Even if you have just begun your ketogenic diet, you may have already learned that it’s darn near impossible to cut sugar entirely out of your diet.
It is surprising to learn that many foods deemed “healthy” by the average consumer are very high in net carbs and sugar. This leads to just about everyone wondering, “can I eat fruit on a ketogenic diet?”
You may also be surprised to learn just how much sugar is really in your favorite desserts and soft drinks. Now that many commercial goods are labeled as “sugar-free,” it’s difficult to navigate what you can and can’t enjoy on a keto diet.
This guide will explain how artificial sweeteners are used in many foods and which ones you can include as sugar substitutes in your cooking and baking.
Also included in this guide is a handy ketogenic diet fruit list that explains which natural fruits can be enjoyed in moderation, and which ones you should avoid, to stay in ketosis.
Keto Fruits vs. Artificial Sweeteners
Although it’s best to avoid “sweet” foods most of the time while on the keto diet, there are ways to satisfy any sweet tooth without ruining your state of ketosis. However, including sugar in your diet has to be done strategically.
Generally speaking, there are two ways to enjoy sweet flavors in the keto diet: fruits and artificial sweeteners.
We have included a sizeable keto diet fruit list in this guide, that can be enjoyed in moderation, without going over your carbohydrates for the day. The natural sugars in most fruits make for a delicious treat after dinner or at the end of a long week.
Keep in mind, though, there are also a handful of fruits you still need to avoid on the keto diet since their sugar content is far too high.
The second way to add a little sweetness to your diet is through artificial sweeteners. Choosing the correct sweetener to include in your diet can be a little trickier than munching on a handful of berries.
In this guide, you’ll learn how your body reacts to artificial sweeteners and why some are okay to ingest and why some should still be avoided.
Artificial Sugar Demand
Why is there a significant demand for artificial sweeteners, and how are they any different from regular white sugar?
Artificial sweeteners are human-made, synthetic sugar substitutes that are safe to consume in place of regular sugar (2).
Sometimes, artificial sweeteners are derived from natural origins, such as herbs and plants, and other times they are derived from sugar itself (2).
You can also expect artificial sweeteners to taste far sweeter than regular sugar. This means you can get a higher level of sweetness while using less sweetener.
This point alone is a popular reason for choosing artificial sweeteners over the keto fruit list or white sugar (sucrose).
You may have noticed that over the past several years, there has been an increase in “sugar-free” and “diet” items in all types of food items.
When you see these labels, it means the sucrose has been replaced with an artificial sweetener. This leads many to believe that the food items are healthier to consume, but this is not always the case.
Not everyone understands the pros and cons of artificial sweeteners, so the demand for synthetic sugar substitutes has increased dramatically.
If you do choose to include artificial sweeteners in your keto diet instead of utilizing our fruit list, here are the best sweeteners to use, along with their pros and cons:
This sweetener is available in two forms: liquid and granulated. Stevia is derived from the naturally occurring stevia leaf, which grows in South America.
This is probably the most popular form of artificial sweeteners, and it’s readily available in many grocery stores.
- Easily available in stores
- 0 calories and 0 carbs
- Very sweet - a little goes a long way
- Has not been accessible long enough for scientists to know the full impact of stevia consumption (9)
- Cannot directly replace sugar, such as in baking
- Although sweet, it does not taste like sugar
This is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is typically produced in small quantities in fruits and fungi. It can be consumed in a granulated form so that it can emulate sucrose very well.
- 0 calories and 0 carbs
- Can be used as a direct sugar substitute, such as in baking
- Possibly less threatening to dental issues than sucrose and other sugars (6)
- Can cause bloating or gastrointestinal problems for some
- Doesn’t feel or taste exactly like sugar
- Not enough information on its adverse side effects
This is a relatively new type of artificial sweetener made available to consumers, and it’s derived from a Southeast Asian fruit (8).
This sweetener may be a little more challenging to find in stores since it has yet to be approved by the FDA and has only recently been allowed for sale in the U.S.
- 250 times sweeter than sucrose
- Less bland than stevia
- Does not cause digestive issues
- Can be made with “fillers” since the FDA does not yet regulate it
- More expensive than stevia
- Not a direct replacement for sugar in baking
Artificial Blood Sugar Levels
If there are so many available options for artificial sweeteners, what negative setbacks could there really be?
Unfortunately, since artificial sweeteners haven’t been used long enough in home-cooking and commercial goods, there is little data to show what the long-term effects of replacing sucrose with synthetic sugar substitutes really are (8).
Without a real understanding of long-term outcomes, we advise that artificial substitutes be used in moderation.
Sugar and “sweetened” foods should still generally be avoided in your keto diet.
You may have also noticed that even the most popular artificial sweeteners have been reported to cause gastrointestinal issues. These issues include bloating, painful gas, and diarrhea.
Some research has suggested that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners can increase your weight gain (10).
At face value, artificial sweeteners have zero calories or fewer calories compared to sucrose; most agree that you would typically lose weight when replacing your sucrose.
However, there have been studies that may suggest the body cannot differentiate between real sugar and the artificial stuff.
Just as your body releases insulin to control natural blood sugar levels, it may also release insulin to control blood sugar after consuming artificial sweeteners.
This would explain the classic case of someone consuming large amounts of “sugar-free” or “diet” food products but still being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (caused by the body over-producing insulin and becoming immune to it).
However, this is still only a theory, and there is no conclusive evidence to support it.
The best advice we can give on artificial sweeteners is to enjoy them in moderation. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!
The FDA has labeled many artificial sweeteners (including the ones listed previously in this guide) as “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS (1).
This means these artificial sweeteners have been approved for their intended use by professionals or they are so common that the FDA’s approval isn’t necessary to sell the product.
Why We Recommend Fruits
At Konscious Keto, we highly recommend sticking to our ketogenic diet fruit list.
While many artificial sweeteners are derived from natural sources, fresh fruit is a genuinely natural, unprocessed way to enjoy healthy amounts of sugar.
Indulging in a delicious piece of fruit requires far less science and understanding than needed to use artificial sweeteners in your keto diet properly.
Plus, fruit has been around for so long that you don’t need to concern yourself with possible adverse side effects or inconclusive data.
You may have noticed that many artificial sweeteners are noted to have a strange taste or texture.
With fruit on a ketogenic diet, you never have to worry about bland flavors, gritty textures, or “off-tasting” baked goods!
Non-Keto Sweeteners to Avoid
Even if they are artificial, there are sweeteners to avoid in the keto diet. These sweeteners are nearly as dangerous to consume as sucrose or white sugar.
Not only are some natural sweeteners/sucrose substitutes still high in carbs, but some artificial sweeteners are believed to create a surge in your body’s insulin production (5) (one of the factors in weight gain and type 2 diabetes).
Some sweeteners, besides sucrose, to avoid while on the keto diet are:
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Agave syrup
- Coconut sugar
As we mentioned before, not all artificial sweeteners are healthy to consume on the keto diet. Below is a more in-depth explanation of artificial sweeteners to avoid.
Maltitol is considered by us to be almost as unhealthy as sucrose. This is a sugar alcohol derived from the hydrogenation of maltose, a byproduct of corn syrup (4).
You may typically find this ingredient in many “sugar-free” labeled commercial candies and desserts.
It’s one of the cheaper sugar alcohols to use in commercial production, and it behaves almost exactly like sugar.
For producers, this is a money-saving, miracle sugar substitute, but for consumers, it is a tricky way to convince yourself you are eating a healthy product.
With two-thirds of the calories as sucrose, maltitol has been known to raise blood sugar levels and increase insulin production.
Anyone with pre-diabetes or diabetes is advised to avoid maltitol by health professionals.
To put it simply: if you consume maltitol, you could take yourself out of ketosis, and you could disrupt any weight loss.
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol, and it’s derived from corn cobs and birch trees.
This sugar alcohol is typically used in “sugar-free” gum. Although xylitol is not considered to be as unhealthy as maltose, it should still be avoided by those on the keto diet.
It’s a low-carb alternative that can be a direct substitute for sucrose, which explains why it is so popularly used in commercial food products.
However, one of the unappealing side effects of xylitol is that it can cause bloating and gastrointestinal issues when over consumed (7).
Aside from the sugar content, this is another big reason not to include xylitol in your home-cooked meals.
For creating keto meals at home, xylitol is not a necessary artificial sweetener to use.
Other more readily-available artificial sweeteners have fewer calories, fewer carbs, and don’t come with any health concerns.
Diet soda is perhaps one of the trickiest common consumed goods when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.
There has been much controversy over the health effects of drinking diet sodas in recent years. We suggest avoiding diet soda at all costs while on the keto diet.
Diet soft drinks are known to host a variety of artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and sucralose.
All of these sweeteners have been questioned by health professionals for their side effects (3), particularly in gaining weight due to hormonal reasons, lack of satiation after consuming, and even gut microbiota.
Many theories have also argued that diet soda is not beneficial to the keto diet because drinking it will increase cravings for sweet foods and beverages.
One of the main goals in the keto diet is to remove sugar, so drinking unnecessarily sweet sodas will only create more difficulties in eliminating those cravings.
Indulging in overtly sweet food and drinks can lead to a relapse in your keto diet.
Enjoy This Ketogenic Diet Fruit List
You may be surprised to find that as you cut out high-carb and high-sugar foods, eating fruit on a ketogenic diet will make naturally sweet foods taste even more delicious!
While you’re maintaining your ketosis, enjoy the healthy fruits listed below.
Avocados are uniquely keto! This fruit contains fats that improve your heart health. Plus, a Hass avocado has fewer than 2g of sugar per fruit.
Eat an avocado as is with a pinch of salt. You can also add avocados to your smoothies, baked goods, or as a creamy spread.
Who knew that olives were a fruit? They sure are! Olives make a great snack, or you can include a handful with your main meal.
The high sodium content in olives is also beneficial to your health on the keto diet. It’s easy to miss out on your sodium intake while cutting out carbs, leading to “keto flu.”
A few olives could be that salty kick your body might be craving.
Coconuts are another wonderous fruit that is not only low in sugar but is high in healthy fats too!
All-natural coconut is best, and you’ll be less likely to purchase sweetened coconut with added sugar accidentally.
Enjoy unsweetened shredded coconut in your baked goods or as a topping. You can buy fresh coconut and scoop out the soft fruit yourself too!
While the above fruits aren’t necessarily a go-to sweet, blackberries are the first on this list that you can enjoy as a treat!
Blackberries have a healthy amount of fiber without adding high amounts of natural sugar to your diet.
Use blackberries in sauces, baking, or as a topping for salads and yogurt.
A quarter cup of raspberries has only 1.5g net carbs. Their naturally tart flavor pairs well with the slight sweetness.
Enjoy raspberries alone as a yummy snack, top off your greek yogurt, or garnish a low-sugar dessert. You can even make a salad vinaigrette with raspberries!
A quarter-cup of strawberries amounts to just 10% of the average daily net carbs allowed on a keto diet (14). When in season, strawberries are known to beat that sugar craving and can taste like candy all on their own.
Slice up some strawberries and enjoy them on your gluten-free keto waffles. You can even amp up their taste with homemade whipped cream. Yum!
You probably won’t want to eat any tomatoes as a dessert, but tomatoes are one of the few nightshades that can be enjoyed on the keto diet!
You can include cherry tomatoes on a healthy salad or make a scratch tomato sauce for main meals. A half cup of fresh tomato is only 2g of net carbs.
Lemon juice is practically void of net carbs, so it’s tough to cross a limit! While you don’t want to bite into a lemon, you can use the juice in all your baking and cooking.
Slice lemons into your plain water or iced tea, use the zest in baked goods, or squeeze a lemon onto your salad or chicken!
The natural sweet/sour combo will brighten up anything you eat.
Avoid This Ketogenic Diet Fruit List
Unfortunately, there is a ketogenic diet fruit list that you should avoid altogether.
Even though the sugar is natural, many fruits are much too high in net carbs for you to indulge in, on the keto diet:
Although all fruit is generally considered “healthy,” that doesn’t mean they are low in sugar.
If you’re unsure of the nutritional value of a particular fruit, check any possible food labels or the USDA National Nutrient Database.
No Dried Fruits
You may be wondering if dried fruits are safe to consume in the keto diet. The short answer is no!
Dried fruits are typically marketed as healthy, but the reality is they should be considered a sugary dessert.
The most important takeaway you should get from this guide is that you should enjoy your ketogenic diet and fruit in moderation.
Even if you choose the lowest-carb fruits and the healthiest artificial sweeteners, they still should be enjoyed sparingly.
To crush sugar cravings, enjoy 1 scoop of Keto Activate in your morning coffee, smoothie, or mixed in nut milk.
This unique blend of essential keto minerals really tastes like chocolate and will replenish your essential micronutrienets.