Can you eat sugar-free candy on keto diet?

The keto diet has become one of the most popular diets for weight loss in recent years. This very low-carb, high-fat diet puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which causes you to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. However, restricting carbs to such a low level can be challenging, especially when it comes to sweets and treats. That’s why many people wonder if sugar-free candies are keto-friendly options.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. It typically limits carbs to 20-50 grams per day. This restriction causes your body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy instead of carbs. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy to the brain. Put simply, your body switches from burning carbs for energy to burning fats and ketones instead. This change has many purported benefits, including:

  • Weight loss — Keto diets lead to a significant reduction in body fat and weight.
  • Reduced appetite — Many people experience a marked decrease in hunger on keto diets.
  • Improved type 2 diabetes — The diet can dramatically improve blood sugar control.
  • Healthier blood lipid levels — Keto diets tend to improve HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides and other biomarkers.

There are also several other benefits being researched, including effects on mental health, neurological diseases and cancer. The keto diet was originally developed to treat epilepsy in children. Research shows it can drastically reduce seizures in epileptic patients.

Why Limiting Carbs Is Important on Keto

In order to reach ketosis, carb intake must be very low. This is because carbs are broken down into glucose, which is the preferred energy source for your body’s cells. However, the body can only store a limited amount of glucose in the form of glycogen. When carb intake is very low, these glycogen stores become depleted. This allows fat to become the main energy source instead.

Here are a few reasons why limiting carbs is important on a keto diet:

  • Prevents you from leaving ketosis — Eating too many carbs will prevent the metabolic shift to ketosis.
  • Enables fat loss benefits — Carb restriction increases fat burning and promotes weight loss.
  • Regulates blood sugar and hunger — Ketosis can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce cravings.
  • Provides ketones to the brain — Lower carb intake allows ketones to become a fuel source for the brain.

That’s why many standard keto diets limit total carbs to 20-50 net grams per day. Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. Fiber content can be subtracted because it is not digested by the body.

Keto Guidelines on Sweets and Desserts

Because the keto diet is a very low-carb diet, sweets and desserts are typically off limits. Products like candy, cookies, cake, ice cream and sugar-sweetened beverages are usually avoided.

However, the keto diet does not have to be completely free of sweets. There are plenty of keto-friendly sweeteners and low-carb dessert recipes you can utilize. Common options include:

  • Stevia — Extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and contains zero carbs.
  • Erythritol — Sugar alcohol derived from corn with 0.24 calories per gram.
  • Monk fruit or Lakanto — Extracted from monk fruit and up to 200 times sweeter than sugar without carbs.
  • Inulin — Fiber supplement made from chicory root that can be used to sweeten recipes.
  • Dark chocolate — Choose at least 70% cocoa and only eat it occasionally.

There are also many low-carb dessert recipes that utilize healthy fats and keto sweeteners. Some examples include:

  • Cheesecake fluff made with cream cheese and sweetener
  • Chocolate fat bombs — Bites made of coconut oil, cocoa powder and sweetener
  • Protein mug cake — Cake batter cooked in the microwave with eggs, cocoa and sweetener
  • Chia pudding — Chia seeds soaked in nut milk with sweetener and vanilla
  • Avocado chocolate mousse — Avocados, cocoa powder and stevia blended together

Desserts like these can keep your sweet tooth satisfied while not kicking you out of ketosis. But they should be eaten in moderation as part of an overall healthy keto diet.

Are Sugar-Free Candies Keto-Friendly?

With how strict keto is on sugar intake, many dieters wonder if sugar-free candies can be part of a keto diet. Unfortunately, most sugar-free candies are not good options on keto.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Often high in carbs — Most still contain enough net carbs and sugar alcohols to potentially affect ketosis.
  • May cause digestive issues — Sugar alcohols like maltitol are well-known to cause digestive upset and diarrhea.
  • Lack of nutrients — Sugar-free candies provide very little or no important vitamins and minerals.
  • Food addiction — They may trigger cravings and cause overeating.

With that being said, there are some better candy options for keto than others.

Sugar-Free Candy Options for Keto

Here are a few sugar-free candies that may work in small amounts as part of a keto diet:

  • Chocolate Candy with Stevia — Choose one that’s 70% cocoa or higher. May contain 3–8 grams of net carbs per serving.
  • Jelly candies — These are typically sweetened with sugar alcohols like erythritol. Around 2–3 grams of net carbs per serving.
  • Breath mints — These tend to be low in sugar alcohols and have only 1–2 grams of carbs per serving.
  • Gummy bears or jelly beans — The ones sweetened with stevia or monk fruit are better options at around 5 grams of net carbs per serving.

When choosing sugar-free candies for keto, be mindful of sugar alcohols like maltitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates and mannitol. These can cause digestive issues.

Sugar-Free Candy to Avoid on Keto

Here are some common sugar-free candies that should be limited or avoided on keto:

  • Candy with maltitol or maltitol syrup — These typically have 3–4 grams of maltitol per piece which counts as 2.5 grams of net carbs.
  • Hard candies and lollipops — Often contain either maltitol, sorbitol or isomalt as main sweeteners.
  • Chocolates sweetened with maltitol — Typically 8–15 grams of net carbs per serving.
  • Nutrition or protein bars — Even if labeled low-carb or sugar-free, most have too many carbs for keto diets.

Always check the nutrition facts and ingredient lists closely. Do not assume a candy is keto-friendly simply because it is labeled as sugar-free.

Potential Downsides of Sugar-Free Candy on Keto

Here are some potential downsides of incorporating sugar-free candies into a keto diet:

  • Digestive issues — Sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea in sensitive people.
  • Kicked out of ketosis — Some sugar-free candies may contain enough net carbs or sugar alcohols to temporarily kick you out of ketosis.
  • Blood sugar spikes — Certain sugar alcohols like maltitol still have a glycemic index and can spike blood sugar levels.
  • Increased cravings — Having candies may trigger cravings for other sweets and treats.
  • Lack of nutrients — Candy provides very minimal vitamins, minerals and antioxidants compared to other keto foods.

For these reasons, it is best to choose sugar-free candies sparingly and in small amounts as part of a healthy keto diet. Moderation is key.

Healthier Keto-Friendly Sweet Snacks

Here are some healthier and more nutritious snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth on keto:

  • Berries — Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are lower in sugar.
  • Nut butter — Try natural peanut or almond butter spread over celery or cucumber.
  • Nuts and seeds — Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds make great snacks.
  • Cheese — Snack on sliced cheese or make cheese crisps for satisfying saltiness.
  • Avocado — Eat plain with lemon juice or make into chocolate pudding or ice cream.
  • Dark chocolate — Go for at least 70 percent cocoa.
  • Chia pudding — Made with chia seeds, nut milk and a keto-friendly sweetener.
  • Diet smoothies — Blend berries, greens, nut butter and coconut or almond milk.

Emphasize healthy fats from foods like nuts, seeds and avocado when snacking to stay satisfied between meals. Limit higher-carb fruits to small portions.

Guidelines for Incorporating Sugar-Free Candy on Keto

Here are some tips if you choose to incorporate sugar-free candies into your keto diet:

  • Read nutrition labels closely and count net carbs.
  • Stick to one serving size and track your intake.
  • Choose sugar alcohols like erythritol, stevia and monk fruit.
  • Watch for digestive upset and discontinue if it occurs.
  • Make sure it fits within your daily carb limit.
  • Focus on healthy, nutrient-dense foods for most of your diet.
  • Save candy just for occasional intake, not daily.

It may also be helpful to limit sugar-free candy consumption to 1–2 days per week at most. This prevents overindulging while still allowing the occasional treat. Moderation, variety and balance are key principles for success on the keto diet.

The Bottom Line

Most sugar-free candies are not good choices on keto due to containing hidden carbs or sugar alcohols that may impact ketosis. However, some sugar-free chocolates, gummy bears, jelly beans and mints made with stevia may work sparingly in small amounts. Focus on satisfying any sweet cravings with healthier snacks like low-carb fruits, nuts and seeds instead. If enjoying the occasional sugar-free candy, be mindful of portions and track your net carbs closely to stay in ketosis.

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