Sugar + Substitutes
Some days our sugar craving feels insurmountable. Today's Sustainable Keto Podcast will walk you through what you need to do to BEAT those sugar cravings. We will teach you different sugar substitutes to gain clarity on calculating your own net carbs. We’ll help you avoid making the same mistakes we first made when starting the ketogenic diet and list out some sneaky, common, and familiar foods in which sugar hides. We’ll finish by teasing your sweet tooth with our findings in the published studies of a newer sugar substitute we think you'll just love.
Controlling The Sugar
Many people don't want to admit their sugar cravings have correlations with "addiction". There is a stigma associated with sugar addictions you need to be aware of. If you want to remove this from your life once and for all, we suggest treating it as such! How do we treat addiction? Own up to it. Communicate with others who have the same problem.
The life you live
Most people don’t view their sugar cheating episodes seriously and as a result their health deteriorates. If a former drug addict goes on a binder… this is considered a significant event. What if you eat an entire cake, but your intentions were to only have a small slice? There is a severity of negative consequences that come from “falling” into this behavior regularly.
Sugar addictions manifest in a large number of symptoms. We don't want this for you. We want you to feel good, energetic, and ready to live life each morning! Lackadaisical attitudes prolong this unhealthy lifestyle. Changing your behavior will be hard. Please believe, it’s NEVER too late to turn things around 😉. Get very clear on WHY you want to change. It must be deep and important to you.
Here are some tips to help you find your “why”:
- Answer this question: If I change none of my current behaviors, what will be this path’s natural trajectory?
- Figure out your triggers. Write out things that truly bring you joy. Now play the matching game! Substitute each of your triggers with activities you ENJOY.
- Reframe your self-talk. Replace the negative voice in your mind with “I deserve to be healthy”; “I deserve to feel energetic”; “I deserve to LOVE the skin I’m in”.
- Get support. Trying to beat addiction by yourself is a lonely road and usually unsuccessful. Join a program (ours or another one) to find a place where you can speak your truth without judgment. We encourage finding a good therapist too. Often we use sugar/carbs to self-soothe, as an attempt to escape reality.
Change your daily habits. To succeed, you HAVE to change something you do daily. This is not going away on its own. Commit to doing the difficult work and traveling the journey towards freedom. You are capable. You’ve done hard things before, haven’t you? You can do them again.
Sugar Substitutes + Net Carb Calculations
You don't have to deduct all sugar substitutes from total carbs when calculating net carbs. The calculation for finding net carbohydrates is:
“Net Carb = total carb - fiber - sugar alcohols”
Stabilizing blood sugar
With keto, our goal is to stabilize blood sugar levels. When we increase glucose and insulin, we shut off our body’s fat metabolism. So, for the best results, we need a little knowledge about sugar substitutes and how they affect blood glucose and insulin response. We also need to know what it is doing to our blood sugar and insulin levels. If you are dealing with a metabolic disorder such as diabetes, this is especially critical. When calculating your net carbs, follow the rule “always be moderate”.
The sugar substitutes
These sugar substitutes can be deducted 100% from total carbs: Erythritol, Stevia (reb-A and reb-M), Allulose (rare sugar), Monk Fruit, and Tagatose (rare sugar).
Discount this next list of sugar substitutes 50% out of total carbs: Isomalt, Sorbitol, and Xylitol. A lot of these have caused digestive discomfort so we suggest you only have them in small quantities. Xylitol is HIGHLY toxic (read: "fatal") to cats, dogs, and other animals even in small quantities. You may decide to not have this in your house at all if you have pets.
Deduct this sugar substitute list 0-25% from total carbs (there are better sweetener options out there): Maltitol (very common in sugar-free candies), Splenda (contains maltodextrin), Maltodextrin (will spike blood glucose), Vegetable Glycerine (an additive that rapidly converts to glucose by the liver and kidneys), Inulin/Chicory Root (chicory root is a great pre-biotic, but you may want to check your blood glucose levels before consuming, note this article: https://ketogenic.com/net-carbs-and-fiber-are-fibers-truly-ketogenic/), and IMO’s /Tapioca Fiber (IMO/isomalt oligosaccharides cause insulin to spike and a blood glucose response in humans).
Always with the moderation
If you aren’t sure how much to deduct from net carbs, be conservative and error on the side of caution. Remember... always be moderate! When in doubt: check your blood sugars. Glucometers should be covered by your insurance if you're pre-diabetic. Many FLEX plans will reimburse for these.
Studies On Sugar Substitutes
Where Is Sugar Hiding In Everyday Foods?
Common, familiar foods hide sugar in the ingredients more than you would think. We made the mistake of not recognizing this when we first started keto. We would be in a coffee shop and think “awesome, they’ve got a sugar-free substitute!", grab some sugar-free sweetener packets and put them in our coffees and go on our way... little did we know 😒. If you take a moment to look at the ingredient list, using stevia in the raw, for example, you may be surprised to see “stevia, dextrose, sugar” or “stevia, maltodextrin”. Why do they have to add to stevia? Because stevia is 1-300x sweeter than sugar, the amount of stevia that needs to be in that packet is SO minuscule the packet would feel empty, so they mix in other ingredients to make that little packet have substance. Labeling regulations in the United States only requires the packet to be under 5 calories.
The other hidden sugars
Other hiding places you need to be aware of include condiments (ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressings, mayonnaise, sweet mustards, nut butter, sometimes salt), processed meats (bacon, sausage, brats, cold cuts, anything that’s been sauced or pre-marinated), dairy-free products (these often have a base of some kind of carbohydrate example: cashew milk; vegan cheese products), products labeled “fat-free” or “light”, milk (lactose is natural sugar), and processed “keto” labeled products often contain sugar substitutes (like maltitol).
Do your due diligence and flip to the ingredient list on everything you consume. Your progress on keto will increase from this one change.
Allulose... Good or Bad?
Allulose is a rare sugar that does not metabolize in the human body. Studies show that 89-94% of allulose (found in figs and jackfruit) is excreted through urine, feces, or sweat. Only .4 calories per gram (1 gram of sugar has about 4 calories), if it seems less sweet than sugar, you are correct! About 30% less sweet than traditional sugar, it makes a great alternative. After some time on the ketogenic diet, you’ll find you no longer “need” that super sweet taste (if it’s not sweet enough for you, just blend in another sugar substitute to make up for the “lack”).
For the health of it
Studies show possible health benefits using allulose. Allulose does not have an insulin response, but it’s been shown to lower blood sugar and may even prevent fat storage. Another odd effect discovered is allulose can reduce HDL levels... 🤔 Allulose drives HDL already present in the body into tissues; it does not turn off the production of new HDL.
Allulose has also been shown to upregulate a signaling pathway called AMPK. AMPK gets turned on/up when there’s a reduction of nutrients available. This naturally happens on fasting-mimicking diets (like the ketogenic diet). Reducing calories over the long term also turns up AMPK allowing us to live longer.
Re-search the research
Allulose research is continuing to be released, but is showing to be a great sugar-free sweetener alternative. Check it out for yourself and keep learning. We’ve linked the studies we mentioned below.
Key reflections from the episode:
- Changing behavior is hard, but not impossible! What's your plan to refocus and move toward your goals?
- As a precaution, err of the side of moderation for blood sugar stabilization. What was the most difficult part of figuring out your own net carb calculations?
- Reviewing ingredient lists is one major key to keto success. What is the most surprising food you have found sugar hiding in?
- Allulose is a promising sugar substitute find. What was the most interesting thing you learned about allulose?