What Exactly Are Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are found in products labeled sugar-free , as well as naturally in certain fruits and vegetables. They are commonly used as sugar substitutes and advertised as having 0 calories per gram. They are often used as an alternative to table sugar because they are sweet-tasting but can claim no sugar added on the packaging.
As the name suggests, sugar alcohols are sugar compounds that have a chemical structure similar to glucose but with a hydroxyl group attached. They are similar in structure to glucose and taste sweet, but are digested differently than glucose. Because of this, most sugar alcohols are only partially digested and thus yield fewer calories and carbohydrates.
What Are Net Carbs
Theres more to a food label than just total carbohydrates. That total can also include fiber, sugar and sugar alcohols, which help determine your net carb intake.
What does net carbs mean? Net carbs are the carbohydrates in food that you digest and use for energy.
It might be surprising to hear that your body doesnt use everything you eat. In reality, your body cant completely break down and absorb some types of carbs, like fiber and sugar alcohols. They pass through your body without being digested. Thats why most fiber and sugar alcohols can be subtracted from your daily carb total.
On a keto diet, eating too many carbs can kick you out of ketosis. When you calculate net carbs, youll have a better idea of how many carbs youre actually eating in a day.
My Conclusion On Natural Keto Sweeteners
Both Stevia and Monk Fruit have a glycemic index of 0, which means they should not affect your blood sugar at all, but some forms of less expensive Stevia are mixed with other sweeteners or bulking agents which could have an impact on your blood sugar levels. Note that Stevia packets, such as Stevia in the Raw, typically contain carb-ridden fillers like dextrose.
Some people think Stevia has an aftertaste but the liquid drops seem to have less of this. I wouldnt use Stevia in chocolate recipes as many people get a severe and rather awful delayed flavor impression .
Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Sugar Ants Home Remedy
Sugar Alcohols Erythritol And The Ketogenic Diet
So, are sugar alcohols allowed on the medical ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet ? Technically, most sugar alcohols should be counted as regular carbohydrates and kept to a minimum on the medical ketogenic and modified Atkins diets . Although they may affect blood glucose differently in different people, most sugar alcohols have the potential of raising blood sugar. The exception to this rule is erythritol, since it is metabolized differently and does not affect blood glucose. I generally tell my medical ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet patients that when reading a food label for carbohydrate content, erythritol is the only sugar alcohol that can be deducted from total carbohydrate content. I also tell my patients that sugar alcohol can only be deducted from the total carbohydrate amount if erythritol is the only sugar alcohol used in a product. When other sugar alcohols are used in addition to erythritol, the sugar alcohol content cannot be deducted, so I tell my patients to read the food labels ingredient list carefully.
Sugar Alcohols And Keto Stalls
Sugar is a no-go on keto. And while sweeteners containing sugar alcohols are much lower in carbs, the consumption of sweeteners containing sugar alcohols should be limited to avoid glucose spikes and weight-loss stalls.
Focus on reducing sweeteners overall to break the dependency on that flavor profile sugar replacements are a helpful tool, but independence from needing sweets is ideal and tends to occur naturally as one continues on the ketogenic diet as the taste buds adjust.
Read Also: How To Decrease Sugar Level Immediately
Sugar Alcohols & Glycemic Index
Interestingly, most sugar alcohols are incompletely absorbed in the small intestine, so they do not raise blood sugar the same way as sucrose . However, since they are partially absorbed, they may affect blood glucose levels to some degree. This can be observed by looking at the glycemic indexes of sugar alcohols compared to sugar. Glycemic index is a measure of the increase in blood glucose when a food is digested and absorbed. It is based on a numeric scale from zero to 100, where the glycemic index of glucose is 100. The glycemic index of sucrose is around 65, whereas the glycemic indexes of the main sugar alcohols are between 0 and 45. Therefore, sugar alcohols may raise your blood glucose, although not as much as sugars like sucrose and glucose.
One specific type of sugar alcohol, Erythritol, is metabolized differently than other sugar alcohols. Erythritol is fully absorbed in the small intestine and excreted in the urine unchanged, so it does not affect blood glucose levels like other sugar alcohols. As you can see in the chart above, the glycemic index of erythritol is zero.
Sweeteners To Avoid On A Low
While there are plenty of options for low-carb sweeteners you can enjoy on a ketogenic diet, there are many others that arent ideal.
Here are a few sweeteners that are high in carbs, can increase blood sugar levels and interrupt ketosis:
Mixed Drinks / Cocktails
If things seem likely to go off the rails with cocktails for carb counts, your worry is with good cause. It’s actually the mixers in mixed drinks that tend to contain all of the sugar. This is fairly straightforward: sugary sodas, fruit juices, and liqueurs are sweet from sugar, whether added or naturally occurring. When you add any of them to alcohol, you increase the carbohydrate count significantly and make yourself much more likely to fall out of ketosis. You also increase your chances of a hangover from the sugar content.
There’s no doubt that cocktails are more enjoyable than sipping on straight alcohol. If cocktails are your drink of choice, pick simple low or no calorie mixers such as soda water, stevia sweetened soda, pure cranberry juice, flavored sparkling water, or tea.
Absorption Metabolism And Fermentation
Sugar alcohols are often used as sugar substitutes in food products because they are difficult to digest and often slow to metabolize. This property is a result of the presence of the alcohol group in the area that is typically occupied by a carbonyl group in sugars . It also prevents polyols from being hydrolyzed by salivary amylases and fermented by bacteria found in plaque, both of which contribute to the production of acid and caries.
Smaller polyols such as monosaccharides are absorbed in the small intestine via passive diffusion along a concentration gradient , whereas larger polyols are too large to be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and are therefore poorly absorbed .
If unabsorbed in the intestines, the polyols may be fermented by bacteria or excreted as is. The absorption and fermentation rates differ from polyol to polyol due to the differing chemical structures therefore, they will result in different glycemic responses and gastrointestinal side effects . Thus, the amount of digestible carbohydrates that can also be metabolized in a food product is of interest to both food manufacturers and consumers.
Recommended Reading: Does Vodka Have Sugar In It
How To Calculate Net Carbs For Keto
Wondering how to count carbs and stay in ketosis? Use this manual net carb calculator:
Grams of total carbs fiber sugar alcohols = Net carbs
Heres one important element to factor into your net carb formula: Not all sugar alcohols are truly carb-free.
Some sugar alcohols can actually kick you out of ketosis because they have a high glycemic load. However, certain manufacturers selling low-carb or sugar-free foods will subtract those sugar alcohols from the total carb count. This makes products appear lower-carb than they actually are. Yikes.
On the other side of things, manufacturers will sometimes list sugar alcohols that dont affect your blood sugar as if they were normal carbs, making net carb counts seem higher than they actually are.
So, how are you supposed to calculate net carbs for keto? Know your sugar alcohols.
Strawberry Keto Royal Fizz
Strawberries do have sugar, so make sure to factor in any additional carbohydrates you consume when you drink keto cocktails made with this variant.
Read Also: How To Cure High Sugar Level
Can You Subtract Sugar Alcohols From Total Carbs
The answer is yes and no. It depends on the sweetener.
Net Carbs are typically calculated as total carbohydrates fiber the amount of sugar alcohol = net carbs. However, sweeteners like maltitol and sorbitol are digested and can spike your blood glucose levels. Therefore, to stay safe, it is best to only subtract erythritol from your total carbs when calculating net carbs.
In some cases, xylitol can be subtracted too, just make sure you arent consuming too much because it can cause a glycemic response.
What Sugar Alcohols Are Commonly Used In Food
There are different sugar alcohols that are commonly used in food, andthey differ in calories and sweetness. Take a look at some of the most commonsugar alcohols used today:
Erythritol: This sugar alcohol has close to 70% of thesweetness of sugar, and people find that it tastes good. Manufacturers produceit by fermenting glucose from cornstarch.
One positive aspect of this sugar alcohol is that it does not reachyour large intestine in large amounts, as most of it is excreted in your urine.It has only 0.2 calories per gram, which makes it a good sugar substitute.
Isomalt: This sugar alcohol is made from beet sugar. It is often combined with artificial sweeteners because it is not as sweet as sugar. It has around two calories per gram, and it is used in foods such as baked goods, cough drops, chewing gum, and hard candies.
Maltitol: Maltitol feels and tastes a lot like sugarbecause it is made from the sugar maltose. With this sugar alcohol, your bodywill absorb some of the sugar, so it is more likely than others to bring abouta glycemic response. It is often used in baked goods, chewing gum, ice cream,and chocolate. If you have diabetes, you might consider skipping low-carb foodswith maltitol in them.
Sorbitol: Sorbitol feels cool in the mouth and hasno aftertaste. It has a low glycemic index, and it is used in jelly spreads,soft candies, and chewing gum. It has 2.6 calories in each gram, and in largeamounts, it can be hard on the digestive system.
Don’t Miss: Why Is Sugar Level Low
What Are The Best Low
Low-calorie sweeteners are a helpful way to get your sugar fix when you are cutting back carbs. Some foods and drinks just need to be sweet. The important things to consider for keto are the glycemic index, how much sugar they have, and how many carbs they have. Another important factor is the overall health. Although it is important to take sugar out of your diet, you shouldnt replace it with something that might cause you discomfort or harm.
Stevia is considered to be the best overall low-calorie sweetener for keto. It is plant-based, and it has no calories and scores a zero on the glycemic index. It is much sweeter than sugar, so you do not need to use much. In addition, it has antioxidant properties, and it has been shown to have a positive impact on blood sugar levels after you eat.
Monks fruit is made from a fruit, and it also has antioxidantproperties. It also scores a zero on the glycemic index, and it has nocalories. The only negative is that it is hard to find and more expensive thanother products.
So How Can You Have Alcohol On Keto
Despite the warnings above, you can still enjoy alcohol on a low carb diet. As cliche as it sounds, the key is to do drink responsibly.
Here is how to drink alcohol on keto:
- Drink in moderation. Theres no reason to miss out on an occasional drink when you are out, but limit it to one or two. This will not only keep carbs and calories in check, it will also decrease the chance of stalling weight loss or a hangover the next day.
- Drink plenty of water. Aim for a glass of water for every drink you have, and an extra one before bed. This will reduce dehydration and youll be less likely to get a hangover.
- Choose low carb drink options. I covered low carb alcohol choices at a bar above, but if you miss classic sugar-laden mixed drinks, check out the list below for low carb drink recipes to make at home.
Don’t Miss: How To Make Wax Without Sugar
Absorption Digestion And Side Effects
Polyols are partially digested in the small intestine. Remnants that are not digested are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine and passed through stool.
Sugar alcohol breakdown can lead to GI disturbances. Polyols draw in water in the intestine, which can lead to diarrhea. Additionally, the breakdown of sugar alcohols by bacteria in the large intestine can lead to gas. Other symptoms of sugar alcohol consumption can include stomach cramps and bloating.
These symptoms are most severe when consuming maltitol. In fact, most sugar-free products include a warning label that maltitol has a potent laxative-like effect!
Erythritol is the most well-tolerated, leading to fewer symptoms than the others.
Conditions like IBS , Chrons Disease, and other inflammatory diseases can increase rates of malabsorption of sugar alcohols, making symptoms far worse.
Side effects of sugar alcohol consumption are dose-dependent, meaning the more you consume, the worse the symptoms will be . Additionally, research shows that symptoms are worse when sugar alcohols are consumed with other carbohydrates.
Warnings About Consuming Alcohol On A Ketogenic Diet
Alcohol shouldnt be consumed heavily or on a consistent basis. There are many negative health benefits, but in the short run dont forget the following when consuming your alcohol:
- Calories. Alcohol still counts as calories and will slow fat loss down. Alcohol is burned as a priority by the body.
- Tolerance. Most people on a ketogenic or low-carb diet experience a much lower tolerance to alcohol than usual. Be careful with consumption.
- Hunger. Many people experience heightened levels of hunger when drinking this can lead to bad decisions or just over-consuming in general.
- Dehydration. Since keto is a natural diuretic, you have to be watchful of how much water youre drinking alongside the alcohol. Try to drink 1 glass per 1 shot and extra water before bed.
- Added sugars. Mixers, liqueurs, and many alcohols will contain some type of flavoring or added sugar. While many companies are publishing nutrition information, you should try to be prepared and research nutrition beforehand.
Weve read a lot of articles that mention drinking light beers and very dry wine to avoid carbohydrates, but dont get out of hand with consumption. Some light beers can contain over 10g net carbs and some dry wine can average over 8g carbs per glass.
Its also important to note that alcohol does contain calories. There is no function in the human body to store the energy in alcohol, so your body will take a preference to metabolize alcohol over fat.
You May Like: How Can I Quit Sugar
What Sugar Alcohol Type Is Best To Maintain Ketosis
Even though some dieticians will allow their patients to consume products that contain sugar alcohols it doesnt mean that polyols cant affect your blood sugar level.
For example, maltitol is not only a disaccharide, but it also contains glucose. Its also very likely to cause a blood sugar response after ingestion, and that can affect your ketosis. Apart from that, some sugar alcohols arent completely absorbed by the small intestine, and this can cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, or cramping.
The only acceptable form of sugar alcohol is erythritol because it does not affect your glycemic index, and it doesnt cause much digestive discomfort. Nonetheless, if youre ultimate aim in following the ketogenic diet is wellness, then its best you turn to natural sources such as the monk fruit extract.
Get Wholesome Yum Simple Syrup For Drinks
Meet Wholesome Yum Keto Simple Syrup – it’s sugar-free & naturally sweetened with Besti . NO aftertaste & 0 net carbs!
- Drinks with soda or juice Including regular cola or lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, orange juice, cranberry juice, etc.
- Sweet wines Such as riesling, moscato, port, sherry, etc.
- Liqueurs These are loaded with sugar and typically made with some kind of syrup.
- Hard ciders or wine coolers These are essentially spiked fruit juice.
- Sangrias The wine in them is usually fine, but the added fruit, sugar, and/or juice is not.
Don’t Miss: When To Check Blood Sugar
What Are The Risks Of Low
Although the FDA has approved these sweeteners as safe for consumption, people have concerns over their safety. These risks are only potential risks because no definite link has been found between low-calorie sweeteners and the potential risks.
Some people claim that instead of helping with weight loss, low-calorie sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity. They say that the sweetener does not activate the mechanism inside your body that makes you feel full. They also say that the lack of calories is confusing to the brain and makes it still feel hungry. Finally, people claim that the sweeteners cause cravings for sugar.
Recent studies suggest that the opposite is true and that replacingfood and drinks with high sugar content with low calorie sweetened food anddrinks actually reduces caloric intake and hunger.
Observational studies claim to find a link between drinks with sweetenersand obesity. However, randomized controlled studies show that artificialsweeteners help people lose weight. They do note that if people switch to dietsoda and increase their sugar intake in other foods, they will gain weight.
There are also studies that suggest that people who drink diet sodahave an increased chance of metabolic syndrome, including conditions such ashigh blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess belly fat, and high blood sugar,which could lead to stroke or heart disease. However, recent studies have shownthe opposite to be true.