In this article we are going to reveal exactly how you can satisfy your sweet spot and share some delicious keto desserts you can easily make yourself.
Keto Friendly Sweetness
Inulin is a type of fiber produced by plants to store energy. We store spare energy as fat, but some plants store it as a specific sugar called inulin. However, our digestive system can’t break these long chain sugars down - it lacks specific enzymes. So, even inulin is technically made of carbohydrates, and tastes sweet, we don’t absorb it, making it a perfect natural sweetener for your keto desserts!
Chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke are typically used commercially as the source of inulin. The use of inulin has become quite popular, you often find it in sugar free chocolate and other confectionery. The flavor is relatively bland and it is only 10% of the sweetness of sugar, but it’s very versatile and can be used in the place of sugar or flour in many recipes. It’s even a natural prebiotic which improves your gut biome. Inulin makes tasty keto desserts and feeds the good bacteria in your intestines, a double-benefit for your keto nutrition!
Inulin has about ¼ of the calories of normal sugar and has a positive impact on the body, including, increasing mineral absorption (specifically calcium and magnesium), promoting beneficial bacteria in the gut (as they CAN digest it and enjoy eating it!), and being a good source of soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol and keeps the bowels healthy. In fact, if you eat too much you can find it cleans your bowels out a bit more than you want! Beware. Some people with irritable bowels can find the natural fermentation of inulin in the gut problematic, so start slowly and see if your body enjoys it.
Now, we are going to move onto a totally different class of sugars. These sweet alternatives provide us with another option to whip up some tasty treats and keto desserts with. They are oddly named ‘sugar alcohols’ or polyols. But, funnily enough, they are neither sugar nor alcohol. They taste sweet but like inulin are not utilized by your body.
Sugar alcohols contain about half the calories of ‘traditional’ sugars, have virtually no impact on insulin levels, and though they taste sweet, they’re classed as carbohydrates, but like fiber they are not absorbed by the body. About 90% simply leave the body totally unchanged in your urine, so, they are not counted in your keto macros. That’s right… sugar alcohols are not NET keto carbs. But, you still need to limit how much you consume. We’ll explain why in a moment.
Erythritol is produced by fermenting wheat or corn with a specific fungi. It is only 0.3 calories per gram, compared to the 4 calories per gram found in sugar. It tastes about 70% as sweet as sugar making it easy to substitute in keto dessert recipes. Erythritol is known for causing digestive problems, like bloating and gas in high doses. Some people can experience a laxative effect when eating large amounts, with the laxative threshold for erythritol is 0.5g per lb of body weight.
But, surprisingly clinical studies have NOT shown this even when trying to induce the effect. So, unless you are eating entire packets of the stuff the laxative effect could be more myth than reality (another keto myth busted!) Most of the erythritol leaves the body unchanged. Only 10% is absorbed and this usually sits around in the intestine. Its isn’t readily broken down by intestinal bacteria and can start to ferment, and give off gas. Which can cause bloating and farting! For people with digestive issues, like IBS or SIBO, erythritol can make symptoms worse.
Studies have shown that erythritol is pretty safe to eat. But, the majority of today’s supply is made from GMO corn or wheat. Both of these crops have incredibly high doses of pesticides. GMO crops are designed to withstand extra pesticides, but our bodies do not have the same level of ‘protection’. Pesticides are rapidly being shown to be carcinogenic and adding a toxic burden to our bodies. If you can afford it, and find it, go organic with this one.
So, erythritol is good for keto. Don’t eat too much or you’ll be running to the bathroom! Don’t count it in your NET carbs, use the same amount as you would sugar, and beware of it being ‘blended’ with other sugars or chemical sweeteners; always read the label to be sure, and chose high quality non-GMO and organic where possible.
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol that has 2.4 calories per gram but is the same sweetness as sugar. Xylitol doesn’t elevate blood sugar and has zero NET carbs, so like erythritol, this is a safe sweetener for your keto desserts. Xylitol can be made in different ways. Birch xylitol uses the traditional method of fermenting birch bark. But more commonly the source of plant matter which is fermented is again GMO corn.
Different Xylitiol brands use various types of plant matter. There are also industrial processes with toxic catalysts used instead of natural fermentation. Typically, you get a better quality and less chemical and pesticide residues with more expensive brands. But, choose carefully to get the purist most organic source. Always try and provide the best quality for your body and the tastiest choice for your keto desserts.
Now we are going to get into the murky realms of artificial chemical sweeteners. Sadly, these chemicals, which trick the taste-buds, are proving to be much less healthy than previously assumed. The latest research published by the Canadian Medical Association reviewed studies on nearly half a million people and found that “consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners was associated with a modest increase in BMI” that means they made people put ON weight!
Artificial sweeteners actually CAUSE weight gain (yes, you heard that right). The thing they are designed to prevent, they cause; the brain simply cannot cope with being tricked so when it tastes sweet it does pretty much the same as when you eat sugar. Insulin levels rise, fat storage is promoted and appetite is increased. Worse still, not only do these artificial chemical substances seem to elevate insulin just like sugar, they have other side effects. The massive Canadian study also found that the chemical sweeteners were associated with:
Higher incidence of obesity
Hypertension, which is raised blood pressure
Metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of metabolic risk factors
Type 2 diabetes and
Cardiovascular events, which is heart attacks!
Here the low-down on these tricky substances. You can make your own mind up about the risks:
Often sold in blue packets and used in diet foods, it’s associated with a wide selection of health problems. Aspartame lowers serotonin in the brain, which impairs mood and can lead to depression. It contains aspartic acid, which is a neurotoxin linked to attention deficit disorders. It also contains methanol which is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Aspartame stimulates both insulin and leptin - the two major hormones that increase appetite. It can also cause immediate discomfort and heart palpitations. Pilots are instructed not to consume beverages with this drink in before they fly. This is a sweetener to most definitely be avoided!
The powder in the pretty pink packaging is Benzoic Sulfilimine. It is made by combining anthranilic acid (a corrosive agent for metal) with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia (mmm, tasty!) It was first produced in 1878 and has had a complicated history including. It was banned by the FDA, then reintroduced into the nation’s food supply but requiring warnings, and then in 2010, after much lobbying, was removed from a list of hazardous chemical by the EPA. There is still much controversy about this sweetener and some studies have found that it can causes DNA mutations and possibly cancer. All in all, avoid this one too!
Often in yellow packaging this is made by chlorinating sugar. This is not a "zero calorie" sweetener as it is mixed with dextrose and maltodextrin. The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Research reported that it reduces the amount of good intestinal bacteria by 50 percent and increases the intestinal pH level. A critical review of multiple studies and found a selection of health problem to do with the gut, digestion, detoxification and hormones. This makes it another unhealthy option to cross off your keto the list!
4. Acesulfame Potassium
This one of the least studied artificial sweeteners. It has been used by the food industry, in baked goods, for about 15 years. It has been linked to a variety of tumors including in the lungs and breasts plus leukemia and chronic respiratory disease in animal studies. When eaten over prolonged periods it can lead to: headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion and liver and kidney damage. In animal studies it was shown to impair brain function and regulation of metabolism. Another one to be avoided!
Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are proving to be ineffective and potentially unsafe. But, the huge profits in the billion dollar food industry mean that you won’t always hear to the truth, especially when the manufacturers pay for the studies! Sadly, scientific truth is routinely biased by the sponsor of the information and their agenda. For example, the cigarette industry managed to create lots of scientific data ‘proving’ smoking was safe and paid unscrupulous or naive doctors to speak out about the health benefits of smoking. It took 7,000 negative studies and 25 years before it was agreed smoking was definitely bad for your health!
Fortunately there are two natural sweeteners which are increasing in popularity and availability.
The stevia plant produces a selection of sweet tasting chemicals called glycosides, which are 150 times sweeter than sugar and is zero calories. Stevia has been used for thousands of years in South America and recently been approved as a food additive. It can have a bitter aftertaste by itself, so is often paired with things like inulin. Glycosides are oddly produced by the stevia plant as a defense against insects.
But, for us, they bind to both the sweet and bitter taste receptors on the tongue. For some people stevia tastes more sweet than bitter, while for others the bitterness is unpleasant. Some glycosides taste sweeter than others and rebaudioside A is the sweetest. Commercially it can be found in soft drinks, candies and confectionery. You can buy stevia as dried plant leaves, powder or drops. Read the label to check it is not mixed with a chemical or non-keto sugar, and always use very sparingly due to its extreme sweetness.
This ancient Chinese fruit, also known as Lo Han Kuo, is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has traditionally been used as a low calorie sweetener in drinks and medicinally. The fruit contains 25% carbohydrates and substances known as mogrosides which make it taste sweet. The fresh fruit won’t store very well and is difficult to get outside of China. However, you can purchase extracts or dried fruit powder online and it is becoming more popular.
Like stevia, the after-taste of monk fruit can be bitter in high concentrations so it is often mixed with sugar alcohols. These two plant-based natural sweeteners appear to be completely safe and for many people provide a tasty sweetness which can be added to drinks and food.
The other option for adding some sweetness into your keto life is low GI fruit like berries. Some fruits, like blueberries, are packed with beneficial antioxidants and only contain a little low GI sugar. Melons also have a very low carb count and still taste juicy and sweet.
This selection of fruits all have less than 5g of net carbs:
Strawberries (3.3g for ½ cup)
Raspberries (4.2g for ½ cup)
Peaches (4.3g for half a peach)
Cherries (about 1g each cherry)
Apricots (about 4g each)
From this list you can make incredible combinations of fruit, cream and natural sweeteners into delicious desserts. It’s really important to understand that on keto your tastes will change. You will develop a subtle appreciation for sweet tastes, and won’t want pure sugar donuts. Half a peach might not sound like much but topped with cream (coconut cream naturally tastes sweet), drizzled with melted sugar-free chocolate and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds it’s delicious. Coconut ice-cream is another simple yet effective keto dessert, just freeze some coconut-cream, add some vanilla then blend in a food processor.
Diets which deprive you are not popular and very hard to stick to. The keto diet allows both savory and sweet delicious treats. But, you do have to use a bit of imagination to create sweet keto desserts without carbs. Luckily, we have done a lot of the hard work for you and crafted a selection of simple, tasty sweet treats: check out some of our delicious recipes and let us know what you think
Avoid sugar totally, it will kick you straight out of keto
Skip artificial chemical sweeteners as they cause weight gain and have damaging health effects
Moderate use of sugar alcohols like Xylitol and Erythritol – they are keto friendly but can upset your bowels
Indulge in the natural sweetness and bulk of inulin - it’s not NET carbs and has many health benefits
Choose Stevia and monk fruit as natural keto safe and healthy sweeteners
Enjoy a little low GI fruit, especially with added fats from coconut cream
Get creative with some tasty keto desserts of your own
And remember to check out our tasty keto treats - delicious keto desserts you can easily make yourself!
There you go; you can have your keto cake and eat it!