Anyone following the keto diet is well aware that sugar is a major no-no; not to mention most carbs.
The idea behind the diet is to consume small amount of carbs while eating plenty of healthy fats and a moderate amount of protein.
But does that mean you can’t enjoy your favorite sweets while still maintaining ketosis?
Sure, white table sugar is not exactly allowed on the keto diet, as it will quickly throw you out of ketosis.
But there are a few substitutes for sugar that can still provide the sweetness that regular sugar has without the blood sugar spike, and maltitol is one.
What is Maltitol?
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol often used as a sweetener and sugar substitute.
Sugar alcohols are naturally found in certain types of fruits and vegetables, and can also be manufactured by adding hydrogen to maltose, which is a sugar that’s found in certain starchy foods.
Sugar alcohols like maltitol are sweet, though not quite as sweet as sugar, and don’t have nearly as many calories.
They can be used in place of sugar for most things, including baked goods and candy, and can also help to keep food moist.
Carbs and Macros in Maltitol
Although very low in calories and not considered a traditional sugar, maltitol is still considered a carbohydrate and contains 2.1 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for sugar.
Maltitol also has 60g net carbs per 100 grams.
Maltitol doesn’t really have any nutritional value.
There aren’t any vitamins, minerals or fiber in maltitol. Instead, its real value is in sweetening up foods without the sugar content.
On the glycemic index, maltitol comes in at 52, compared to 60 for table sugar.
The powdered form has a lower glycemic index of 35, which is a lot lower but is still higher than the majority of other sugar alcohols and all artificial sweeteners.
Is Maltitol Keto-friendly?
Though maltitol has far fewer calories than table sugar, it has a high glycemic index. This increases the blood sugar level for keto dieters.
Because it’s still a carb, it’s not keto-friendly but can substitute table sugar for sure! However, you need to make sure your net carb intake is under check.
Benefits of Maltitol
One of the more obvious benefits of maltitol is that it is lower in carb count and calories than regular table sugar.
Traditional sugar can quickly add up in all the food products that are found on store shelves, and halving the sugar count with substitutes like maltitol can help cut back on unnecessary sugar.
Another benefit that dieters have found when using maltitol is that it does not have an odd or unpleasant aftertaste that most artificial sweeteners do.
You’ll often find that beverages and foods that contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose leave a funny aftertaste that most users aren’t too fond of.
Maltitol doesn’t come with such a drawback.
Another advantage of including maltitol in the diet as opposed to sugar is that it does not have any negative impact on your teeth.
Some sugar alcohols can cause cavities or tooth decay, but maltitol has been shown not to have such an effect on oral health.
In fact, there are many kinds of toothpaste, mouthwash, and gum products out there that contain maltitol to improve the taste without sacrificing optimal oral health.
Side effects of Maltitol
While maltitol may be a better alternative to regular table sugar, that doesn’t mean it’s void of any disadvantages.
We’ve already touched on this point before, but it should be noted again: maltitol is still a carb.
It still has a carb content that keto dieters and even those with diabetes should be aware of.
Since it still has a glycemic index (though not as high as sugar), it still has an impact on blood glucose.
Anyone following a keto-friendly or diabetic diet should be aware of this fact and should factor it into their daily carb total.
Another drawback to maltitol is that it can cause stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating in some.
In more severe cases, maltitol can also cause diarrhea and can act similar to a laxative.
Of course, the severity of these side effects will depend on the person taking it and how their body reacts to it, as well as the how much of it is consumed.
Alternatives to Maltitol on Keto
While maltitol is still the better option compared to regular table sugar, there are better substitutes for it, especially for those who are trying hard to keep their carb count as low as possible.
Stevia is a sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant species.
The active compounds in stevia are as much as 200 times the sweetness of sugar, yet it has zero calories.
Unlike artificial sweeteners, stevia can be baked with thanks to its heat-stable and pH-stable properties.
Unlike other sweeteners, stevia actually has some nutritional value and contains potassium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-3, fiber, and iron.
Not only that, but stevia may also have the potential to treat endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, according to research.
Stevia has no glycemic index, has a low net carb count of 5g per 100g serving, and has only 20 calories per 100g.
Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol, but unlike maltitol, it does not have a glycemic index.
It’s also lower in calories, which is always a good thing for those who are trying to watch their weight.
Erythritol also does not cause stomach discomfort or gas, unlike maltitol, and does not leave behind an unpleasant aftertaste that artificial sweeteners do.
There aren’t really any known benefits for human health (aside from having very few calories and no glycemic index).
That said, some researchers claim that erythritol may provide antioxidants to people who consume it and may even protect again hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage.
Allulose is made up of a monosaccharide found in small quantities in certain fruits, wheat, maple syrup, and brown sugar.
It has no glycemic index and a carb count of zero because it is entirely excreted from the body without being broken down.
It also is extremely low in calories at about 30 calories per 100g.
Some studies have shown that the allulose – a natural substance – may help to reduce blood sugar and insulin levels after meals.
Other studies have even found that it has an antioxidant effect, making it a potentially ideal sweetener for the ketogenic diet.
Inulin is a natural sweetener that’s found in the chicory root.
Unlike some other sugar substitutes, the body can absorb some of the inulin consumed.
It adds sweetness to foods without any aftertaste and doesn’t cause any stomach upset or digestive issues.
Inulin has no glycemic index, has only 1g net carbs per 100g, and is a natural substance.
However, it does have 150 calories in a 100g serving, though it’s still much lower than maltitol.
Some studies have even suggested that inulin has pre-biotic effects and may help with the digestive system.
Keto dieters are obviously trying to minimize or even eliminate their sugar intake, and maltitol may be a better alternative to regular table sugar.
But it’s not necessarily the best alternative to sugar, as it still comes with some net carbs and a hefty number of calories per serving.
Your best bet is to carefully read labels to verify how certain food products are sweetened and control your net carb consumption.