Discover the Facts on Sugar And Keto + Paleo Diets
Discover the Facts on Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners, Sugar Alcohols, and Natural Sweeteners and Determine How (or if) They Can Fit into a Paleo or Keto Diet
Over the past decade, much attention has been paid to the negative health impact of sugar consumption.
Consuming refined sugar has been linked to several health conditions, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Unfortunately, sugar can be difficult to avoid as it is in many different foods.
Additionally, you may be curious about how refined sugar compares to natural sugar, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup and if it has similar health consequences. This article discussed the different types of sugars and sweeteners and how they differ from natural sugar. We also cover the sweetener options in the Paleo and Keto diets.
What are the Paleo and Keto Diets?
Before delving into all the available sweeteners, we need to define the Paleo and Keto diets and explain the differences between them in terms of sweeteners.
The paleo diet revolves around consuming foods readily available to humans during the Paleolithic Era, which dates back around 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.
A contemporary paleo diet incorporates fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds obtained through hunting and gathering. However, it excludes foods that became more prevalent when small-scale farming started about 10,000 years ago, such as grains, legumes, and dairy products.
Essentially, Paleo emphasizes a whole-food diet that excludes processed foods. It doesn’t restrict sugar, per se, but it prohibits most added sugars and allows natural sugars, like raw honey. 8th Wonder Teas, which has no added sugar, fits this category.
The Keto diet involves consuming a high amount of fat and significantly reducing carbohydrate intake. In fact, up to 90% of the daily calories consumed on this diet come from fat.
This low-carb/high-fat intake puts the body in a metabolic state known as ketosis, which promotes efficient fat-burning and the production of ketones in the liver to fuel the brain. As a result, blood sugar and insulin levels decrease, leading to steady and sometimes rapid weight loss and other health benefits.
To stay in ketosis, carb intake must remain low, which means that refined and unrefined sugars and high-carb natural sugars, like raw honey, are out. But natural low-carb sweeteners like Stevia are permitted on a Keto diet.
Types of Sugar
There are so many types of natural and artificial sweeteners that it can boggle the mind. But we’ve compiled a list that hopefully will make it easier and less confusing for you. Below are the most common types of added sweeteners: artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and natural sweeteners. (In another section, we’ll cover natural whole-food sugar, i.e., the kind that is naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, and 8th Wonder Teas.)
Sugar is abundant in nature. Indeed, it is a naturally occurring substance in various foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, nuts, and seeds. It may surprise you to learn, however, that refined sugars like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are produced by extracting natural sugar from these foods.
Refined sugar, also called white sugar, table sugar, or sucrose, is usually extracted from sugar cane plants or sugar beets.
To produce refined sugar, sugar cane or beets are first washed, sliced, and soaked in hot water to extract their sugary juice. The juice is filtered and transformed into a syrup that undergoes further processing to become sugar crystals.
These crystals are washed, dried, cooled, and packaged for sale in supermarkets as table sugar.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Did you know that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a refined sugar derived from corn? The corn undergoes a milling process to create corn starch, which is further processed to make corn syrup (1). Enzymes are later added to increase the fructose content, resulting in a sweeter taste.
Refined sugars are commonly used to enhance the taste of various foods. The most frequently used type is HFCS 55, which comprises 55% fructose and 42% glucose, another form of sugar. This fructose percentage is comparable to that of table sugar (2).
Additionally, these sugars can be used as preservatives in jams and jellies and help ferment foods like pickles and bread. Processed foods such as soft drinks and other foods may also contain these sugars because they add bulk to the product.
Health Risk of Refined Sugars
It's essential to be aware that sugars, such as table sugar and HFCS, can be added to a variety of foods - even ones you wouldn't expect. This means they can easily sneak into your diet and have adverse health effects.
Consuming excessive amounts of refined sugar, particularly in sugary beverages, has been consistently linked to obesity and excess belly fat. As a result, it can increase your risk of developing conditions like diabetes and heart disease (3, 4, 5).
Additionally, consuming too much refined sugar can cause your body to become resistant to leptin - a hormone that signals when to stop eating. This may partially explain the connection between refined sugar and obesity (6). Many studies have demonstrated these adverse health effects.
Refined sugar can also lead to inflammation in the body, worsening existing conditions or leading to new ones. It can also contribute to cognitive decline and impair your immune system.
Numerous studies have shown an association between high-sugar diets and the following conditions (7, 8, 9, 10, 11):
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Specific cancer types
Does Paleo or Keto Permit Refined Sugars?
Keto: NO, due to their high-carb content.
Paleo: NO, due to the level of processing, lack of nutrition, and because they didn’t exist in the Paleolithic era.
Types of Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, are commonly used in many food and drink items. These chemicals provide a similar sweet taste to regular sugar but can be thousands of times sweeter.
Although some sweeteners contain calories, the amount needed to sweeten products is so minimal that calorie consumption is almost negligible. As a result, many people regularly consume foods with artificial sweeteners as part of their weight control regimen.
Below are the most common artificial sweeteners approved for consumption in the United States and the European Union.
- Aspartame. Brand names include Equal, Nutrasweet, and Sugar Twin.
- Sacchari, also called saccharin. Brand names include Sweet ‘N Low and Nectasweet.
- Sucralose. Brand name, Splenda
Health Effects and Potential Risks of Artificial Sweeteners
Even though dieters frequently use artificial sweeteners, which typically have very few calories, the evidence that they can aid in weight loss is, at best conflicting.
Indeed, several studies suggest that they can increase hunger and appetite and reduce satiety, leading to increased calorie intake and weight gain (12). Some scientific evidence suggests they may increase cravings for sweet foods (13).
However, other studies disagree, finding that they do not increase hunger or calorie intake and promote weight loss (14, 15).
What about health risks? Here, too, research is mixed regarding the health risks of artificial sweeteners.
But studies indicate that they may be harmful to the gut, as they may disrupt gut bacteria and cause dysbiosis.
Other health risks include an increased risk of the following:
- Gut dysbiosis, as specific artificial sweeteners have been found to disrupt gut bacteria.
- Poor blood sugar control, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes.
- Various types of cancer
- Headaches (aspartame)
- Depression (aspartame)
Does Keto or Paleo Permit Artificial Sweeteners?
Keto: NO (mostly). Aspartame intake is discouraged because it has been linked to numerous side effects, and although sucralose is low in net carbs, it can slow down your weight loss. That leaves saccharin, which is permitted on Keto, but there is a risk of health problems.
Paleo: NO (with no exceptions), because artificial sweeteners didn’t exist in prehistoric times.
Natural Sugar Alternatives
Due to the mixed results of the studies on artificial sweeteners, it’s best to err on the side of caution. That is, choose natural sugar alternatives as much as possible. Below are some of the most common ones.
- Stevia. Stevioside, a natural element in Stevia, is an excellent alternative to sugar due to its zero-calorie and carbohydrate content. It’s also 200 times sweeter than sugar.
- Raw honey. Raw honey is not only an all-natural sugar alternative, but it’s healthy, too. It is an absolute powerhouse of beneficial nutrients, such as enzymes, potassium, antioxidants, zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, niacin, and riboflavin. It also boasts a low glycemic index and can work wonders for your skin's health and immune function.
- Monk fruit. Monk fruit is a great sugar alternative as it is derived from a plant with natural compounds 300-400 times sweeter than cane sugar. But it contains no sugar or calories and does not impact your blood sugar levels. As a result, monk fruit is an excellent choice for people with diabetes or those looking to reduce their sugar intake.
- Sugar alcohols. Did you know that there's a group of sugar substitutes called sugar alcohols? Some examples are xylitol, erythritol, and mannitol. Although they can naturally occur in certain foods like sweet potatoes, pineapples, olives, berries, seaweeds, and asparagus, they're typically isolated and produced in a lab. These substitutes taste similar to sugar and are usually low in calories or contain no calories. Plus, they don't have the same effect on blood sugar levels as regular sugar. The only issue is that some individuals may have difficulty digesting them.
- Organic blackstrap molasses. This natural sugar alternative provides a rich supply of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6. However, it is not a low-calorie sweetener. It may also impact your blood sugar levels.
Are Natural Sugar Alternatives Permitted on Keto or Paleo?
Keto: YES and NO. Stevia, Monk Fruit, and sugar alcohols like erythritol are permitted on a Keto diet. Raw honey and black strap molasses are prohibited because of their high-carb content.
Paleo: YES (with a few qualifications). All natural sweeteners listed above are permitted on a Paleo diet because they are completely natural. Stevia, for instance, is derived from the Stevia plant, which makes it Paleo as long as it doesn’t contain added ingredients. Sugar alcohols are generally okay on Paleo, but opinions are mixed due to their heavily refined nature. As for raw honey and blackstrap molasses…Paleo does not restrict carbs.
Natural Sugars in Whole Foods
This should have been the first category because whole foods' natural sugars – like the ones in 8th Wonder Teas – are the best for your health and blood sugar levels. Why?
The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables give them a sweet and flavorful taste. These sugars comprise disaccharides, such as sucrose, and monosaccharides, like fructose and glucose.
It's important to note that artificial sweeteners are derived from naturally occurring sugars. One key difference between the sugar found in whole foods and refined sugar is the presence of fiber.
The fiber in whole foods helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, gradually increasing blood glucose levels. This is in contrast to refined sugar and heavily processed foods, which often cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Frequent blood sugar spikes can eventually lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
Paleo or Keto: Which is the Better Diet Regarding Sweetener Usage?
When it comes to choosing between Paleo and Keto, both diets have their pros and cons. One similarity is that they both discourage consuming added sugars. However, Keto allows for natural and artificial sweeteners, provided they are low in carbs. On the other hand, Paleo permits natural sugars like raw honey, blackstrap molasses, and those in 8th Wonder Teas, but prohibits artificial sweeteners.
After careful consideration, we believe Paleo is the better choice due to its wider range of food options and lack of carb restrictions. It's important to note, however, that Paleo's focus on whole foods makes it lower in carbs than many other diets. Moreover, the nutrient-dense raw honey and blackstrap molasses allowed on the Paleo diet are lower on the glycemic index scale than refined sugars.
8th Wonder Teas: A Nutritious, All-Natural Paleo Beverage!
Looking for a refreshing and healthy Paleo-friendly beverage? Look no further than 8th Wonder Teas! Made from real fruit juices and infused with ancient superfood ingredients like cardamom, ginger, ashwagandha, chai, and apple juice, 8th Wonder organic sparkling teas are a delicious way to improve your gut health and immunity. Plus, they contain no added sugar, sugar alcohols, GMOs, or artificial ingredients.
That's not all - 8th Wonder is also certified organic, Whole30 approved, non-GMO project verified, paleo, vegan, and Kosher certified. With antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, and other benefits, 8th Wonder may even help reduce inflammation throughout your body and lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Give it a try and taste the wonder for yourself!