Is Aspartame Keto-Friendly?

Aspartame Chemical StructureAspartame is one of the most well-known artificial sweeteners on the market. It’s regularly used as a substitute for regular sugar and marketed as a calorie-free alternative.

As a keto dieters, one of the cardinal rules is to avoid sugar as much as possible and keep your carb intake to a minimum while ramping up your healthy fat intake.

There are plenty of low-calorie, low-carb sugar substitutes available and often used by dieters everywhere, some of which are natural and others that are artificially created.

Aspartame is an artificial non-saccharide sweetener that is made up of two amino acids that are both naturally occurring in the body: aspartic acid and phenylalanine (1). Aspartame is metabolized into these amino acids when consumed with a small amount of methanol in the body.

Aspartame is much sweeter than regular sugar. In fact, it’s as much as 200 times sweeter, which is why only a tiny amount is needed compared to sugar to sweeten a food or beverage.

While both sugar and aspartame contain four calories per gram, a much smaller amount of aspartame is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness, keeping the total number of calories from aspartame very low.

You can typically find aspartame as the main sweetener in brands of sweetener products such as Equal and Nutrasweet.

Is aspartame keto-friendly is it even healthy or safe to take on the ketogenic diet?

Let’s take a deeper look at what aspartame is and whether it makes a good substitute for sugar to help you maintain a state of ketosis.

Carbs and Macros on Aspartame

One teaspoon of aspartame contains the following:

Calories: 13

Carbs: 3.1g

Protein: 0.1g

Fat: 0g

What Foods Contain Aspartame?

There are all sorts of foods that traditionally contain sugar that may use aspartame instead to sweeten them.

In an effort to eliminate the sugar, aspartame can be added instead to achieve the same level of sweetness. Some products that often contain this artificial sweetener in include:

  • Diet sodas
  • Calorie-reduced juices
  • Chewing gum
  • Candy
  • Yogurt
  • Sugar-free ice cream

Is Aspartame Keto-Friendly?

Aspartame has not been shown to impact blood sugar or insulin levels when consumed. As such, one would assume that this sweetener is keto-friendly and is suitable for the ketogenic diet.

Studies have found that those who consume aspartame in place of sugar tend to have lower body masses thanks to the reduction in calories and less impact on blood sugar levels (2). That said, aspartame consumption may also negatively impact gut bacteria and even potentially lead to insulin resistance.

However, the evidence surrounding artificial sweeteners like aspartame is somewhat mixed and their use is often considered controversial.

So, is aspartame good to consume on the keto diet?

While small amounts might be fine and shouldn’t impact your state of ketosis, some of the potential side effects and impact on long-term weight and insulin resistance point to the need to consider other natural sweeteners instead.

Things to Consider About Aspartame

While swapping table sugar for a low-calorie sweetener may help to keep the carb content down, there are some potential issues with aspartame.

Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aspartame as a product that’s safe for consumption, it’s important to be aware of some of the potential side effects of consuming aspartame.

More specifically as it relates to weight management, aspartame consumption may actually be linked to an increase in appetite.

When regular sugar is consumed, certain chemicals and hormones of the brain are released to induce a feeling of satisfaction.

This food reward pathway is important to feeling satisfied after eating. While artificial sweeteners feature a sweet taste, the low calorie factor prevents the food reward pathway from being completely activated.

As such, artificial sweeteners like aspartame may be associated with an increase in cravings and appetite, which can eventually lead to binge eating and ultimately weight gain (3).

Having said all that, the research on artificial sweeteners and their effect on the appetite is still minimal and not entirely conclusive.

Aspartame Substitutes On Keto Diet

While aspartame is often used as a substitute for sugar, there are other, more natural substitutes that consist of fewer calories than sugar and don’t have much of an effect on blood glucose levels.

And because they’re derived from natural sources, they may be better options than aspartame:

  • Xylitol – A natural sugar alcohol with 2.4 calories per gram.
  • Erythritol – A natural sugar alcohol that has only 0.24 calories per gram.
  • Stevia – A natural sweetener with zero calories.

Final Thoughts

A little bit of aspartame shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But while you may want to avoid any added sugars while on the keto diet, aspartame might not necessarily be the best sugar substitute.

Considering there are natural alternatives that are low on the glycemic index and have a very calorie count compared to sugar, you may be better off with these natural sugar substitutes.

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