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How much sugar and carbs can you have on keto?

The keto diet is known for its philosophy of maintaining a low carb amount in the diet. Two of the questions that come up are how much sugar can you have on the keto diet and how many carbs can you have on the keto diet.

The answer to these questions depends on a few things. They can actually make or break the diet, so it is a good idea to look into it carefully. 

Some of the information you need will most likely come from your doctor. More on that later.


How many carbs can you have on the keto diet?

Let’s answer these questions backwards. To get to the sugar, you need to know more about the carb count. To be perfectly honest, each person is different. The rule of thumb for the keto diet is around fifty grams of carbs per day.

There are some people that can enter and stay in ketosis with more grams. There are also some who can’t stay in it on that many grams. Really strict keto diets limit carbs to thirty. This makes staying healthy a little harder.

Athletes, on the other hand, tend to need a bit more in the carb department. This is why you need to talk to some experts before starting. A nutritionist and your doctor are the two best places to start. They can give you clues on how much and what type of carbs. (1)

How much sugar can you have on keto?

Before getting into that question, it’s important to define sugar. Most people think of table sugar and/or sweetened cereals. There are a lot of different kinds of sugar and some are healthier than others. (2

There are also several different kinds of sweeteners. Please note that a sweetener may or may not have carbs. Some work by triggering taste buds and others trigger a brain response that mimics sweetness. These are often used as substitutes on keto.

The amount of carbs in sugar depends partly on what type is used. Some have more carbs than others, which changes the numbers a bit. The type of sugar also makes a difference. Some have glucose, which is harder to handle than others.

Types of cane/sugar beet sugars: Most people are familiar with table sugar. Those who cook knows of at least two more; powdered sugar and brown sugar. There are others, including castor sugar and preserving sugar.  

Each type of sugar will have slightly different carb counts. Table sugar has two point eight carbs per teaspoon. One teaspoon is considered a serving, so make sure to measure so you know how much you’ve had.

Corn syrups: In cooking, there are two types of corn syrup. Light corn syrup is more processed than dark corn syrup. In product manufacturing there is a third type. It’s called high fructose corn syrup and can be bad for just about anyone. (3)

Light corn syrup has nearly eight and a half per tablespoon. High fructose corn syrup has nearly fourteen and a half carbs per serving. As it’s in manufactured goods, the chances of having more than one serving at a time are higher.

Tree syrups: Maple is the most well-known tree based syrup, but birch can be used as well. Both are refined by boiling it down and maple can be boiled down to a sugar substitute. Maple syrup is just under high fructose corn syrup with nearly thirteen and a half carbs per serving. (4)

Again, a serving here is a tablespoon. If you have a tall stack of keto pancakes and you free pour maple syrup over them, you will probably consume more than one serving. It’s easy to go over, which is why so many dieters weigh and measure everything.

Honey: A tablespoon of honey has seventeen grams of carbs. However, honey is much sweeter than sugar so it is usually used in smaller amounts. That requires a lot of calculations. (5) (6)

Milk: Those of us who are lactose intolerant know all about that particular sugar. We have to avoid it or we can become very ill. There are twelve grams of carbohydrates. Chocolate milk comes in at twenty three grams in a cup. (7

There is a reason for all of this focus on how many grams of carbs are in each type of sugar. They aren’t all created equally, so to say that you can have X amount of sugar on the keto diet is to make too broad of a statement.

When it comes to sugar, you could conceivably have all of the carbs for one day be sugar. However, that is going to do a lot of bad things for your body. For one thing, sugar will be the preferred food of the muscles and could knock you out of ketosis.

Sugar can rot your teeth and lead to metabolic syndrome. That could send you into diabetes and/or heart disease. The best amount of sugar in your diet is probably going to be closer to ten or fewer carbs per day… amongst all types of sugar.

But I like sweet stuff!

Yes, most of us like the taste of sweet. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your diet… no matter which diet you are on. There are other ways to sweeten things, some of which don’t have carbs at all. As an example, many use stevia powder.

The good part about stevia is that it has zero carbs, yet still tastes sweet. The even better part is that you don’t need anywhere near as much. The bad news is that if you use it in baking, it won’t have the same textures as sugar does.

You have to be careful with stevia products. Some are mixed with table sugar, which can allow for some baking. The ratio isn’t the same for all products, so the nutrition label is a must read. The USFDA has only approved purified form of stevia. If it says pure stevia or crude stevia, avoid it.

When thinking of herbal sources for sweeteners, licorice comes to mind. It has two grams of carbs, but it isn’t as refined as table sugar. However, you need to be very careful with licorice. It can kill you even if you’re healthy.

A case in point was publicized not too long ago. A man had been eating a different type of candy for years. He switched to black licorice. He died within weeks of this switch from an irregular heartbeat.

Diabetics and those with high blood pressure have to extraordinarily careful with licorice. It raises blood pressure and blood sugar, sometimes to dangerous levels. These people should avoid the root, and should read herbal tea labels carefully because some are sweetened with it.

There are also artificial sweeteners available. Some have come under fire, but they can make a better substitute for some people. One of the most common is xylitol. That’s found in toothpaste, sugar free candy and other things.

There are important things to know about xylitol as well. The first is that you should never binge on sugar free candy. That’s hard to do if you’ve avoided chocolate and finally find some sugar free treats. However, the diarrhea that comes from eating too much isn’t pleasant.

The second is that it should be kept away from pets. Both dogs and cats can be poisoned to their death if they consume it. One dog ate a small pack of sugar free gum and very nearly died. It only lived because the owners knew what it had eaten.

Can I eat fruit?

Fruits and vegetables have sugar in them as well. Some have more than others. They also can have loads of carbs; whether they are sugar or not. However, skipping out on them altogether is a good way to develop malnutrition.

There are a lot of articles about which are good for the keto diet and which aren’t. As an example, carrots are not an ideal food for the keto diet because of the sugar content. Starch, which turns to glucose when eaten, is also not a good plan.

One upcoming youtuber has been on a keto type diet since the beginning of the year. He has since backed off of a lot of it, though not all. His diet consisted mainly of foods like boneless/skinless chicken breast and broccoli.

Both of those are perfect for the keto diet, although some variety would be useful. There are many lists and articles that explain which foods are best for the keto diet and which to avoid. You will find sugar to be at the top of most of the “avoid” lists.

Why should I eat any carbs?

There are those who eschew all carbs. That is called the carnivore diet. If you think doctors are alarmed about keto, you should see their reaction to this diet. However, there are some who actually need this diet, so it’s not always a bad plan.

The reason to eat carbs comes from a term called available nutrition. A large number of people take supplements, usually a multi vitamin, multi mineral supplement and maybe a few more. However, some of those supplements don’t really do much good.

What’s in them isn’t as nutritionally available as what is in food. That is one reason so many companies are now using food as the source for their vitamins. However, the real deal is far better in the long run. If you are careful, you can get most or all of your vitamins and minerals without breaking your diet.


Necessary information

Except for the information about stevia, the USFDA has not approved these statements. If you live in another country, check with your Food and Drug administration for more information. Some are more open than the United States.

As mentioned, always check with your doctor before beginning any weight loss plan. You may have underlying health issues that will dictate which diet you use. The doctor can also give you advice on exercises and how much weight you should lose to reach ideal.

Part of this will be a body mass index, which is a simple test. Body mass is as important as weight in figuring out what needs done. 

There are people who need the keto diet and there are people who should never attempt it. Those who are extremely to morbidly obese usually do keto for the first round of weight loss. That is because it is faster than other diets. They are switched to a low calorie diet when the initial round is done.

While most of the time children should never be on the keto diet, some types of epilepsy respond better to it than to drugs. For those children it can be life-changing and is an important part of their ability to control seizures.

People who have any form of cardiovascular disease would be better off using another diet. The emphasis on protein and fat can be too much for the arteries to handle. The same goes for those with kidney disease, who have to limit protein.

Diabetics can have serious issues with this diet. For them, it can lead to other problems including diabetic ketoacidosis. It may also exacerbate the heart and kidney problems that often accompany this illness.

All low carb diets and especially the keto diet need to be medically supervised. Blood tests will need to be performed every three months or occasionally even more frequently. This will make sure that the diet is not stressing organs to much or building up too much LDL cholesterol.

The use of herbs should be discussed with your pharmacist prior to using them. As you saw with licorice, there can be problems if they interact with a medical condition or another medication. That includes switching to stevia as a sweetener.

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