Now that you’re switching to low carb, you’ve probably found yourself with some sweet tooth cravings.
Most fruits and sugary snacks are off limits, but luckily you come across, the much debated about, sweeteners.
You’ve heard so much about how they’re terrible for your health, but many people have conflicting opinions on how they affect ketosis.
Having experimented with all kinds of sweeteners over the last few years, I thought I’d share my personal experience with consuming them.
Are Sweeteners safe for a Keto Diet?
Before I answer the question, first you need to understand the different types of sweeteners. Ruled.me has an excellent post highlighting all of the different kinds of sweeteners.
To sum it up, there are three common types, natural sweeteners (stevia, monk fruit), sugar alcohols (extracted from fruits, which the body doesn’t digest), and lastly, the artificial sweeteners (aspartame, splenda).
Natural sweeteners would be the best option when it comes to a low carb diet. They’re low in the glycemic index and don’t tend to carry any major negative side effects.
The other two types tend to have some common side effects which I’ll outline below.
Artificial Sweeteners & Sugar Alcohol Side Effects
After experimenting with all kinds of sweeteners, I noticed that artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols always had some sort of side effect on me. While they’re still zero to low calorie, and shouldn’t have a major affect on your weight loss journey, I would still consume them in moderation.Some of the common side effects that I have noticed:
Headaches and migraines
Even if these sweeteners don’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike, they’re still created with a mix of chemicals. I’ve noticed that migraines and headaches are common occurrences after consuming diet sodas (aspartame), or mixing splenda (sucralose) with my coffee. Everybody will react differently to these chemicals, but headaches are a commonly reported side effect of certain sweeteners.
Gastric distress or stomach pains
This typically comes after consuming sugar alcohols (commonly found in sugar free candies). Our bodies have a difficult time digesting sugar alcohols, which is why they’re considered safe for low carb dieting. They aren’t completely absorbed by the human body, thus resulting in a smaller insulin spike compared to regular sugars.
Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols tend to have a laxative effect on many. I know whenever I indulge on a box of sugar free chocolates, I always find myself in the bathroom, telling myself I’ll never eat them again!
Just because they say zero calories, doesn’t mean you should consume large amounts of sweeteners! Granulated sweeteners tend to contain bulking agents (maltodextrin) which contain small amounts of carbohydrates. While it may not seem like much, you could accidentally be going over your carb limit by satisfying your sweet tooth. To avoid these hidden carbs, powdered or liquid sweetener can be used instead.
Some sweeteners have also been known to cause insulin spikes which will have negative effects on your ketosis. I’m not a super technical person, but if you want more information on this, you can refer to the Keto FAQ on Reddit.
Increased cravings for sweets
Now this might just be a mental thing, but it’s easy to over consume sweeteners when they’re considered keto friendly. Rather than associating sweets as an occasional treat, it’s easy to over indulge if you’re in the mindset that there are no consequences for consuming them.
This will vary from person to person, but I find that it’s easy to drink a ton of diet soda instead of water since they’re both technically calorie free.
The Bottom Line
I would say that it’s safe to consume both natural and artificial sweeteners on a keto diet, but I would limit my intake. View them as a treat, rather than a necessity, especially when it comes to artificial sweeteners.
Rather than promote old eating habits, the keto journey is about adopting better eating habits. Limit treats for special occasions, rather than relying on them as a staple food!