Is Keto Sugar Free? Our Nutritionist Explains The Difference

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Is keto sugar free and are your favorite sugar free finds truly keto-friendly? Our keto nutritionist has the answer.

making keto pound cake using lakanto monk fruit

I always hear, “is keto sugar free?”

This is a very common question, especially when people are first entering the keto world. You know you’re supposed to avoid sugar on keto, so sugar-free items should be a safe bet, right? You see “sugar-free” and your brain thinks “carb-free”, which means it’s keto. It’s pretty sound reasoning.

Pictured above – our keto brownies! 🤤

But does sugar-free really mean something is carb-free? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Sugar-free does not mean carb-free. An item can be made with a sugar-free sweetener but still contain a lot of carbs. For example, a sugar-free brownie could be made with regular flour, which means it has all the carbs from that flour even though it’s sugar-free.

Don’t get me wrong, sugar-free products will definitely save you some carbs, just don’t assume that sugar-free equals carb-free.

keto junk food — bag of sugar free reese's mini peanut butter cups

Sugar-free does not automatically mean keto!

If a sugar-free item is loaded with carbs and not the best ingredients, it’s not keto-friendly. When following the keto diet, your goal is to keep your carb intake as low as possible, typically 20 to 30 grams of carbs a day, in order to stay in ketosis. Eating too many carbs will cause a spike in your blood sugar which will kick you out of ketosis.

keto chocolate chip cooks on a plate

Now, that’s not to say that sugar-free items can’t be keto. You could have a keto chocolate chip cookie that’s made with almond flour, coconut flour, a keto sweetener, and no-sugar-added chocolate chips. That cookie would be considered keto.

Which sugar is the best sugar replacement in keto baking

How can you tell if a sugar-free item is keto?

The main thing is to carefully read food labels and recipe ingredients. Check for any carbohydrate ingredients and look at the nutrition information for the total carbs, fiber, sugar, sugar alcohols, and net carbs per serving. We include all this information in our recipe posts and keto product review posts.

Spoonful of Lakanto monk fruit sweetener

What are sugar-free sweeteners?

Another way to tell if a recipe or product is keto-friendly is to know your sweeteners. Sweeteners can be classified as artificial or natural sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners do not occur naturally in nature. The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: acesulfame, sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and neotame. While these sweeteners are calorie-free, there is some concern that they can have negative impacts on your health.

It is thought that they can hijack your system into craving more sweet foods, which then can replace healthier items like meat and vegetables. They are also linked to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. So while these sweeteners are sugar-free, many clean keto eaters don’t consider them keto-friendly.

is keto sugar free - monk fruit is an approved keto sweetener

What are keto-friendly sweeteners?

Natural keto sweeteners include sugar alcohols, stevia, and monk fruit. Note that not all of these sweeteners are calorie-free, but they still contain fewer calories than regular sugar. They will also keep blood sugar stable and keep you in ketosis.

Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates derived from plants that your body cannot digest very well. Because your body cannot break down and absorb the sugar alcohols, they have a low glycemic index, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar. Check out this article for more information on low glycemic index sweeteners.

The most common ones are xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and mannitol. They can be used as probiotics and have also been shown to help prevent cavities. However, be aware that sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress in some people.

latte with NuNaturals Pumpkin Syrup

Stevia is made from a mint-like herb plant and is also considered to be a keto-friendly sweetener. Speaking of Stevia, it’s that time of year again, time to hop on the pumpkin spice syrup train! 😆🎃 The NuNaturals pumpkin spice stevia-sweetened syrup is SO good.

Another good option is monk fruit. Note that most monk fruit you get at the store is blended with erythritol. It is possible to find pure monk fruit but it’s expensive!

Read all about monk fruit here.

A hand holding a bag of keto sugar free Swerve Brown sweetener

So next time you reach for that sugar-free treat, take a minute to look at the ingredients and the nutrition information. Does it contain any carbs items like flour? What sweetener is used to make it sugar-free? These questions will help you determine if that treat is truly keto!

spatula with keto cinnamon rolls

Speaking of treats, make our keto cinnamon rolls!

Want more information on keto sweeteners? Check everything to know about monk fruit

About the writer:

Emily graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Idaho, holds 5 years of blogging experience, and has been featured in Every Day Health and Women's Health Magazine.

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