So many clients talk to me about the positive changes that happen in their bodies after they QUIT SUGAR! Acne, eczema and other skin aliments clear up, digestive issues start to lessen, energy levels increase, sleep is deeper and longer, cravings subside, chronic issues resolve and blood sugar conditions stabilize. In fact, I could almost spend this entire blog explaining ways the body improves when sugar is eliminated from the diet. Oh and did I mention you LOSE WEIGHT?!
Eliminating sugar from your diet is the key to improving your health and also one of the primary reasons why the ketogenic lifestyle works so successfully for so many people! Here is the low down: All forms of carbohydrates (including sugar) are digested into glucose. The more you eat, the more glucose your body has in its bloodstream. Your body then breaks down glucose into glycogen for fuel for its brain, organs and muscles. The problem is that your body only needs a finite amount of glucose at any given time based on your activity level. So when you have more glucose than what’s needed for immediate energy, your body will store excess in the liver, then the muscles and if everything is full, the excess is converted into FAT. This daily cycle of ingesting too much glucose that is then ultimately stored as fat is the reason why you gain weight and get sick.
So can I never have sweet things again??!! My answer is “yes” and “no”. I do advise my clients to steer completely clear of all types of sugar including granular sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, fructose, dextrose, malt syrup, as well as natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, and maple syrup. Also, I am definitely not a fan of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose that are chock full of chemicals and made with unhealthy, low quality ingredients. Not only are these artificial sweeteners dangerous for your health, but your body can’t tell the difference between an artificial sweetener and actual sugar so it reacts the same way.
There is good news though! There are a few natural sweeteners that are not sugar-based and there are hundreds of incredible keto-friendly dessert recipes are out there, so you don’t need to deprive yourself of a delicious treat for the rest of your life!
A quick search online will reveal keto muffins, pies, sweet breads, cakes, cheesecakes, and cookies. How is this possible? The answer is basic - just use high quality ingredients and add sweeteners that taste great and bake well, but don't increase your glucose levels!
Here are my 4 favorite sweeteners for your keto needs:
1. Stevia: I’m talking about a real stevia leaf extract product, not Truvia. Stevia is an herbal plant that has been used for over 1,500 years by the Guaraní people of Brazil and Paraguay. The leaves of the stevia plant are dried, crushed, and made into a powder or liquid. Stevia is sweeter than sugar and some people aren’t fond of the aftertaste, but for those who are fans, a little goes a long way. It can be a great, health-promoting choice when you buy a high-quality, pure stevia leaf extract product. Make sure to buy stevia without additives and one that has been less processed. I recommend green stevia as the best option. If you use liquid stevia, make sure it is alcohol-free and one 1 teaspoon of the extract equals one cup of sugar!
2. Chicory Root: Chicory root fiber comes from the chicory root plant that has been used in Europe for a long time for a range of edible purposes. When you extract the fiber of the chicory root, you get a powder. In packaged form, chicory root is light and fluffy, with a very light sweet flavor. Chicory root is considered a prebiotic (it feeds the good gut bacteria in your digestive lining) and causes a bulking effect in the colon that helps with bowel movements. If you don’t like the bitter taste of stevia, try out chicory root fiber. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little fiber to your diet, especially when on keto.
3. Monk Fruit Sweetener: Monk fruit is a small, green gourd from Southeast Asia that resembles a melon. The fruit was first used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century, which is where the fruit gets its name. Monk fruit contains compounds that, when extracted, are natural sweeteners 300–400 times sweeter than cane sugar but with no calories and no effect on blood sugar. Just make sure that the monk fruit product you’re purchasing doesn’t contain any unhealthy additives.
4. Erythritol: Erythritol is one of the most well-known natural zero calorie sweeteners on the market today. It is a natural sugar alcohol similar to xylitol and has been popular in Asia for many years. Erythritol is known as a sugar alcohol and occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, but what we buy conventionally is produced. This is achieved through the fermentation of wheat or cornstarch to create a crystalline product that can then be added to foods, much like sugar. Erythritol is also great in baked goods, but it shouldn’t be used very large amounts and always look for non-GMO versions.