Sweeteners are a hot topic of debate in the Fasting and Keto/Low Carb circles.
Are they okay? Some people swear they don’t break a fast, and others say they do.
What’s the truth?
Let’s take a look at natural and artificial sweeteners.
We can’t cover them all (there are many), but we’ll go over the ones that are most popular in the fasting and Keto world.
Sugar is, of course, the first natural sweetener that comes to mind.
We all know sugar is bad for you. And if you didn’t know it, now you do!
Sugar is inflammatory, it spikes insulin, raises blood glucose, and contributes to a plethora of health issues in the long term.
So whether you’re fasting or following a Keto lifestyle, you’ll definitely want to avoid sugar.
Honey and Maple Syrup
Many people trying to cut out sugar will sweeten things with a little honey or maple syrup.
The thing to remember is that your body still converts it into the same thing: glucose.
Meaning it will still spike insulin and raise blood sugar.
We get more questions about Stevia than almost anything else in our fasting group.
Stevia is a zero-calorie, natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant, an herbal shrub native to South America.
Stevia is 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but supposedly does not raise blood sugar.
But with weight loss and metabolic health, it’s not just blood sugar we’re concerned about – it’s insulin.
So the question is, does stevia spike insulin?
And that’s a loaded question.
In his book, The Obesity Code, Dr. Fung (referencing a study) says, “Despite having a minimal effect on blood sugars, both aspartame and stevia raised insulin levels higher even than table sugar.”
There are usually two camps of people on the stevia subject.
One camp says they can have stevia and it does not affect their fasting or their weight loss.
The other camp says that anything that tastes sweet, including stevia, will spike insulin.
I tend to fall into another camp with stevia, the “try it and see” camp.
If you’re fasting, and you want to sweeten your tea or coffee with stevia, you can try it.
If you have increased hunger or cravings, or if your weight loss starts to stall, you can be sure that it is causing an insulin spike.
If you’re not fasting but following a Keto lifestyle, you’ll find many people using stevia as a sweetener for Keto desserts.
Again, try it and see. If your weight loss stalls, it’s probably the stevia.
One note, if you do try stevia, make sure to check your labels.
Many of the stevia products out there have dextrose or maltodextrin added, which will definitely spike insulin.
This is a rather new one to the sugar substitute game.
Allulose is a naturally occurring sugar found in things like wheat, figs, raisins, and maple syrup.
Studies suggest that allulose does not raise blood sugar or spike insulin, and might even reduce blood sugar.
But even if this were true, most of those studies are with healthy people, not people who already have metabolic diseases.
So again, it’s something you could try and see how you do with it. Or not.
Monk fruit is a natural sweetener that has been used for centuries.
It is not thought to raise blood sugar.
But as with all the other sweeteners listed, it can still cause an insulin spike.
Note that many brands of monk fruit also contain erythritol, a sugar alcohol, so watch for that.
Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables.
There are several, but the most popular one for Keto peeps is erythritol.
You will find Keto recipe after recipe with an erythritol sweetener.
Sugar alcohols are lower in carbohydrates per gram, and not fully absorbed in the body.
So they don’t raise blood sugar as much as table sugar would.
But the sweet taste can still spike insulin.
Many people report gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating or diarrhea, with sugar alcohols.
And recent studies have suggested that erythritol is associated with cardiovascular events.
Worth it? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
Aspartame and Sucralose
Artificial sweeteners are man-made. They are not naturally occurring.
And they are a hot topic! People will fight you for their diet-sodas!
But beyond the question of whether or not artificial sweeteners spike insulin, they’re just not good for you!
Despite the fact that aspartame is approved by the FDA, it “accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the … FDA.”
And the World Health Organization recently declared aspartame to be possibly carcinogenic.
Sucralose is no better. There is a long history of the health issues associated with sucralose.
We’re all in this for our health, right?
We’re fasting and/or following a Keto lifestyle to lose weight and stay healthy.
So why consume aspartame or sucralose when they could potentially be bad for your health?
Fighting Sugar Addiction
One of the reasons that so many of us have ended up overweight and unhealthy is sugar addiction.
If you have a sugar addiction, replacing sugar with other sweeteners is really just sticking a band-aid on an open wound.
You’re not getting to the root of the problem.
And you’re still feeding that sugar craving.
If you want to be free from sugar addiction, cut out the sweet taste, whether that’s from natural or artificial sweeteners.
Test It Yourself
If you’re fasting, anything that tastes sweet will more than likely spike insulin and break your fast.
If you’re not fasting but following a Keto diet, you’ll have to decide if sweeteners are right for you or not. Try it out – but stay vigilant and watch out for any unwanted consequences.
And as always, if you have diabetes or you’re on any medications, check with your doctor before you make any changes in your diet.
Author: Roo Black
Roo is a fasting coach with over 5 years of experience. She leads the admin team of the Official Fasting for Weight Loss Facebook group – one of the largest fasting communities on social media with over 125,000 members. We highly recommend this group for anyone who is looking for fasting advice or coaching.