If you’re on keto, one of the things you’ve probably been missing is the taste of sweetness. Whether that would be sweetened coffee, a bar of chocolate or just some fruit from the grocery store. Thankfully, keto recipes can get very creative and can recreate many of the flavors you’ve been missing. When it comes to desserts, keto sweeteners is something you need to substitute sugar for.
You may have already consumed one or more of these sweeteners whilst on keto, possibly without even realizing! Keto sweeteners are used in many low-carb and sugar-free products. Arguably the most popular are zero-calorie drinks and fitness supplements. You can also find all kinds of sweeteners in coffee shops, usually packaged in small, single-use bags.
You may have noticed that there are several different kinds of keto sweeteners out there in the market. It is difficult to choose the right one when you don’t know the difference. The good news, I’m here for you and I will try to shed some light on the available keto sweeteners and the differences between them.
Keto Sweeteners: Erythritol
Erythritol is a type of carbohydrate that falls under the category of sugar alcohols. Obviously, you’re not supposed to consume carbohydrates on keto. However, the good news here is that your body is unable to digest erythritol so it’s suitable for keto dieters! I will explain this aspect in detail a bit later.
Erythritol is naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables. However, it is usually produced from yeast, as a result of fermentation. This method is much faster and cheaper as naturally occurring amounts are relatively small. Nonetheless, the difficulty in production makes erythritol a bit more expensive than the competition.
How Does Erythritol Taste Like?
Taste-wise it is very similar to sugar. It is about 30% less sweet than sugar, but it only has 0.2 calories per gram. In the United States and European Union, this is can be considered zero-calorie.
Like with most keto sweeteners, you can expect an aftertaste. In case of erythritol, people report a cold-feeling sensation on their tongues. However, you can barely feel the aftertaste, especially when using it with other food products (e.g. coffee or baked goods). Also, some manufacturers mix erythritol with other keto sweeteners to suppress this unwanted aftertaste.
Another great thing about erythritol is that it caramelizes under high heat, making it a great option for cooking and baking. Other sweeteners usually don’t have this feature, so the final products tend to have a paler look than the ones made with erythritol.
The Benefits Of Erythritol
Obviously, one of the main benefits of erythritol as a keto sweetener is the fact that it virtually has no calories or carbs.
Erythritol, like many other sugar alcohols, cannot be digested by the human body due to its unique molecular structure. 90% of erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream and processed by the kidneys and expelled through urine shortly after (source).
It means that you pass this keto sweetener effortlessly and your body uses almost no energy. As a result, your body’s insulin and blood sugar levels remain constant. This makes erythritol a perfect sugar substitute for people with diabetes (source).
Generally speaking, the form of erythritol makes it a perfect replacement for table sugar. So, if you’re following a specific recipe, you probably won’t even need to adjust it. You can just use it in the same way as you would use regular sugar. There are even powdered erythritol version available, which work great for baking.
Another great benefit is that erythritol has antibacterial properties. This results in sweetener’s ability to prevent dental plaque buildup. As a result, this slows down tooth decay and can lead to a nicer smile in the long run (source).
The Risks of Erythritol
Erythritol has been widely regarded as safe to use. United States Food and Drug Administration has sent out numerous so-called “no-question” letters to erythritol manufacturers, which essentially means food is regarded as safe to consume (source).
The most common risk of erythritol is that when it is consumed in large amounts, it can cause stomach distress, bloating and nausea. This occurs because the remaining 10% of the sweetener enters the large intestine and causes irritation on the gut lining.
The good news here is that under normal use you’re unlikely to consume the amount which triggers this side effect. For this reason, most people feel completely fine after consuming erythritol.
Keto Sweeteners: Xylitol
Xylitol is yet another sugar alcohol based sweetener that is somewhat similar to erythritol. It’s been out in the market for a very long time and is much cheaper than the competition.
Xylitol naturally occurs in various plants and microorganisms. However, it is most commonly produced from plant fibres and trees (e.g. sugarcane fibres, birch wood, corn). Xylitol is also indigestible by the human body: more than half of it passes with urine.
However, xylitol has an immediate downside compared to erythritol. Xylitol has more calories – 2.4 cal per gram, to be precise. For comparison – table sugar contains 4 cal.
This means that in moderation, it can be a keto sweetener. However the calories and carbs can quickly add up. So, if you want or need to use larger quantities for a specific recipe, consider different, more keto-friendly sweeteners.
If erythritol is too expensive or hard to come by, xylitol can be a good erythritol substitute.
How Does Xylitol Taste Like?
The story is similar to erythritol. Xylitol tastes similar to sugar and has a slightly minty aftertaste. It is a little less sweet than sugar, ranging somewhere between 60-70%.
Xylitol is a common ingredient in chewing gum and toothpaste. So, you’ve probably already tasted it and have the idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that these products have other flavors to add minty-ness. The aftertaste isn’t that bad!
The Benefits of Xylitol
You may have guessed it – it’s similar to erythritol. The only difference is that the benefits are true if the sweetner is used in moderation.
Generally, it’s a low-carb sweetener that has around half of the calories of sugar, making it a healthy substitute for sugar. However, people on keto diet should either be very careful or use other keto sweeteners because it can be easy to step over the line.
Xylitol has a slightly higher glycemic index of 13, so it can slightly affect blood sugar and insulin levels. However, the effects are negligible in most cases (source).
Xylitol can also prevent tooth decay and the formation of cavities. This is the reason why the sweetener is common in chewing gum and toothpaste (source).
The Risks of Xylitol
The main risk of xylitol is stomach irritation, nausea and diarrhea. Compared to erythritol, more of it enters the gut so the effect is more pronounced. In addition, xylitol has laxative qualities, which can sometimes trigger an urgent trip to the bathroom.
It’s important to note that most of the time, you can avoid these side effects if you use this keto sweetener in moderation. Also, the effects can vary from person to person. Some people are more susceptible to the negative effects of xylitol than others.
Xylitol is also very toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can trigger hyperglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion (source). If you have xylitol or xylitol-based foods at home, make sure to keep them away from pets.
Keto Sweeteners: Stevia
Stevia is a completely different ball game when it comes to sweeteners. It is a keto sweetener that comes in many forms – from liquid extract to granulated, sugar-like powder.
It originates from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. South American ancestors used it for over 1,500 years as a sweet snack or as a way to sweeten their teas and medicine.
Only in early 1900s it was brought to the Western countries for research. Ever since then the marked was expanding. Nowadays, due to its use for sweetener production, it is grown almost everywhere.
How Does Stevia Taste Like?
Right off the bat it’s important to note how sweet stevia is. Compared to regular table sugar, this keto sweetener is 200-350 times sweeter. So, a little bit of stevia goes a long way.
Taste-wise, it’s sweet but it’s different from the sugar you’re used to. In addition, people usually feel a bitter aftertaste that somewhat resembles licorice.
All of this is the reason why it is a common practice to mix several keto sweeteners. If the mixture is right, most of the unpleasant aftertaste cancels out and the product tastes more neutral.
The Benefits of Stevia Keto Sweeteners
The greatest thing about stevia is that it has no carbohydrates and no calories, so it’s a great for people on keto. It’s strong sweetness also makes it easy to add the flavor that you’re probably looking for.
It has no effect on blood sugar or insulin, generally making it suitable for people with diabetes (source). However, use caution when buying stevia – sometimes it contains a mix of sugars like dextrose or maltodextrin.
Stevia Glycerite extract is also safe to consume and has a very low risk of side-effects (source).
The Risks of Stevia Keto Sweeteners
The Food and Drug Administration of United States have Stevia Glycerite extract to the list of foods that are generally recognized as safe. However, this is not the case for other stevia products like stevia leafs and raw stevia herb (source).
Non-nutritive sweeteners, including stevia can cause some disturbance in the gut lining (source). Also, when stevia is sold as a mixture with sugar-alcohol sweeteners, it can also cause some stomach irritation.
While not exactly risky, but the stevia has some drawbacks that turn people off. This includes its distinctive taste and the fact that it’s a little challenging to cook and bake with, mostly due to its difference from sugar.
What are The Best Keto Sweeteners?
Now that you know the main keto sweeteners available on the market, the next natural question is – which one is the best? Depending on your preferences, you may have already made up your mind by reading the descriptions above.
If you’re interested, I’ve put some short comparisons between each sweetener.
Erythritol vs Stevia
This comparison is a bit complex due to the differences between the two keto sweeteners. However, stevia has an edge when it comes to nutrition and side effects, both very important factors for people on keto diet.
Stevia is the only true zero-calorie and zero carbs keto sweetener out there. Erythritol, while very low on carbs, still has some calories and carbohydrates that your body can make use of.
Stevia also has no known major side-effects, as opposed to stomach irritation that erythritol can sometimes cause. Stevia also comes in several different forms that you can adapt to your meals and drinks.
On the other hand, erythritol has a taste that more resembles sugar. For this reason it is much more convenient when cooking or incorporating it into existing recipes.
The Erythritol vs Stevia winner will depend on your preferences and needs. For keto dieters, stevia probably would be a better option, however many might enjoy the taste of erythritol more.
Xylitol vs Stevia
The comparison is essentially the same as erythritol vs stevia. If you are considering between xylitol, refer to the comparison above. If you can’t pick between xylitol and erythritol, check the comparison below!
Erythritol vs Xylitol
They’re both sugar alcohols, so they’re relatively similar. They have identical taste and share most of the benefits and side-effects. However, erythritol has a lot less calories and produces less gastrointestinal discomfort. It also has more favorable effect on blood sugar and insulin. All of this usually means that you can consume more erythritol.
If you’re planning on cooking with a keto sweetener, erythritol might be your best choice. This sweetener is much more suitable due to its ability to caramelize and similarity to sugar taste-wise.
Xylitol, on the other hand, is cheaper and more nature-friendly as its extraction is much more simple. Personally, I think xylitol loses this comparison. For this reason, I would recommend erythritol, especially for people on keto diet.
What Keto Sweeteners to Get?
Naturally, the next question you might have is: what keto sweetener brand to get? There are many competing brands out there, so I’m sure you’ll find the one that works for you.
There’s just one thing you need to be aware of: read the labels. Especially if you are on keto, it’s important to keep track of carbohydrates and avoid them. Annoyingly, some sweeteners might have additives that contain carbohydrates.
I’ve listed some sweeteners that people most frequently ask about. However, I always advise you to check out your local grocery store or Amazon – you might find something you enjoy even more!
It’s a liquid version of stevia that is of a relatively thick consistency. People report that it has less aftertaste than stevia products that come in other, usually non-liquid, forms.
Just like all stevia products, stevia glycerite is insanely sweet. Just a couple of drops will be enough to sweeten your cup of tea or coffee. However, it’s important to note that due to its thickness, it can be a bit difficult to mix stevia glycerite with other liquids.
You may have stumbled upon Swerve Sweetener brand that claims to be the ultimate sugar substitute. Truthfully, what is Swerve Sweetener? The short answer is, it’s a erythritol-based sweetener mixed with some additives to provide a better taste.
One of the additives in this keto sweetener are oligosaccharides, which help maintain the good gut bacteria in the large intestine. According to Swerve Sweetener, it also contains some “natural flavor from citrus”, to enhance the taste even further.
From what I can tell, the product generally has great reviews from the consumers. The only problem is the higher price. However, this is a common story with many keto sweeteners.
This is probably the alternative to Swerve Sweetener to those who are looking for stevia-based keto sweeteners. It comes in granules, similar to the ones that sugar comes in.
For this reason it is suitable for general-purpose use, including cooking. However, it’s important to note that the product is still twice as sweet as normal sugar. So, if you’re substituting it for sugar, make sure to cut the amount in half to get the same sweetness.
Pyure Sweetener also contains erythritol, most likely to balance out the aftertaste. The true ratio between stevia and erythritol is unknown, but it’s not unlikely that erythritol takes up a significant part, considering the relatively low sweetness of the product (compared to pure stevia).
Keto Sweeteners: The Bottom Line
There are many keto sweeteners suitable for people on ketogenic diet. The three most popular ones take up the biggest part of the market. While each has its own benefits, but in the end people will probably choose from two options: erythritol or stevia.
Stevia is an extremely sweet keto sweetener that comes in several forms. It has basically no side effects and is FDA-approved as safe to consume. However, some people don’t enjoy both the taste and the aftertaste associated with stevia.
When that’s the case, people usually turn to erythritol. A sugar-like substance that works great for cooking and general use. The downside with this product is the price and the possibility of having gastrointestinal irritation.
There are also products that use a mixture of different sweeteners to attain better taste. Either way, the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to try several options and pick the one you enjoy the most!