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Zero-calorie sweeteners

While all sweeteners have potential for negative impacts, if sustaining your keto journey is helped by the consumption of sweets from time to time, here are the 3 choices that may do the least harm.

    1. Stevia

    2. Erythritol

    3. Monkfruit

1. Stevia

Stevia is derived from the leaves of the South American plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is part of the sunflower family. Indigenous peoples in Paraguay and Brazil used the intensely sweet leaves in teas, medicines and to chew as a treat, most often simply taking fresh leaves or drying the leaves for various uses.


  • It has no calories and no carbs.

  • It does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.


  • It appears to be safe with a low potential for toxicity.


  • Stevia is very sweet — 200 to 350 times the sweetness of sugar — and a little is more than enough.

  • While intensely sweet, it doesn’t taste like sugar.

  • Many people find stevia has a bitter after taste.

  • It is challenging to cook with to get similar results as sugar and cannot be simply swapped into existing recipes.

  • There’s not enough long term data on stevia to discern its true impact on health of frequent users.


2. Erythritol

Made from fermented corn or cornstarch, erythritol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in small quantities in fruits and fungi like grapes, melons and mushrooms. It is only partially absorbed and digested by the intestinal tract, which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people.

  • It has zero calories and no carbs.

  • It does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.


  • It's active compound passes into the urine without being used by the body.


  • In its granulated form it is easy to use to replace real sugar in recipes.

  • It may prevent dental plaque and cavities compared to other sweeteners.


  • About 70% as sweet as table sugar.

  • It doesn’t have the same mouthfeel as sugar – it has a cooling sensation on the tongue.

  • It can cause bloating, gas and diarrhoea in some people (though not as much as other sugar alcohols).

  • Absorbing erythritol and then excreting it via the kidneys could potentially have negative health consequences (none are known at this time).

3. Monk Fruit

While it’s derived from a round, green fruit that’s been grown for centuries in Southeast Asia, monk fruit is a relatively new sugar substitute on the market. Also called luo han guo, monk fruit was generally dried and used in herbal teas, soups and broths in Asian medicine. It was cultivated by monks in Northern Thailand and Southern China, hence its more popular name.

  • It does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.


  • It has a better taste profile, with less bitterness of after taste, than stevia. In fact, it is often mixed with stevia to reduce cost and blunt stevia’s aftertaste.

  • It is also mixed with erythritol to reduce expense and improve use in cooking.

  • It doesn’t cause digestive upset.

  • 150-200 times as sweet as sugar.

  • It is expensive.

  • It is often mixed with other “fillers” like inulin, prebiotic fibres and other undeclared ingredients.

  • Be careful of labels that say “propriety blend” as it may have little active mogroside ingredients.

Deceptive Sweeteners 

Beware of Stevia in the Raw, Equal, Sweet’n Low and Splenda packets. They are labeled “zero calories” but they are not.

The FDA allows products with less than 1 gram of carbs and less than 4 calories per serving to be labeled “zero calories”. So manufacturers cleverly package about 0.9 grams of pure carbs (glucose/dextrose) mixed with a small dose of a more powerful artificial sweetener.

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