If you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’re probably thinking that sweeteners are off limits. And for the most part, you’d be right! I mean, the whole point is to slash carb intake and keep sugars low in order to lose weight and feel healthier. So, goodbye donuts!
Yet, you actually CAN (and should in some ways!) have sweeteners when on keto for those times you need to indulge a bit in a sweet snack or dessert. You’re human, anyhow!
So, if you are going to give in to something rich and sugary, you want to make sure it is still free of or low in carbohydrate count and does not have additives in the sugar that will create blood sugar spikes or lead to swings and crashes later on.
If you do choose sugar that compromises your blood sugar levels—elevating them and throwing your metabolism off—then you might fall out of ketosis, which will cause the body to stop producing ketones and to start storing fat, rather than using it for fuel.
Luckily, there are great sweeteners to have on keto.
If you are unsure which sweeteners are keto friendly, we’ll break down how each sweetener compares on taste, sweetness level, reaction in the body, calories and carbs per serving, and cooking purposes or use.
Keto Sweeteners Cheat Sheet
Erythritol: 0 glycemic index, 5 grams of net carbs, only 20 calories per 100 grams. It’s a sugar alcohol so it passes right through the body. It’s also natural, affordable, versatile, and has about 70% the sweetness of sugar.
Monk fruit: The extract contains 0 glycemix index, 0 grams of net carbs, and 0 calories per 100 grams. However, it is often mixed with molasses, or sugar which can alter the carbs and calorie content so keep an eye for that. It has about 100-250x the sweetness of sugar and can be used in all the same ways.
Stevia: 0 glycemic index, 0 grams of net carbs, 0 calories per 100 grams. It has about 30-150x sweeter than sugar. Great for those with diabetes or on keto looking for an alternative. Often comes in powder or liquid form. Goes best with desserts, teas, coffees.
FiberYum: Very high gylcemic index of 35, which means it will spike your blood sugar levels to double that of regular sugar. It can knock you out of ketosis and trigger sugar cravings. It’s also very high in calories, roughly 660 per 100g.
Yacon Syrup: Packed with sugar and high in calories. Often results in digestive discomfort, nausea or diahrrea. While it only has 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams, this is not recommended on keto.
Tagatose: For some it can cause digestive issues and act as a laxative. It also tends to be very high in calories and net carbs which can derail your progress on keto.
View the full comparison chart here →
The Best Keto Sweeteners
Now, here’s a breakdown of the most keto-approved sweeteners and a few you should avoid. Here’s how they compare:
1. Monk Fruit
- Pros: Completely natural with a mild taste.
- Cons: Expensive and needs to be mixed with other lower-quality sweeteners to make it affordable.
- Taste: Mild, sweet, with some people reporting an aftertaste.
- Best uses: As a sugar substitute in most dishes calling for sugar.
- Pros: An affordable and versatile sugar alcohol that ranks zero on the glycemic index scale.
- Cons: It can cause bloating and diarrhea with larger doses.
- Taste: It has 70% the sweetness of sugar with a minty or cool aftertaste.
- Best uses: In fruit-based desserts where the aftertaste won’t cause problems.
Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the Stevia plant, aka sugarleaf or candyleaf. It’s one of the best sweeteners for keto dieters.
- Pros: It’s all natural and contains 0 calories. You need to use only a tiny amount to get the same sweetness level as sugar.
- Cons: It has a liquorice-like or bitter aftertaste, which might not taste great. It’s expensive compared to sugar and many other sweeteners and some people experience bloating and gas.
- Taste: 30-150 times sweeter than sugar with a liquorice hint.
- Best Uses: In low-carb desserts, tea, and coffee. Best when combined with other sweeteners to offset the aftertaste.
4. Sugar Alcohols
Xylitol and erythritol are examples of popular sugar alcohols.
- Pros: Affordable and won’t cause tooth decay.
- Cons: Some may cause bloating and diarrhea, especially in large doses.
- Taste: Many have a similar level of sweetness to that of sugar, but also leave a cooling aftertaste.
- Best uses: As a sweetener for drinks and desserts.
5. Inulin-Based Sweeteners
- Pros: A great prebiotic sweetener with many health benefits. Can also double as a texture-enhancing ingredient since it is a water absorber.
- Cons: Can cause digestive issues in some people.
- Taste: It has a mildly sweet taste, but it also enhances the sweetness of food.
- Best uses: For baked goods and creamy desserts.
Aspartame is the main sweetener found in many diet sodas and sugar-free packaged foods.
- Pros: It’s almost completely calorie-free. It’s good for dental cavity prevention. And it’s relatively affordable.
- Cons: Not the best sweetener for cooking. This sweetener is approved by the FDA and considered safe to use. The latest studies on aspartame have concluded that there’s no connection between aspartame and cancer.
- Taste: 200-times sweeter than sugar. Some report a metallic aftertaste.
- Best Uses: Use in cold and uncooked food because it tends to break down when heated, becoming less sweet.
- Pros: Affordable, easy to find, and can be used in small quantities.
- Cons: Animal studies found that it can negatively affect gut bacteria.
- Taste: Up to 1000 times sweeter than sugar.
- Best uses: In most desserts, drinks, and sauces.
- Pros: It’s a low-calorie and low-sugar sweetener that can be used on keto.
- Cons: It’s relatively new on the sweeteners market, so you might not find it being sold directly to consumers.
- Taste: It has 70% sweetness of table sugar and there’s no bitterness, as well as a cooling sensation.
- Best uses: In salad dressings, sauces, fillings. Usually found in low-sugar convenience food.
- Pros: Tastes identical to cane sugar and has no net carbs.
- Cons: Fairly expensive compared to some other sweeteners.
- Taste: Identical to sugar with no bitter or cooling aftertaste.
- Best uses: Can be used to sweeten desserts and drinks.
A sweetener belonging to the sugar alcohol group made from beet sugar.
- Pros: It does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels, and it does not promote tooth decay, like others do. It is also low in calories, providing half of the calories of sugar.
- Cons: It can cause flatulence and diarrhea in some people. In general, it should be eaten in small quantities to avoid side effects.
- Taste: It’s less sweet than sugar, but the type of sweetness is almost identical with no aftertaste.
- Best Uses: Popular for cake decorations. It has the same texture and appearance as sugar, so it can be used just like regular sugar.
A sugar alcohol with half the calories of regular sugar and a small effect on blood glucose, so it’s okay for keto.
- Pros: It’s a sugar alcohol so most maltitol passes through the digestive tract undigested and has 0 net carbs. It also behaves just like table sugar in cooking and baking.
- Cons: Doses of up to 40g can cause flatulence and doses of 90g and above diarrhea. So, be careful with how much you use. It has a high glycemic index but since it’s a sugar alcohol it doesn’t have that much of an effect on blood sugar. Still, use in moderation.
- Taste: Almost as sweet as sugar with a subtle cooling effect.
- Best Uses: Use it in small amounts to sweeten coffee, tea, smoothies, and baked goods. Avoid using it for making caramel candy and recipes that need a lot of sweeteners, since you cannot use large quantities.
- Pros: It’s heat stable, so it can be used in cooking and baking and it has no calories and does not raise blood sugar. A small amount is needed to achieve a high level of sweetness, which is another perk!
- Cons: It’s an artificial sweetener with no added health benefits other than helping reduce calorie consumption. It needs to be mixed with other sweeteners to remove the aftertaste.
- Taste: Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but with a metallic aftertaste.
- Best Uses: Sprinkling over food since, it isn’t very water soluble. Goes well in cookies, jams and jellies.
Which keto sweeteners are the best?
You cannot go wrong with erythritol, and that’s probably why it is most common, along with monk fruit.
You’ll find these in most chocolate snacks or coated foods, sweet but non-caloric or low-calorie beverages, protein bars, and more. The same with homemade baked goods!
“I mostly prefer erythritol because it is considered natural, because it is affordable, and it is fairly versatile,” says Sofia Norton, RD. Yet you can enjoy the others from the list that are recommended, too.
The Worst Keto Sweeteners
Here are the five sugar substitutes that are not recommended on the keto diet.
- Pros: Prebiotic and all-natural.
- Cons: There is a high possibility that it can raise blood glucose levels like glucose syrup, especially if it is enzymatically produced.
- Taste: It’s moderately sweet.
- Best uses: In baked goods, syrup for pancakes, protein bars.
2. Yacon Syrup
- Pros: Doubles as a gut-benefiting prebiotic.
- Cons: Very high in sugar and calories—not great. A teaspoon has around 2.8g net carbs.
- Taste: Similar to applesauce but sweeter.
- Best uses: Cookies, sweets and desserts.
Tagatose is a carbohydrate naturally present in some fruit and milk. (Use moderately on keto)
- Pros: It can work as a prebiotic, which will boost gut health and promote healthy digestion. And it’s recognized as safe by the FDA.
- Cons: High in calories relative to grams. It can have a laxative effect for some people at high doses, so be warned if you have a sensitive stomach. Not suitable for people with fructose intolerance. It’s expensive, relative to other sweeteners.
- Taste: 75-90% as sweet as table sugar. It’s neutral in sweetness and has no aftertaste.
- Best Uses: It’s an all-purpose sweetener suitable for cooking, baking, coffee, tea, and icing.
- Pros: Affordable, great for oral health, and similar to sugar.
- Cons: Has 2.4g net carbs per gram, a glycemic index of 7 and moderately high calories per serving.
- Taste: Comparable to that of sugar but with a mild cooling effect.
- Best uses: Best with baked goods. (Use moderately on keto as a versatile sweetener to avoid causing sugar spikes).
5. Maltodextrin (not splenda)
A natural sweetener and complex carb. Made from vegetable starch (wheat or corn) through partial hydrolysis.
- Pros: It sweetens and thickens food at the same time, and is relatively cheap compared to other sweeteners.
- Cons: It can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, which isn’t good for the heart and can lead to cravings. Some people develop allergic reactions, too, says Norton. It’s not keto-friendly and should be avoided on low-carb diets as well.
- Taste: It tastes mildly sweet, almost neutral in flavor.
- Best Uses: In recipes that need a thickener and sweetener like peanut butter and smoothies.
Which keto sweeteners are worst?
You can say goodbye to artificial sweeteners for sure and then a few others that are not recommended.
“I do not like yacon syrup simply because it won’t work well with a keto diet,” says Sofia Norton, RD. And the others on the list that are not recommended are FiberYum and Xylitol (only in moderation, as it can cause digestive discomfort in many people!).
Keto Sweeteners 101
What kind of low-carb sweeteners can I use?
“You can have a variety of non-nutritive sweeteners. Non-nutritive sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, contain few or no calories and sugar. This means they won’t raise your blood sugar or impact ketosis,” says Sofia Norton, RD and writer.
The best non-nutritive sweeteners are natural ones like stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. “Most natural sweeteners have been around for a long time and studies typically show they’re safe,” she says. So, you are totally fine to use them when making baked goods or sweetening your tea or coffee.
On the other hand, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can also be safe to use, but these are frequently linked to a range of side effects. So, you’re better off choosing the others instead, especially since more research is required to totally understand their effects on the body long term.
What sugar substitutes should I avoid or limit?
Avoid nutritive sweeteners, which are basically the ones that contain sugar and calories. That defeats the purpose of being on a weight-loss benefiting diet like keto, since it’s unnecessary calories and sugars to affect blood sugar levels.
Classic examples of sugar substitutes to avoid or limit on keto are:
- Table sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Corn syrup
- Agave nectar
“These are concentrated sources of carbohydrates (sugar) and will raise blood glucose levels significantly, keeping you out of ketosis,” she says.
You can and should always check product labels to look for these names. If you see them, ditch the bag and choose something else or make your own sweet treat instead!
How do sweeteners affect weight loss and weight gain?
“There is no evidence that sweeteners impact weight loss in any way on keto or any other diet for that matter. There are theories, however, suggesting that sweeteners can make us overeat by overstimulating taste receptors; that they disrupt the gut microflora, and that they affect blood glucose in some way, but these are yet to be proven,” she says.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published recently in BMJ found no strong link between sugar substitutes and problems with losing weight. With that said, we need to wait for more research to make a final conclusion.
Still, you can assume that enjoying the safe and natural sweeteners in moderation on keto is totally okay. You’ve got to indulge at times—for dessert, birthdays, etc.—and so doing so in a practical and smart manner is your best bet.
How do sweeteners affect insulin on keto?
Based on previous studies, researchers from Queen’s University, Kingston in Canada suggested that non-nutritive sweeteners stimulate taste receptors and cells in the gastrointestinal tract, which promotes the release of insulin and other hormones. This can maybe affect blood sugar levels, swings, and cravings when on keto.
What’s more, “this theory was explained in a study published last year in Nutrients and the same study also highlighted research linking non-nutritive sweeteners with changes in gut bacteria that can put someone at risk of insulin resistance,” she says.
However, these are still theories and more research is needed, so you can still have some sweeteners on occasion.
FAQ: Keto-Friendly Sweeteners
Here are a few more of frequently asked questions on sweeteners and sugar replacements.
What can be used as a replacement for sugar?
You can use any of the above sweeteners on this list as a replacement for sugar. Yet, we recommend going by our guideline and dietitian recommendations for the best and worst ones to pick in order to reap the most benefits on keto.
Can you have sweeteners on keto?
Yes, you can! The options are in this article, as well as our top recommendations for the safest and most keto-friendly options. As always though, enjoy sweeteners in moderation for when you need a sweet snack or dessert to settle your craving.
Which keto-approved sweetener tastes the best?
“I think most people would say erythritol because it is so widely used, is fairly cheap and because it’s not a overly sweet sweetener, ie. it is not 200x sweeter than sugar, so it is easier to dial in,” says Evans.
Can you have diet soda on keto?
You can have diet soda on keto, as there are no carbs or calories. Yet, more research is needed to truly determine the effects of diet soda on blood glucose levels and on craving tendencies. Still though it will likely not kick you out of ketosis.
Is stevia keto?
Yes, stevia is keto approved. Feel free to use it in baked goods, coffee and tea, and other sweets you make at home. It has a glycemic index of zero and will not disrupt ketosis.
Is truvia keto friendly?
Truvia is keto-friendly, like erythritol. “In fact if you look at what it is made of it is mostly erythritol with some stevia added. The reason I use the liquid stevia is to get just liquid stevia. The reason people like Truvia is that you get the combination of the super sweet stevia along with the flatter erythritol which makes it easier to mix into foods and recipes as it is not so super sweet,” says Evans.
Is honey keto friendly?
Honey can be keto friendly but it would have to be eaten in really small amounts. “It also depends on which version of keto you’re following; just low carb or the super keto 4:1 ratio diet. On the 4:1 keto you could not have honey but if you are just trying to cut back on sugar we often say, small amounts of real/natural honey is ok,” says Evans.
Do sugar alcohols count on keto?
Yes, sugar alcohols do count on keto and this can vary based on absorption. “I also think individual absorption can vary as well likely based on the microflora and individual digestion and absorption. Most sugar alcohols will list estimated carb based on expected absorption,” sayas Evans.
Xylitol is estimated around 50%. “I think this variable digestion/absorption is responsible for the variable or predicted GI symptoms. Some people get diarrhea from any sugar alcohol others can use massive amounts of erythritol without any issues,” he says.
Can you eat fruit on keto?
Fruit can be a part of a lower carb diet but if someone is moving toward the higher ratios, 2:1, 3:1 and 4:1 fruit will almost disappear. Berries are commonly used even in small amounts to keep fruit in the diet due to the fiber content, which helps offset the carb numbers.
Will vodka kick me out of ketosis?
Vodka has zero carbs, so vodka in theory is okay on keto. “If someone has a chronic disease diagnosis, I would say no we do not need the stress on the liver/body but If you are a healthy person on keto who likes a drink now and then technically it is ok. I think what vodka is often mixed with might be the issue for keto people,” says Evans. If you have hard liquor, keep it simple or with water or soda water, not sugary mixes.
Is aspartame bad for keto?
You can have aspartame on keto but it isn’t good for you, so steer clear. “It seems aspartame/phenylalanine is absorbed quickly, into the blood stream and because of this and the amount some people consume becomes an excitotoxin. This neuroimbalance can impact hormones including serotonin in some people even with just one diet soda,” says Evans.
Is stevia and monk fruit keto friendly?
Yes, both are keto-friendly and common. You can use both when making baked goods or cooking at home and you can enjoy products containing them. They have a glycemic index of zero and will not disrupt ketosis.
Is stevia and swerve the same thing?
No. They are the same in that they both will not disrupt ketosis but they are made from different things. Swerve is a blended sweetener and sugar substitute for low carb cooking. Yet it is made from a blend of erythritol and oligosaccharides instead of stevia. Swerve has no aftertaste and does not affect blood glucose levels, either.