Many people are choosing to cut down on their added sugar intake, but candies, chocolates, and sweet treats can all find a home in a keto diet. The trick is to check nutrition labels and educate yourself on what they mean!
With so many different ways to sweeten food, which ingredients are best?
The term sugar alcohol may seem a bit confusing — for one thing, it’s not sugar… nor is it alcoholic. Wait, what? There are plenty of other queries you may have relating to sugar alcohol, too:
Should we avoid sugar alcohol? Is sugar alcohol keto-friendly?
Don’t worry! We’ve brought some MiiRO wisdom to help demystify this saccharine sugar swap.
What Is Sugar Alcohol?
Sugar alcohols — sometimes known by their scientific name of polyols — are sweetening agents. The term sugar alcohol isn’t really as misleading as it sounds once we break down where these words came from!
The chemical structure of sugar alcohols is similar to both the compounds of sugar and alcohol, hence the name. But don’t worry, you won’t get tipsy from chewing too many sticks of sugar-free gum.
Sugar alcohols are different from sugar in the way they are digested and metabolized within your body. Since sugar alcohols aren’t efficiently absorbed by the body, they don’t have as drastic an effect on your blood sugar as sugar does.
Sugar alcohols contain fewer calories than traditional sugar. Typically, sugar has four calories per gram. Sugar alcohol clocks in around two calories per gram. This is a big reason why sugar alcohols are used as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. It’s also an even bigger reason why many sugar alcohols can be keto-friendly!
Sugar Alcohol: Fact vs. Fiction
Let’s check out the differences between sugar alcohols and traditional sugar, taking a look at the sugar alcohol’s pros and cons.
Sugar alcohols don’t contribute to tooth decay the way that sugar can. In fact, a few different kinds of sugar alcohols have actually been shown to help prevent tooth decay. We think that’s pretty cool!
There are some facts relating to sugar alcohols on the other side of the digestive system coin. In some promising studies, certain sugar alcohols can actually promote the growth of helpful gut bacteria.
What about other lesser-known benefits of sugar alcohols? Foods made with sugar alcohols tend to retain more moisture, avoid crumbling, and have a delicious texture that can often be attributed to the presence of sugar alcohols.
Some sugar alcohols can even be used as thickeners in recipes. Who knew? Now, you do!
Still, some sugar alcohols don’t play very nicely with our digestive systems. Excessive intake of sugar alcohols can lead to some not-so-fun digestive side effects such as flatulence, bloating, or diarrhea. This undesirable side effect is more commonly experienced with sugar alcohols that aren’t properly absorbed, such as sorbitol and mannitol.
Erythritol has the least likely chance of causing digestive woes, which makes it our go-to here at MiiRO. We are very particular about where we source our sweeteners and ensure our high-quality erythritol is fermented to avoid those icky side effects. No stomach aches here!
What Makes Certain Foods Keto-Friendly?
With keto diets, the aim is to cut calories from carbohydrate sources. You want to make sure you are hitting the bullseye on your target of ketosis!
The carbs you might have otherwise eaten are instead replaced with fats. Fats should give you a large majority of your total calories whilst on a keto diet. The transition from carb-focused meals to fat-focused meals gets your body to create a new source of energy. Processing fat for energy as opposed to glucose puts your body in ketosis.
This alternative source of fuel means a carefully-monitored diet to reduce the intake of carbohydrates. After all, carbs are transformed into glucose in your body. Glucose is a type of sugar — which also means that sugar will have to be another ingredient to avoid. You’ll want to ensure that carbohydrates and sugar make up as few of the calories in your daily diet as possible.
The recent surge of support for keto has led to many more keto-compliant foods hitting the shelves. Because of what it takes to put your body into a state of ketosis, keto-friendly foods are going to include low to no carbohydrates and sugar.
There’s no reason to fear having to cut out sugar from your diet, though! There are numerous sugar alternatives that are naturally derived, like our personal faves: stevia and chicory root fiber.
A good keto rule of thumb? Stick with a macros ratio of 70% fats, 5% carbohydrates, and 25% protein. Of course, this keto macro ratio may vary from person to person. Check with your doctor before adhering to a diet regimen.
Want a sample of keto-friendly macros in action? Take our Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar, for example. Rich, silky peanut butter and cocoa butter give the perfect dose of healthy fats.
Then, the magic happens: You discover there are only four grams of sugar and two grams of net carbs for the WHOLE bar! What is this wizardry? Why, it’s MiiRO’s commitment to crafting craveable keto-friendly snacks, of course.
We round out this Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar with a satisfying amount of dietary fiber that will keep you fuller, longer.
Calculating Net Carbs on a Keto Diet
Knowing how many carbohydrates you are eating on a keto diet is crucial to maintaining ketosis. You’ll notice that nutrition labels have “total carbs” calculated. But total carbs are different from net carbs!
Some components of food aren’t easily digested by our bodies. This means that you do not have to include them when you are calculating your carbohydrate amount. As an example, dietary fiber can’t be broken down in our digestive system. For this reason, you can forgo counting them towards your total carbs or calories.
Sugar alcohols also aren’t 100% absorbed by our digestive systems. Xylitol, mannitol, and erythritol don’t count toward your net carbs while following a keto diet. However, maltitol and sorbitol do.
Use this easy formula when calculating your net carbs to ensure what you’re eating is keto-friendly!
Simply take the total amount of carbs and subtract both sugar alcohol and dietary fiber. Your end result will be the total amount of net carbs.
You’ll discover that our tantalizing White Chocolate Bar with Almond Pieces only has 3 grams of carbs for the entire bar! With such a small amount of sugar in this delicious chocolate bar (3 grams, to be exact), this chocolate bar is totally keto-friendly and snack-able on the daily.
Are Sugar Alcohols Better for You Than Sugar?
Have you heard of the Glycemic Index? It puts a number to carbohydrate-rich foods and how much of an effect said food has on raising blood sugar.
You might remember that carbohydrates are converted into blood-sugar-altering glucose. Well, the lower the carbs, the less chance there is of detrimental health effects due to high blood sugar. The glycemic index can be a helpful source of support in a keto toolbox.
Say you’re munchin’ on a commercially prepared brownie. It would make sense that they have been sweetened with traditional cane sugar. However, with traditional sugar, there are more calories, more potential for a blood sugar spike, more carbs, and even a higher chance of tooth decay. No thanks!
Sugar alcohols can be a great alternative for those seeking to cut out added sugar, diabetics, and keto dieters. You can safely enjoy about 10 to 15 grams of sugar alcohol in your daily diet.
Not All Sugar Alcohols are Created Equal
There are many different types of sugar alcohols used in food. Want to know a secret? You can usually pinpoint sugar alcohols in a nutrition label by the appearance of “-itol” near the end of the word. Some common sugar alcohols you may have seen are:
- Maltitol. Maltitol is about 75% as sweet as typical table sugar. It is derived from starch and can be found in crystallized or syrup forms. It will most often be found in sugar-free candy. It has one of the highest glycemic index values out of most other sugar alcohols. When it comes to maltitol and keto diets, it is an acceptable but not an ideal sugar replacement. Next!
- Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar replacement that is crystallized and is almost as sweet as normal sugar. A key difference between xylitol and sugar is that xylitol has less than half the calories. Xylitol is often produced from fruits and vegetables. You will often find it in sugar-free gums. Even though xylitol does not have a substantial source of carbs, it may not be the best replacement for those following a keto diet. Oh well!
- Sorbitol. Sorbitol is commonly derived from potato starch but can also be found in fruits. It's just over half as sweet as traditional sugar and can be found in diet foods or sugar-free candy. It is considered to be a moderate source of carbohydrates, and while it can be used in keto diets, it should be used sparingly. Hmm, that’s better — but still not 100% perfect as a keto-friendly sugar alcohol.
- Mannitol. Mannitol is around half to a little over half as sweet as sugar. Though it is a low glycemic source of sweetness, it is on the heavier side of the carb intake. For keto uses, it should be used in moderation. Let’s try the next type of sugar alcohol and see how it holds up for keto dieters!
- Erythritol. Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol that is almost half as sweet as table sugar. Erythritol occurs naturally in fruits such as pears, melons, grapes, mushrooms etc. and is almost free of any calories. Because of its lack of carbohydrates, erythritol is a great option for keto diets! With a glycemic index number of 0, erythritol won’t spike your blood sugar.
We love being able to use erythritol here at MiiRO because it is keto-friendly. Because we are mindful of sugar alcohol’s potential effects, we ferment our erythritol to improve digestion. This helps make erythritol perfect for those with even the most sensitive of tummies.
Other Keto-Friendly Sugar Alternatives
When it comes to keto-friendly sweeteners, we want to give a special shout-out to chicory root fiber and stevia. These two sugar subs aren’t sugar alcohols, but when paired with erythritol, these three sweet go-getters really shine.
Stevia is a no-calorie sweetener that is about twice to three times as sweet as sugar. Because of its high sweetness levels, much less is needed when compared to sugar. Stevia is one of the more widely found and acceptable sources of sweeteners and is very keto-friendly.
Chicory root fiber is derived from a perennial plant with bright blue fibers. Chicory root fiber is fast becoming an alternate sugar source, using the inulin of the plant. It’s about half as sweet as sugar and is not considered a significant source of calories or carbohydrates — perfect for keto!
Sugar alcohols have a proven track record of being a safe and tasty sugar substitute. Sugar alcohols are often derived from plants, making them a plant-based sugar replacement!
The unique kinds of sugar alcohols have differing sweetness levels, and which one you choose to use will depend on the application. They also have fewer calories and carbohydrates when compared to table sugar. This makes sugar alcohols suitable for keto diets.
The best sugar alcohol to consume while on a keto diet is erythritol. Erythritol has the lowest glycemic index value and the least effect on blood sugar. It was a no-brainer for us to include erythritol in our keto chocolates. This is why we responsibly source erythritol that we gently ferment to make digestion a breeze!
Sugar alcohols may seem a little intimidating at first. Now that you have the inside scoop on keto-friendly sugar alcohols, it’s time to let some chocolate back into your life. You deserve it.