One of the most difficult habits to kick when you choose a low-carb lifestyle is sugar. White sugar is pure carb and has no nutritional benefit. Carbohydrates will break down into sugar in your body. So, basically low carb means avoiding not just processed sugar, but also other foods heavy with carbohydrates like wheat bread, most fruits, and pasta. Also to be avoided are “starchy” foods. This rules out potatoes and rice. You are trying to train the body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates so your carb intake should be very low. You need sugar substitutes!
We use sugar substitutes for sweetening our recipes. There are dozens of products on the market and they are readily available. We have not tried them all and we are constantly experimenting and learning about new ones. A low-carb lifestyle means constantly perfecting recipes and learning each day about the best products available. We often get questions about what are the best sugar substitutes to use and we do have our preferences.
SweetLeaf Drops (Liquid Stevia)
SweetLeaf drops are actually liquid Stevia. Stevia is a plant that has been around for over 1500 years. It is grown on the edges of the rain forest in Paraguay. The leaves are highly nutritious and contain over 100 vital nutrients. Stevia is often referred to as the “sugar leaf.” It is non-glycemic, calorie free, and carb free! It is sold in packets, shakers, powder, and drops. We prefer the drops for sweetening drinks and for blending with bulk sugar substitutes (like erythritol) for baking.
It has been shown to reduce blood pressure and lower blood glucose and insulin levels in diabetics. Yet, Stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. We really like the SweetLeaf drops and find there is virtually no after-taste or cooling effect in the mouth.
The key is to use the drops. Many powdered stevia products, like “Stevia in the Raw,” contain artificial sweeteners like dextrose and maltodextrin. These are corn based, will raise blood sugar, and have hidden carbs simply to add bulk. Dextrose is made from GMO corn and maltodextrin is made from rice and may contain MSG.
We are really excited about EZ-Sweetz! It is a liquid sweetener made from Sucralose, which is the same sweetener found in Splenda. The difference is that EZ-Sweetz has no fillers since it is purchased in drop form. Sucralose packets like Splenda are 99% filler and that adds carbs and calories just like the powdered Stevia. The drops also have no dextrose or maltodextrin. They are actually cheaper than Splenda since the bulk in Splenda adds to the cost. With EZ-Sweetz drops you will be healthier and save money.
It is 600 times sweeter than sugar so a little will go a long way. In fact, 1/2 teaspoon of the liquid equals a cup of sugar. These drops are perfect for drinks and we use them for most of our low carb cocktails. As we mentioned with the SweatLeaf drops, these EZ-Sweetz drops can be used with Erythritol to add bulk for baking recipes.
Although some say Stevia products may have a little after taste, we detect none with EZ-Sweetz. Sucralose also has a long “track record” of safe human consumption and was recommended as the preferred sugar substitute on the Atkins Diet.
Erythritol and Swerve
Erythritol is our “go-to” sweetener when a recipe calls for bulk, like making a cheese cake or for any breads or baking. Like processed sugar, it is white and powdery. That is where the similarity ends. It is classified as a “sugar alcohol” but it is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Like Stevia it has a glycemic index of zero and adds only about 0.24 calories per gram. That is only 6% of what is added by sugar.
Erythritol is found in Truvia and Sukrin brands. We use a lot of the Sukrin products. Sukrin Gold is a perfect substitute for brown sugar.
Sugar alcohols (like Xylitol) can sometimes cause very mild digestive problems. However, erythritol is different since it does not affect the colon like other sugar alcohols. Erythritol is absorbed directly from the small intestine into the bloodstream.
It is not quite as sweet as sugar so we do suggest that you use about 25% more of the product to obtain the same sweetening. It is readily available and is less expensive than Swerve. We have actually emptied all of our sugar canisters in our kitchen and replaced the contents with pure Erythritol.
Swerve is also all-natural. It has no calories and has a zero glycemic index. Swerve is perfect for baking since it can be browned and caramelized like normal cane sugar. Swerve is Erythritol with some natural citrus flavor and something called oligosaccharides. An oligosaccharide is a carb, but it is not absorbed so it does not affect blood sugar.
The advantage of Swerve is that it measures cup-for-cup with sugar as shown in the chart above, but it is more expensive than Erythritol and does add a little carb to the nutrition label.
AVOID XYLITOL ENTIRELY!
We do know that many low-carb recipes and food bloggers use Xylitol, but it presents a serious health problem for dogs. Even small amounts will cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, and potential death in dogs! If you have Xylitol in your pantry and you have pets we urge you to discard it immediately. Of all the sugar substitutes we have researched it also has the highest carb content.
In summary – we like the Stevia products like SweetLeaf and use it in many recipes. For baking and to obtain bulk in our recipes we use Erythritol and sometimes Swerve and often in combination with SweetLeaf or EZ-Sweetz. Our main sugar substitute for drink recipes is EZ-Sweetz. We or so excited about EZ-Sweetz that we are starting to use it more and more. We see no after-taste and that is a plus!