You've accepted a lifestyle free of sugar if you've chosen to follow a ketogenic diet; that tenet is the basis of a low-carb, high-fat eating protocol. Great, kudos on making a quality choice!
Now that you've decided to ditch the carbs, you may begin to realize a genuine and present challenge: sugar is in virtually everything and goes by many, many different names!
Knowing how to identify sugar by any name will prove priceless on a ketogenic diet, as limiting carb and sugar intake is always paramount. No worries, we have scoured information on the pesky ingredient and uncovered a bevy of words to add to your red-flag list of items to limit or eliminate from your diet.
Listen, we're not being hyperbolic when we say sugar is an ingredient with an array of aliases; we found 56 iterations! However, there's no need to feel overwhelmed trying to memorize them all, just being aware of the names can assist by jarring a memory to avoid an item when scanning food labels.
Also, fortunately, it's been mandatory that food companies disclose whether a product contains added sugar as of January 2021, to alert consumers and empower our decision to consume or pass on an item.
Sucrose, fructose, or dextrose are all used to identify the presence of sugar in food. But, as we mentioned, the list of names used to denote sugar, natural or artificial, are many. Here are some common words used for sugar:
Essential Simple Sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides):
- Dextrose: This is a form of sugar often used in baking and derived from corn. You often find this ingredient present in corn syrup and products containing it.
- Fructose: Although this form of sugar is primarily found in honey and fruit, high-glycemic foods, both provide specific health benefits. However, it still tends to negatively impact glucose regulation—not a great option on keto.
- Galactose: About as sweet as glucose and approximately 65% as sweet as sucrose, galactose is a popular sweetener and one to avoid on a low-carb diet.
Glucose: Perhaps the most recognizable name of all, glucose is a term synonymous with sugar and interchangeable in the minds of most. We know we don’t need to say it, but we will, this is not an advisable keto-friendly sweetener option.
Glucose is a simple sugar and necessary for the survival of all living organisms in at least minimal quantities. However, you'll want to steer clear of glucose-rich foods on a keto diet.
- Lactose: These sugars are mainly present in milk and cream. So keep a close eye on the sugar macros the next time you reach for a cold and creamy pint of dessert or coffee creamer option.
- Maltose: Created from the breaking down of starch: maltose is a competent sweetener, but you don't want to include this in your grocery cart if you're eating a low-carb diet.
- Sucrose: The result of a combination of glucose and fructose; this common sugar is plant-derived and refined to produce table sugar.
Solid or Granulated Sugars:
- Brown sugar: You don't need us to tell you that brown sugar is a no-go; that's obvious. Fortunately, you can opt for alternatives like those made by Swerve, Sukrin, Lakanto, and others in place of insulin-spiking traditional brown sugar in your keto recipes.
- Cane juice crystals: Stay away from anything derived from cane sugar, and seek sugar-free options like those we'll detail below.
- Cane sugar: Again, hard pass here.
- Caster sugar: This sweetener is a more delicately milled granular variety often used in baking, especially in the UK and Australia. You can replace a keto-friendly granulated sweetener, like the finely-milled King Arthur Sugar Alternative, for this ingredient in recipes, usually 1:1.
- Coconut sugar: Although we enjoy several coconut products like MCT oil on keto, coconut sugar will still compromise ketosis, even in moderate amounts—beware.
- Confectioner's sugar (aka powdered sugar): Not even this sugar's super-fine mill can make it permissible on a keto diet! Consider sugar-free alternatives like the fantastic option produced by Swerve for a keto-friendly selection.
- Corn syrup solids: No, for so many reasons, just no. Corn syrup spikes blood sugar and is linked to other health issues. It's best to avoid it altogether.
- Date sugar: Dates and their sugar are incredibly mineral-rich, but they can still elevate blood sugar rapidly. It’s best to avoid this sweetener on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
- Demerara sugar: This raw, pale brown colored sugar cane derivative is a large grain variety with a coarser texture.
- Dextrin: This product is usually light cream or yellow, derived from starch or glycogen.
- Diastatic malt: This product is often used in shakes and is a sprouted wheat or grain product. While sprouting boosts nutrition, many low-glycemic sources work better for anyone on a ketogenic diet.
- Ethyl maltol: This sweetener has a caramelized taste, sometimes likened to that of cooked fruit. This flavor profile can work well in recipes but opt to create a caramelized sugar-free sweetener with keto-friendly alternatives instead.
- Florida crystals: Essentially, another code name for cane sugar.
- Golden sugar: This variety of sugar is less processed than traditional cane sugar and therefore retains its golden hue, but it, of course, spikes blood sugar just the same. No, thanks!
- Glucose syrup solids: Just the name here makes us want to run for the hills! Glucose syrup solids are simple carbohydrates derived from rice. It is also commonly called rice syrup solids or glucose powder and is bound to boost blood sugar levels.
- Grape sugar: Although derived from fruit and plant compounds, this sweetener is a no-go all the same.
- Icing sugar: Sugar used for icing is a more finely-milled variety than standard granular, perfect for baking and making confections. Swerve confectioners and the new King Arthur Sugar Alternative are excellent options for this style application.
- Maltodextrin: This starchy sweetener is often found in packaged foods like pastries, candies, and soft drinks as it's known to help with shelf life. However, this option will definitely disrupt ketosis and should be avoided.
- Muscovado sugar: As we've mentioned, cane sugar comes in many varieties, and this is one that also contains molasses that is best to avoid, like the others, if wanting to curb carbs.
- Panela sugar: Common in Central and Latin American regions, this whole cane sugar is a complete source of sucrose derived from boiling down pure sugar cane. Steer clear!
- Raw sugar
- Sugar (granulated or table)
- Sucanat: Preliminary information suggests that sucanat is a safer sweetener than cane sugar but not as glucose neutral as keto-friendly sugar alternatives like stevia and monk fruit. Tread lightly with this option.
- Turbinado sugar: Turbinado is like the whole grain or cold-pressed version of the sweetener options—less processed and richer in complex flavors—still, its ability to spike glucose and cause irregularities in insulin make it a no-go on a keto diet.
- Yellow sugar: Ideal for traditional glazes, this light brown sugar with a hint of molasses is suggested for butterscotch, cookies, and more baked goods. However, the macros are a hard no-no.
Liquid or Syrup Sugars:
Agave Nectar/Syrup: You may be familiar with agave if you're a fan of tequila. It offers a full-bodied flavor and sweetness, with consistency and viscosity slightly lighter than honey.
Fortunately, there are honey or maple syrup-style keto sweeteners available that can stand in for this selection perfectly. We’ve noted some of our treasured picks later in this article.
- Barley malt: This whole grain sweetener, that is about half as sweet as refined sugar and has a consistency and flavor like molasses, is common in packaged products and one to keep an eye out for when reading labels. This ingredient will impact blood sugar.
Blackstrap molasses: Despite the glucose present, molasses is a nutrient-dense food that can offer nutritional benefits when used in small doses.
However, it’s always best to opt for Lakanto, Sukrin, Swerve or other low-carb sugar alternatives when baking or making other desserts or sauces.
- Brown rice syrup
- Buttered sugar/buttercream
- Caramel: Whether drizzled on a frozen creamy sundae or atop a decadent chocolate cake, caramel is a delicious sauce to master. However, you'll want to seek out sugar-free options in stores or make some at home in a snap using your favorite keto sweeteners to monitor carbs.
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup: Variations of corn-based, highly processed syrups are associated with harmful health outcomes, and it's wise to opt for alternative options, regardless of which diet you follow.
- Evaporated cane juice: This is pure sugar and a definite item to avoid on keto.
- Fruit juice concentrate
Golden syrup: This sweetener is a blend of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar syrup, cane molasses, and honey—made from sugar, water, and a slice of lemon.
Replace your sweeteners, and you can create a low-carb golden syrup that works well in mixed drinks, dressings, and sauces that will help curb the carbs.
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): You probably would want to avoid this ingredient, linked with possible adverse health outcomes, even if you're not on a ketogenic diet. And it's likely best to follow the same sentiment on a low-carb, high-fat diet.
- Honey: A high-quality manuka honey is ideal to use for a sore throat, but you'll want to avoid honey on a ketogenic diet due to its high carb count.
- Invert sugar: Essentially, invert sugar is granular sugar that's more easily used in drink mixes, sauces, and other applications because it's more water-soluble than standard granulated sugar. However, despite its ease of use, it's still sugar, so beware.
- Refiner's syrup: Like golden syrup, refiner's syrup is partially inverted and created by breaking down sugar (sucrose) into glucose (dextrose) and fructose and is about 20% sweeter than sucrose.
Sorghum syrup: Although not as low on the glycemic scale as stevia, erythritol, or any of the other keto-friendly sweeteners that we'll share below, sorghum syrup i's a considerably better option than cane, as it has a slightly lower glycemic index than refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and will not spike blood sugar levels as drastically as its more highly-processed counterparts.
Again, it's best to find keto-friendly replacements for all your sweetening needs. No worries, you'll likely always have several options between store-bought and homemade options to help you stay on track.
The world of sugar alternatives in 2021 is vast and varied. You can find a replacement for everything from caster sugar; try the new King Arthur Sugar Alternative to a maple syrup alternative, a la Lakanto.
Cheer up; there's no need to pine over missing sugar in its many forms. We've got alternatives to keep your sweet tooth satisfied while tamping down carb consumption.
Here are some sweeteners to check out if you've committed to eating a ketogenic diet:
- Monk Fruit
Plus, the following companies offer a variety of sugar replacements to check out:
- Sukrin Gold (brown sugar alternative)
- Sukrin :1 (1:1 granulated sugar replacement)
- Sukrin Icing (confectioners-style alternative)
- Sukrin Sugar-free Gold Syrup (pancake syrup) & Sukrin Clear Syrup
- Classic (granular replacement)
- Powdered (confectioner’s substitute)
- Golden (brown sugar replacement)
- Liquid Monk Fruit Drops
- Granular (you guessed it, the granular sugar alternative)
- Confectioners (Swerve is very straightforward)
- Brown (brown sugar substitute)
- Stevia Sweetener (Bakeable Blend)
- Stevia Sweetener Blend 2:1: This is an excellent sweetener option as it’s twice as sweet as sugar with no aftertaste.
- Liquid Stevia Extract
- Pyure, Organic Harmless Hunny, Sugar Free Honey Alternative Sweetener
- Allulose (granulated or liquid syrup)
The sweeteners mentioned above are common keto-friendly sugar substitutes you'll come across.
Each sweetener offers its level of sweetness and performance, so you'll want to experiment to see which you prefer using and when. But, rest assured, there's always a low-carb sweetener available that's perfect for your culinary needs.
There are many sugar alternatives to enjoy on keto, so much, so we dedicated an article to detailing our favorites, so you don't have to do the heavy lifting; read the complete article here.
Some Sweet Sugar-free Konscious Keto Recipes to Enjoy
Knowing there are so many sugar alternatives to tap when making desserts and other confections is encouraging and exciting!
We can have it all, delicious sweets and a healthy low-carb lifestyle. We can convert virtually any sugar-laden recipe to a keto-friendly treat with the swapping of a sweetener and a little knowledge regarding what to make.
There are endless keto dessert recipes to experiment with using the sea of sugar alternatives available, but we have a sweet spot for a few that we figured we'd share because they're some of our favorites.
Here are some fantastic and beginner-friendly sweet treats to enjoy and make with the whole family for some finger-licking fun:
Delightful Zucchini Bread: Quick Breads are excellent baking options to make in a flash and also come in handy to clean out the fridge or pantry before items spoil.
Plus, kids love zucchini bread and seem totally unbothered that they're consuming veggies!
- Keto Almond Cake Fat Bomb: Sometimes, your sweet tooth calls for a more moderately sweetened cake, something perfect to pair with tea or coffee, and this option fits the bill.
- Konscious Keto Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies: These chocolate and peanut butter squares are perfect to have as a reward after a long school or workday; it's a foolproof treat.
- Keto Chocolate Souffle: These adorable single-serve ramekins are the ideal dessert to make ahead and have handy to heat and enjoy whenever a craving comes calling.
- Keto Vanilla Cupcakes & Buttercream Icing: Is there anything more nostalgic than a cupcake? Now you don't have to wait for a birthday, you can make a delicious, and yes, nutritious—cupcake at home in minutes.
- Keto Apple Spiced Donuts: Do you miss donuts? If so, we don't blame you; they're delicious! Try our take on donuts for a low-carb option your family will love.
- Keto Sugar Cookies: Don't be off-put by the name; these cookies use a granular sugar replacement to deliver all of the taste you expect with none of the sugar!
- 1-minute Konscious Keto Strawberry Shortcake: Have a minute? You can make a delicious and nutritious berry-filled dessert!
- Keto Mousse Four Ways: If you're a lover of luscious and creamy sweet treats, any of these keto mousse recipes are sure to thrill!
What is life without sweetness? Unsustainable. You may be able to omit all things sweet from your diet for a time, but the boomerang effect you may experience could set you further back than where you started.
Plus, there's no need for deprivation on a keto diet because we can use so many sugar alternatives to recreate our favorite dishes, drinks, and sauces with a sugar-free twist.
Furthermore, sugar alternatives have come a long way from the days of options with an odd aftertaste or subpar performance in recipes. With today's keto-friendly sweetener options, you can enjoy all the sweets you desire while pursuing the enhanced health you deserve.
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