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Learn the best sugar substitutes to include in your diet so you can convert your favorite recipes to be healthier. Available in granlular, powdered, and brown sugar forms, there is almost alway an option to fit your need.
Most people are aware of saccharin and aspartame as common sweeteners. You know, those little blue and yellow packets that are available at your table for sweetening tea and coffee?
These sweeteners do have a sweet taste but are often difficult to use in recipes. Now there are many new sugar substitute options and some do a better job of mimicking the properties of table sugar than others.
What Are the Best Sugar Substitutes
Of course, there are other sugar substitute options, but these four blends often produce the best results in baking. All have a granulated option, two include a brown sugar option and two include powdered or icing sugar alternatives.
What to Expect From Sugar Substitutes
Without a doubt, sugar substitutes have come a long way since saccharin. Today, sugar alcohols and natural sugar substitutes are popular alternatives to table sugar.
Derived from plant-based products, many have a negligible impact on the glycemic index. As a result, sugar substitutes are low carb and low-calorie products.
But, when you compare them to table sugar, sugar substitutes often have a different effect or taste.
So before proceeding, you need to have a realistic expectation that while your finished recipe may look similar to one prepared with table sugar. There may be differences.
How Sugar Substitutes Vary From Table Sugar
1 Sugar substitutes are sweet. Many have a different taste than table sugar. For example, sugar alcohols are sweet, but many have a cooling effect as an aftertaste. Other sugar substitutes may have a bitter aftertaste.
2. Sugar attracts moisture for a tender baked good. It also provides texture and volume or bulk in baking. Some sugar substitutes can not mimic these qualities. As a result, your baked goods made with sugar substitutes may appear flatter than those made with sugar.
3. Baked goods made with sugar substitutes may not produce the same caramelizing or browning effects as baked goods made with sugar.
4. When eaten in large quantities, some may experience gastrointestinal side effects.
The good news is that sugar substitutes have come a long way and the blends discussed below allow you to produce a quality baked good, sometimes with experimentation.
With that information in mind, get ready to whip up that baked good that you have been craving.
Let's face we have a love affair with sugar. In America, it is estimated that on average we eat almost 6 cups a week.1 Each week.
Most people start using sugar substitutes because they want or have to avoid table sugar.
Table sugar is a simple carbohydrate. It lacks fiber and other components of complex carbohydrates that help slow digestion and absorption of sugar into the blood. When you eat table sugar it is rapidly absorbed and quickly increases your blood glucose levels.
A way to evaluate the effect that food has on blood glucose levels is the Glycemic Index (GI)2. The glycemic index ranks food with a number from 1 to 100. The lower the number the less effect a food has on blood glucose.
Glycemic Index (GI) is a number that tells you how fast your body converts carbohydrates into glucose. The smaller the number the better.
If you are trying to lose weight you need to evaluate sweeteners for their glycemic index or impact on blood glucose levels. This is because when your blood glucose level is low and steady from eating low GI foods, it will be easier for your body to lose weight.
Most of the popular sugar substitutes have a GI of 1 or less, are low carbohydrate, and low calorie.
A Food's Glycemic Index Can Change
It’s important to know that a food's GI number can change based on several situations.
- How the food is prepared. For example adding fat, fiber, and acids such as vinegar can lower the GI of a food.
- Fruit will have an increasing GI as it ripens over time.
- Mixing foods of different glycemic indexes can change the overall GI of the recipe or meal.
- Lastly, your carbohydrate response also depends on your age, activity level, and how quickly you digest food.
The University of Sydney has a searchable Glycemic Index database if you would like to determine the GI of other foods
In addition, carbohydrate count
- appropriateness for baking, and
- equivalency to sugar
are other important considerations for sugar substitutes.
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Types of Sugar Substitutes
Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates that have a mixed chemical structure.
Part of their structure is similar to sugar and part is similar to alcohol. Occurring naturally, some are made from plants and others from sugars and starches.
Most sugar alcohols have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels.
Sugar alcohols include xylitol, erythritol, lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and maltitol.
If you have a sensitive digestive tract, you should start slow with sugar alcohols. Many may cause digestive issues.
Take it slow when you start using sugar substitutes. See how much added to your diet, you can tolerate.
Due to its impact on blood sugar, you should avoid Maltitol when trying to lose weight.
How to Count Carbs Using Sugar Alcohols
When counting sugar alcohol carbs, first determine their carbohydrate count in the serving. If it is over 5 grams, half the amount of sugar alcohol and subtract that amount from total carbohydrates.
if the carbohydrate count is less than 5 grams count as zero carbs.
Two Sugar Alcohols for the Keto Diet
Xylitol, is granulated and looks like and tastes similar to table sugar. Humans produce some xylitol as part of our normal metabolism. It is made from woody fibrous plant material such as corn cobs and hardwood.
Xylitol has about one- third of the calories of table sugar. An added benefit is that helps prevent dental caries and reduces plaque formation. Xylitol has a GI of 12, is slowly absorbed and metabolized, and has little effect on blood glucose.
Use Xylitol as a sugar substitute in recipes on a 1:1 basis. Most consider it as sweet as sugar. After an experience with Xylitol, you may prefer to use slightly less Xylitol in your recipes. Xylitol’s sweetness holds up to heat and adds bulk and texture in baking.
One downside to Xylitol is that it can have a laxative effect if eaten in large quantities over 50 grams per day. When you start using Xylitol in cooking start with a small amount until you know how it affects you.
Lastly, a final concern with Xylitol is that it is toxic to dogs. Ingestion by rover causes severe hypoglycemia and potentially liver failure.
Erythritol is made from glucose extracted from non-genetically modified corn starch through a natural fermentation process. Considered both a carbohydrate and sugar alcohol, erythritol is not metabolized or used as energy in the body. It is excreted intact in the urine.
Since erythritol is not used as a carbohydrate in the body, it has a GI of 1. Therefore, it does not affect blood glucose.
An added benefit of Erythritol is that it is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream than other sugar alcohols. In comparison to other sugar alcohols, very little erythritol reaches the colon. This makes it the least likely of sugar alcohols to cause GI issues.
Considered 70% as sweet as sugar, erythritol is a bulking agent, and useful in baking. An added benefit is its status as a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
Be aware Erythritol does not attract moisture in cooking. When baking with erythritol, consider increasing the recipe's wet ingredients. It'is often best to use erythritol in a blend of sugar substitutes.
One of the best attributes of erythritol is its lack of aftertaste that plagues most of the other sugar substitutes.
Natural Sugar Substitutes
Stevia Leaf Extract
The Stevia plant is native to Paraguay in South America. It is calorie-free, has a GI of 0, with no effect on blood sugar. Stevia is considered 150 times sweeter than sugar. Being sweeter may sound like a good thing, but unfortunately, Stevia has a bitter aftertaste. Studies have determined it is free from side effects. It is useful in baking.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to use stevia as a one to one replacement with sugar in baking as it lacks its bulking characteristics of table sugar. In addition, when using stevia in recipes you may also need to adjust the baking temperature and time. It's best to use stevia as a sugar substitute blend in baking. 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 packet stevia.
Monk fruit is grown in southern China and was discovered by Asian monks. Along with being calorie-free, Monk Fruit is considered 200 times sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit has a GI of 0 and therefore, has no impact on blood sugar. It can be used in baking.
Best Sugar Substitutes for Baking
The four sweeteners above are available as individual products. It is really important to check the ingredient list of the product. Manufacturers often add other ingredients that can impact their glycemic index.
Until you are familiar with sugar substitutes in baking, please try them in a couple of recipes that have been developed and refined for use of a sugar substitute.
To help you learn how to use sugar substitutes, check out a Keto Dessert Cookbook, such as Easy Keto Desserts.
Easy Keto Desserts: 60+ Low-Carb, High-Fat Desserts for Any Occasion
Once you have some experience with using and baking with sugar and flour substitutes, consider adjusting your favorite family recipes to be keto-friendly.
Check out my post on Top Kitchen Appliances and Gadgets A Keto Chef Can't Live Without to find kitchen appliances and gadgets that will make your baking a breeze.
Four Popular Blends of Sugar Substitutes for Baking
These blends are available in multiple forms. All blends have a granular form and serve as an alternative to table sugar. Some blends are alternatives to brown sugar. Others others are alternatives to powdered sugar and are used to create sugar-free icing.
Both Lankanto brand versions are a combination of erythritol and monk fruit.
Available in a granulated, powdered, and brown sugar forms. Substitute 1:1 with sugar.
Sukrin Gold is a granulated brown sugar alternative made of erythritol, tagatose (a natural, low GI, low carb sugar substitute), glycerin, malt extract, and steviol glycosides.
Sukrin:1 is a zero-calorie alternative to granulated sugar. Made of erythritol, with a small amount of stevia (steviol glycosides) added to obtain the same sweetness as regular sugar.
Sukrin Icing is made of erythritol. A small amount of stevia (steviol glycosides) to obtain the same sweetness as regular sugar. Use it for icing, dusting, smoothies, etc.
Swerve is currently my favorite blend of sweetener. I love the powdered sugar option. It is easy to incorporate into smoothies and sprinkle on top of fruit.
Swerve is a combination of erythritol and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are fiber carbohydrates that have no effect on blood sugar and no aftertaste.
Other Sugar Substitutes
Remember, different sugar substitutes react differently in baking and cooking. For example, sugar substitutes such as aspartame may not hold up to the heat of baking.
High-Intensity Sweeteners or Artificial Sweeteners
The sugar substitutes below are commercially available and many have been in use for decades.
One concern of artificial sweeteners is the research out of the University of Sidney that suggests that consumption of these artificial sweeteners can actually increase your hunger. Ultimately, causing you to take in more calories. Read more here.
Limit the intake of the following artificial sweeteners while on the keto diet.
Saccharin - can be used in baking. It does not have the bulking qualities of sugar so it is not recommended as a 1:1 substitute. It might work better as a blend with other sugar substitutes. 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 packet of saccharin.
Aspartame - does not retain its sweetness when heated or baked. Avoid in people with phenylketonuria. 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 packet aspartame.
Acesulfame pot (Ace-K) - can be used in baking but it may retain a bitter aftertaste. 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 packet acesulfame.
Sucralose - can be used in baking. Consider using it as a blend for added bulk. Avoid Splenda because it includes dextrose and maltodextrin. 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 packet sucralose.
Neotame - can be used in baking. No bitter aftertaste. Not readily available for purchase.
Advantame - can be used in baking.
Sugar Substitutes to Avoid on the Keto Diet
Look for these ingredients on the ingredient list on food products you would like to try. Most will impact blood sugar. If included on the label, look for an alternative product.
High-fructose corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrates
Splenda (contains dextrose and maltodextrin)
April 2021 Update: Added images and minor updates to post.
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