know, following a ketogenic diet involves primarily cutting back on high-carb foods like starches, desserts, and processed snacks, among others. This is crucial to reaching a metabolic state called ketosis, which causes your body to begin breaking down fat stores instead of carbs to produce energy. Ketosis also requires cutting and reducing sugar consumption, which can be challenging for some people, especially when consuming beverages, baked goods, sauces, and dressings.
Fortunately, there are a handful of low-carb sweeteners that you can enjoy, and will not raise your blood sugar levels or harm your body are not harmful to your body.
1. Monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener is a natural sweetener that’s 100-250 times sweeter than sugar but contains no carbs or calories.
Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from the monk fruit, a plant native to Southern China. It contains natural sugars and compounds called mogrosides, which are antioxidants that are responsible for the sweetness of the fruit.
This sweetener, as we’ve seen, contains no carbs and no calories, making it a great option for a ketogenic diet, it can be used the same way you’d use regular sugar.
One thing to keep in mind is to make sure to check carefully the ingredients label when buying monk fruit sweetener, as sometimes monk fruit extract is mixed with sugar, molasses, or other sweeteners. We recommend that you use the purest and with fewer ingredients monk fruit sweetener whenever it’s possible.
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It’s considered a nonnutritive sweetener. This means it contains little to no calories or carbs, which makes it perfect for a keto diet.
Unlike regular sugar, studies have shown that stevia may help lower blood sugar levels. Another remarkable difference with regular sugar is that stevia is much sweeter, so recipes equire less amount of stevia to achieve the same flavor. For example, for each cup or 200 grams of sugar, you will only need 1 teaspoon or 4 grams of powdered stevia.
You can find stevia in both liquid and powdered form and it can be used to sweeten the same things you would with sugar.
Erythritol is a type of food additive called sugar alcohol. This name can be misleading since it is a sugar alcohol, but not in the way most people think.
Most sugar alcohols significantly spike your blood sugar and they contain ethanol (drinking alcohol), however, erythritol is the exception. Because of it’s 0 GI it has no effect on blood sugar which means it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes either.
Erythritol is a great choice for keto since it has few side effects and close to zero net carbs and no calories.
The bottom line
Most artificial sweeteners can have a negative impact on our bodies when used regularly or in abundance. Switching to a natural sweetener and using them in moderation as a part of a healthy and balanced diet can be helpful and a healthier option to still enjoy sweet treats and take care of our body.
Following a ketogenic diet involves limiting carb intake and cutting sugar consumption in order to reach a state of ketosis. There are many natural sweeteners available on the market that can be still used on a keto diet.
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