We read labels on everything we buy. Our bath products, makeup, toothpaste, clothing, and so on. However do we really read the labels on the things that matter the most, on our foods? If so do we really understand what we’re reading? If we are trying to avoid sugars and hidden carbs if can be like walking through a landmine to find products without these hidden sugars.
There are many different types of sugar and in those types of sugars many different names. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc. Here is a list of some of the names sugars can be hidden under, some better than others.
As you’re shopping reading labels is a must. These hidden sugars are in everything including so called low carb products. Maltodextrin and Dextrose are the most frequently hidden sugars in bullion cubes, seasonings, and even low carb items. Reading labels is an absolute must.
So what about sugar substitutes? There is a slew of various sugar subs all boasting zero calorie, doesn’t affect blood sugar, etc. Some are made from the laboratory and some come from plants. Some are ok and some you need to run far away from. What many of these do not tell you is even though they may not affect blood sugar they still increase insulin response as well, cause weight gain and a slew of other health problems. Aspartame is one of these to run away from. Sucralose is a step below Aspartame. So do you never get a sweet treat again? Not necessarily. There are some safe plant based ones such as Stevia, Monk Fruit and Erythritol. These have their pros and cons as well, such as stevia having aftertastes when used in large amounts. Just because the package says Stevia it’s still imperative to read the labels.
Here is a picture of a Stevia from a local grocery store. On the front of the package it just says Stevia, however if you look at the nutrition label you will see it’s Maltodextrin first and Stevia second so more Maltodextrin than stevia. Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, which is a type of carbohydrate which spikes insulin. It is higher on the glycemic index than table sugar, ranging from 106-136 and table sugar is 65! It may cause blood sugar spikes which is dangerous for people with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, the exact people these types of products are being sold to! Easily absorbed carbohydrates like maltodextrin and sugar get into your bloodstream quickly, and if the carbs aren’t used for energy, they’re stored as fat. There is also evidence linked with consumption of polysaccharides, such as maltodextrin, and increased incidence of Crohn’s disease. So watch those labels.
Now what about something like Stevia in the raw, that should be ok, right? Well look at the label. Here are 3 different types of Stevia in the Raw and each one has hidden sugars in it. I would stay far away from Stevia in the Raw.
So what then can we use for sweeteners if we choose to occasionally have some? I haven’t found a Stevia in bulk that doesn’t have a bulking agent such as a maltodextrin. For baking I choose to use Lakanto Monk Fruit which is an Erythritol Monk Fruit Blend and doesn’t affect blood sugar or insulin as it’s mostly sugar alcohol that isn’t metabolized or digested. I will also use Swerve products which are primarily Erythritol and sometimes just straight Erythritol. A note on Erythritol, while it is not metabolized or digested it does primarily come from corn fiber so be sure to get one that is labeled either not from corn or from non-gmo corn. This is the only product I will ever use that comes from corn.
The liquid stevia is primarily used for beverages, though sometimes used in recipes in very small quantities to avoid an aftertaste. Sweetleaf Drops are the only ones we have found to be potent so you only need a little, organic, and doesn’t seem to leave a nasty aftertaste. The plastic bottle ones unfortunately switched the formulation to include vegetable glycerin which is disappointing to me. I did speak to the CEO of Sweet Leaf shortly after they changed the formula and she said no one seemed to mind the change and it didn’t affect the taste. Unfortunately we feel it did affect the taste and so use it very sparingly and typically only the Lemon Lime. We primarily use the glass bottle ones as they do not contain the VG, though they don’t have as many fruit flavors. The plastic bottle is still a better choice than others out there so we make do. Perhaps if enough people complained they would change it back. The Monk Fruit comes in plain as well as some flavors, not as many as Sweet Leaf but a few different ones. The french vanilla is really good with coffee. The bagged sweeteners are used in baking. The Whole Earth packets are a blend of stevia and monk fruit and are super easy to carry in my purse for that iced tea when I go out. I prefer water, however most water around here is chlorinated and I can’t stomach the taste so I end up with unsweetened iced tea for which I bring my own sweetener.
Now the real question is should you use sweeteners at all? I think that is a personal choice for every person. You will hear conflicting information out there if you search it out. Some will say even these plant based sweeteners illicit insulin response, some will say it doesn’t, some say they can use them and stay in ketosis and some will say it kicks them out of ketosis. I cannot confirm the validity of any of those claims. I do not test for ketones, though I can tell when I am in ketosis and haven’t found these to affect me one way or the other. Here’s what I do know, we are too conditioned to need sweet things. Our taste buds love sweets and we need to train them otherwise. That’s the nice thing about these sweeteners is you can slowly back down the amounts you use until you’re just using a little bit. I use the liquid almost daily in my tea and sparkling water, however it’s only a little bit. It hasn’t slowed my progress at all. If it does end up doing so I will cut it out completely to see if it makes a difference. I don’t do many keto treats, we make a dessert for special occasions and that’s perfect for us. My kids would rather have an apple and peanut butter for dessert. If you have a sugar addiction and sweeteners are a trigger then you may not want to use any, at least not for a long while, but if you don’t then a little here and there will not cause issues…in my opinion. Just make sure you read those labels.