Sugar Alcohols

Sugar Alcohols on Keto


Even keto dieters need a little sweetness in their lives! But since white sugar is just pure carbs, you have to skip all the regular sweeteners on Keto (even honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and agave are out). And as a result, many people use sugar alcohols (which are low-calorie sweeteners) instead to satisfy the sweet tooth. Don’t worry, they’re not the same as the alcohol you drink! Chemically speaking, sugar alcohols are sugar molecules with an alcohol group attached to it.  (Plus, for people on keto, alcohol is likely to kick you out of ketosis, at least briefly!)  Below, we’ll go through all the common questions you might have: what are sugar alcohols, common sugar alcohols, are sugar alcohols keto-friendly or not.


What are Sugar Alcohols?

Sugar alcohol is a sugar alternative that contains fewer calories and won’t spike your blood sugar levels.

Also known as polyols, these sugar substitutes are widely used in the food industry to reduce the amount of added sugar in low-carb or low-sugar products.

Sugar alcohol is a bit of a misnomer — they are neither sugar nor alcohol, but a hybrid that creates a whole new type of carbohydrate compound. They also don’t contain ethanol — the chemical in boozy drinks that gives you a buzz. 

Sugar alcohols occur naturally in some fruit and vegetables, but the majority are man-made from starch, glucose, and sucrose. They tend to be a bit less sweet than sugar, and often create a cooling effect in your mouth.  


Do Sugar Alcohols Raise Your Blood Glucose?

While eating a meal rich in sugar will trigger a large glycemic response — aka, sugar in your bloodstream,eating a meal low in sugar and higher in fat and protein will trigger a much smaller glycemic response, less sugar in the blood.

The more blood sugar present, the more insulin you need. Its job is to shuttle that sugar out of your blood and into energy-hungry cells.

If you’re on a low-carb diet or are avoiding sugar because you have diabetes, the main benefit of a low-carb diet is controlling the amount of sugar in your blood and keeping insulin response as low as possible.



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How do sugar alcohols work in your body?

Unlike sugar and sugar-based sweeteners, sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by your body. 

When sugar alcohols reach your small intestine, instead of being rapidly absorbed and entering circulation, they’re only partly absorbed — and very slowly.  The remaining unabsorbed sugar alcohol moves on to your large intestine, never making it into your bloodstream. While sorbitol is the most likely absorbed, erythritol has the lowest absorption rate.. Overall, sugar alcohols tend to produce a lower glucose response than fructose, sucrose, or glucose (the most common nutritive forms of sugar). 

However, there’s still debate as to whether the number of sugar alcohols used will actually give you a net reduction in calories or not. This is especially dependent on the type of sugar alcohol.

Note: Low-glycemic is considered anything less than 55.


Most Common Sugar Alcohols
  • Erythritol-

    Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, but in many ways, it’s quite different than the other sweeteners we’ve already mentioned. For starters, its calories are nearly nonexistent, with less than 0.3 calories per gram. Despite this low-calorie count, it’s still about 70% as sweet as normal sugar.   Unlike other sugar alcohols, which pass through the digestive system but are only partly or not at all absorbed, erythritol passes directly into the bloodstream before reaching the digestive system. It’s then excreted through urine. For this reason, it has no impact on blood sugar levels. This makes erythritol an ideal sweetener for people like diabetics and keto followers who are looking to manage their body’s glycemic response.  Erythritol comes in a white granular form and can be used nearly anywhere you’d use regular sugar. 

  • Isomalt-

    Isomalt is about half as sweet as table sugar but has little to no impact on blood glucose levels, with a glycemic index of 2. It contains about 2 calories per gram.  Unlike other sugar substitutes, isomalt doesn’t break down or lose its sweetness when heated. It doesn’t absorb much water, so it’s often used in solid products like hard candies and cough drops. Bakers and pastry chefs love isomalt because it retains nearly all of the physical properties of sugar that are appealing when baking, like the ability to resist crystallization and clumping under humidity.  

  • Maltitol-

    With 2.1 calories per gram and 75% the sweetness of sucrose, maltitol is widely used in hard candies, and can also be found in chewing gum, chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods.  Of all the sugar alcohols, maltitol is the most likely to cause a blood glucose response.

  • Mannitol

    – Mannitol contains 1.6 calories per gram and has 50-70% the sweetness of sucrose. It is an ingredient you can use for chocolate-flavored coatings found in ice cream and other confections.  It’s poorly reabsorbed by the kidneys so it may have a diuretic effect.

  • Sorbitol-

    Sorbitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including apples and berries. Its manufacturing is the basis of corn syrup. Sorbitol is about 60% as sweet as table sugar and contains about 2.6 calories per gram (about 30% less than sugar).  You can use Sorbitol in candies, gums, baked goods, and frozen desserts. It has a glycemic index of 4.

  • Xylitol-

    Xylitol is naturally found in corn cobs, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, and some cereals. It’s as sweet as sugar but contains about 40% of the calories (2.4 calories per gram to sugar’s 4 calories per gram). Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 and about 4 grams of total carbohydrates per teaspoon. You can xylitol found in chewing gum, sugar-free candies, mints, and oral care products like toothpaste. You can buy it off the shelf in a crystalline form similar to sugar, which is a good option for sprinkling into smoothies or stirring into the coffee.  Pet owners should note that while this sugar alcohol is perfectly safe for humans, it can be toxic to dogs even in small amounts.


 Are Sugar Alcohols Keto-Friendly?

The answer is “it depends”.

Erythritol is one sugar alcohol that doesn’t seem to spike blood sugar and is also pretty easy on digestion. Keeping blood sugar stable is paramount for a keto diet, but you shouldn’t ignore food quality and the long-term potential effects of things like sugar alcohols.

Although some sugar alcohols won’t necessarily affect your blood sugar, there are still too many unknowns to determine whether or not they are part of a healthy keto diet.  They don’t contain important nutrients and may trigger unwanted digestive issues. More research is needed when it comes to the long-term effects of consistently high doses. But this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some sugar substitutes now and then. In fact, keeping your keto diet exciting is vital to sustaining keto in the long term. Consuming large amounts of sugar alcohols may cause digestive side effects so make sure you choose the right one for you. Opting for tried-and-true sugar substitutes like stevia and monk fruit is a safe and equally delicious bet.



Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners that generally have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels. As a result, they’re a popular keto-friendly option for sweetening foods and beverages. Just keep in mind that some may be better choices than others. The next time you’re looking to add sweetener to your coffee or make homemade keto-friendly sweets and bars, try using sugar alcohol like erythritol or xylitol. Just be sure to consume these sweeteners in moderation to avoid any potential digestive distress.



1. Which the best sugar alcohol for keto?

Ans:    Erythritol

2. Do Sugar Alcohol kicks you out Ketosis?

Ans: Not all of them. It depends on the type of sugar alcohol you take.

3. Any sugar-free substitutes to use on the keto diet?

Ans: Yes, you can have stevia and monk fruit as low carb keto sweeteners.

4. Are Sugar Alcohols Keto-friendly?

Ans: The answer to your questions depends on what option you choose and make sure you take it in moderation.


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