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Sucralose sweeteners are a hot topic among health-conscious foodies. Most people know why sugar is bad, but is sucralose bad? Is it good? And most importantly… is sucralose keto?
The answers to these questions are tricky. Let’s talk about sucralose and keto, how it compares to sugar, and the links between sucralose sweeteners and overall health.
If you’re trying to avoid sugar, also check out the completely keto friendly sweeteners guide and the comparison of the best keto sweeteners. You might also like my collection of keto desserts – none of them use sucralose.
What Is Sucralose?
Sucralose is a sugar alternative 600 times sweeter than white sugar. It contains no calories, making it a popular sugar alternative in many diets.
You might know sucralose by its most popular brand name: Splenda. The little yellow packets you see in restaurants or coffee bars contain this sucralose sweetener.
How is Sucralose Made?
Sucralose is made by changing the chemical structure of sugar. Portions of the sugar molecule are replaced with chlorine atoms, transforming the sugar (sucrose) into sucralose [*].
To make a 1:1 sugar substitute, the sucralose you find in stores also contains other additives, including maltodextrin and dextrose – these are other names for sugar.
Is Sucralose Natural?
No, sucralose is not a natural food because you will not find it in nature. Making sucralose requires tampering with sugar molecules in a lab to turn them into something else.
Sucralose is legally classified as an artificial sweetener.
Why Should We Care If It’s Artificial?
Being artificial does not inherently make something good or bad – there are plenty of natural things that are bad for us, too! – but a big concern with artificial ingredients is that the time we’ve had to study them is limited.
Unlike natural foods that humans have been exposed to for thousands of years or at least centuries, most artificial ingredients today have only been around for a few years, or a few decades at best. Often, this isn’t enough time to discover all the long-term side effects, if any.
Is Sucralose Sugar? Sucralose vs. Sugar
Although sucralose is made from sugar, it is not sugar. It has a different chemical structure than sugar, even though it tastes sweet.
Is Sucralose Keto Friendly?
Can you have sucralose on keto? The answer depends on your approach to keto, and the way you incorporate sucralose in your diet.
If you judge the keto-friendliness of a food based on its nutrition label alone (not including the ingredient portion), sucralose sweeteners are keto friendly because they have very low net carbs.
However, based on what we know about how sucralose behaves in the body and how people normally enjoy it, it may slow down your progress on a ketogenic diet. The best way to tell if you can have sucralose on keto is to test your blood glucose after consuming it.
Another factor to consider when deciding if sucralose is keto friendly for you is the type of keto lifestyle you are following. As an artificial ingredient, sucralose would not be “clean keto”, but “dirty keto” followers may consider it. (Read more about the differences in my list of keto tips for beginners.)
Is Sucralose Bad For You?
The FDA has allowed the use of sucralose in foods since 1998, using over 110 studies to reach its decision. By FDA standards, a 132-pound person could safely ingest 23 packets of sucralose per day. [*]
Whether sucralose is “bad” for you, then, depends on the amount you consume, how you consume it, and your wellness goals. We’ll go over some of the studies and what is known here, but you also have to weigh whether consuming an artificial ingredient is something you consider good or bad.
Sucralose and Cancer: Is There a Connection?
Rumors have circulated that sucralose causes cancer, but the research is shaky. One of the landmark studies supporting this claim involved feeding rats an amount of artificial sweetener that no human would reasonably consume (equal to hundreds of cans of diet soda a day—or more!) [*]. Still, it’s not great news.
More viable studies linking sucralose and cancer show that exposing it to higher temperatures, along with glycerol (a substance found in fats), produced carcinogenic compounds known as chloropropanols [*]. Baking or cooking with sucralose could be more risky than using it in cold or room temperature foods.
A small amount of sucralose every day may not greatly increase your risk for conditions like cancer (as far as we know) — however, it can still cause other side effects.
Sucralose Side Effects
Sucralose may impact healthy digestion and immunity by altering gut flora. In one rat study, sucralose reduced the amount of “good bacteria” in the gut — even long after the rats stopped ingesting it [*].
Anecdotally, sucralose side effects can include migraines and GI distress. There is little research to back these claims, but this may be because not enough research has been done.
Sucralose vs. Aspartame
Sucralose and aspartame are both artificial sweeteners, but have different chemical compositions. While sucralose contains added chlorine molecules, aspartame has the added amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both use sugar-based bulking agents like maltodextrin to more closely resemble a 1:1 sugar substitute.
While these sweeteners are both considered safe to consume by the FDA, people with certain health conditions should take other considerations into account before trying aspartame:
- Aspartame has been linked to cancer (lymphomas, leukemias, and transitional cell carcinomas) in rats [*]. However, as with sucralose, this topic is hotly debated.
- Aspartame may cause kidney strain [*], so those with kidney problems would be better off avoiding it.
- Since aspartame contains phenylalanine, it can also affect those with phenylketonuria (a rare disorder that causes sensitivity to this amino acid).
- Aspartame can affect certain medications, including some used for the treatment of schizophrenia [*].
How Many Carbs In Sucralose?
Does sucralose have carbs? Nope — pure sucralose with no fillers contains zero carbs and zero calories.
If your goals are specifically focused on staying on track with a keto diet, though, sucralose is not the best sweetener choice for low carb living.
Does Sucralose Affect Blood Sugar?
Pure sucralose has a glycemic index of zero, so it does not impact blood sugar by itself. However, since most forms of sucralose contain other elements to make it measure more like sugar, these can play a role in the impact of sucralose on blood glucose.
Remember, sucralose often contains added maltodextrin and dextrose — both of which rank higher on the glycemic index than pure white sugar. If you eat a sucralose sweetener and find your blood sugar stays high, these bulking agents are often the culprit.
Does Sucralose Spike Insulin?
Research on sucralose and insulin is limited, but this sweetener may raise insulin by triggering the sweetness receptors in your mouth.
In one small study, obese individuals who didn’t normally consume sucralose found that it raised their blood sugar and insulin levels [*]. However, another study on healthy individuals who received direct injections of sucralose showed no effects on insulin [*].
Does Sucralose Break A Fast?
Is sucralose bad for fasting? Again, the research is limited. Pure sucralose will likely not break a fast because it contains no calories.
However, sucralose combined with other bulking agents like maltodextrin and dextrose could trigger enough of an insulin response to break your fast.
The best way to tell if sucralose breaks a fast is to test it on yourself.
Better Alternatives To Sucralose
When it comes down to it, sucralose is an artificial sweetener. And here at Wholesome Yum, we always recommend naturally occurring ingredients over ones created in a lab.
Why take the chance with the risks of sucralose, when you an use something that’s naturally found in plants?
Try these natural sucralose alternatives instead – all of them are plant derived:
Erythritol is in the sugar alcohols family, but the particles are smaller than most sugar alcohols, and it’s the only one with a zero glycemic index. It’s naturally occurring in fruit like grapes, peaches, pears and watermelon. Studies haven’t found any significant side effects to consuming erythritol [*].
For mass production, it’s usually made using a natural fermentation process using corn. Since most corn in the United States is GMO, be sure to look for non-gmo erythritol like this one.
Allulose is actually a rare sugar with zero glycemic index as well, found in jackfruit, figs, raisins, and maple syrup.
Even though it is a sugar (not a sugar substitute), your body doesn’t metabolize it like sugar. The FDA recognizes that it doesn’t spike blood glucose, so you won’t find it listed as an added sugar on food labels [*].
Similarly to erythritol, allulose is mass produced via natural fermentation of various plants. I love allulose so much that I made my own line of sweeteners with it! My Besti Allulose is non-GMO as well.
Monk fruit is a small Asian melon that has been used in China for centuries, for both sweetening and medicinal properties. The sweetness comes from extracting the juice inside.
Monk fruit extract is extremely concentrated (150-400 times sweeter than sugar) and is more suitable to be used by mixing with a bulking agent. Most brands of monk fruit on the market use erythritol as a filler to make it measure more like sugar, which isn’t bad, but Besti Monk Fruit Sweetener With Allulose is the only monk fruit sweetener that has no sugar alcohols, uses 50% mogroside V (the highest grade of monk fruit), and can actually dissolve and brown like sugar.
Read more about these keto sweeteners here. Then, check out some of the wonderful sweet recipes below that you can make without sucralose!
Sweet Keto Recipes Without Sucralose
You don’t need sucralose to enjoy sweet recipes. Check out these treats that won’t cause a sugar spike:
Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies
A classic made sugar-free. These cookies still bake up soft and chewy!
Keto Blueberry Muffins
These muffins are so moist and cakey, and studded with fresh blueberries. Try one with butter on top!
Almond Flour Pancakes
Have you seen almond flour do this? You can make fluffy pancakes without sugar or grains.
The toughest sugar lovers still like this one — and nobody can tell it’s sugar-free.
Low Carb Ice Cream
Still sweet, still creamy — just no sugar!
Keto Chocolate Cake
Looks like cake, tastes like cake… so nobody will know the difference.
Keto Shortbread Cookies
These buttery little bites need only a few simple ingredients.
No weird stuff or added sugar here — and it’s so quick to prep!
Keto Cinnamon Rolls
Fluffy and gooey, without flour or sugar. You must try them for yourself!
Keto Almond Flour Donuts
These cakey donuts get dressed up with a cinnamon “sugar” coating..
So, is sucralose keto? And is sucralose bad? As you’ve seen, the answer depends on your comfort level.
You can incorporate sucralose in your keto diet, but beware of additives that can spike your blood sugar. And since sucralose is an artificial ingredient hat has not been around for very long, consider using natural sweeteners instead. Here at Wholesome Yum, we always do!