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Sugar alcohols like maltitol are often used as sugar alternatives in sugar-free sweets.
As such, you may wonder whether they’re suitable for the ketogenic diet.
The high fat, low carb keto diet promotes weight loss by encouraging your body to burn fat instead of carbs as its primary source of fuel. Thus, many people following this diet restrict their intake of sugar to a minimum.
However, even though sugar alcohols typically contain less than half of the calories of regular sugar, they’re still considered carbs.
This article tells you whether maltitol is a good alternative to regular sugar on the keto diet.
What is maltitol?
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol that’s similar to other sugar replacements like xylitol and sorbitol.
It’s commonly used as a low calorie sweetener and thickener in candies, ice cream, baked goods, and other processed foods like energy and protein bars.
On food labels, maltitol may also be listed as hydrogenated maltose, hydrogenated glucose syrup, Lesys, Maltisweet, or SweetPearl (1).
Still, there are more factors to consider before using maltitol on the keto diet.
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used as a low calorie alternative to table sugar in candies, baked goods, and other foods. It’s about 90% as sweet as sugar.
How the keto diet works
In general, keto is very high in fat, very low in carbs, and moderate in protein (
Though the exact number of carbs you can eat varies, a keto diet generally restricts your carb intake to 10% or less of your daily calorie intake — usually equivalent to 20–50 grams of carbs each day (
The diet is designed to promote ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body burns fats for energy instead of carbs.
The keto diet aids weight loss by restricting your carb intake and forcing your body to enter ketosis, a metabolic state in which it burns fat for energy.
Maltitol in the keto diet
Although maltitol and other sugar alcohols are carbs, your body absorbs them differently than other carbs.
Most carbs are almost completely digested by the time they reach the end of your small intestine, but other carbs like sugar alcohols and fiber are only partially digested in your small intestine before moving into your colon (1).
In fact, maltitol absorption in the small intestine ranges from 5–80% (1).
Furthermore, maltitol’s glycemic index (GI) stands at 35, which is much lower than that of regular table sugar, which has a whopping GI of 65. This index measures how quickly certain foods raise your blood sugar levels (
These factors, combined with its low calorie count, make maltitol a suitable sugar alternative for the keto diet.
Some sugar alcohols, such as erythritol and xylitol, are even recommended for keto.
Although maltitol is also a sugar alcohol, its GI is higher than most — meaning that it has a greater effect on your blood sugar levels. Therefore, it might not be as good of a sugar substitute on keto as other sugar alcohols.
The table below compares maltitol to other sugar alcohols (1):
|Sugar alcohol||Calories per gram||Glycemic index (GI)|
How much maltitol can you safely eat?
Although maltitol might not be the best sweetener for the keto diet, it’s a better option than many other sweeteners, including honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, fruit juices, and regular white or brown sugar.
Yet, since maltitol is often used in baked goods and desserts, many of the foods that it’s found in may be high in carbs.
Therefore, you may wish to add it to your dishes on its own rather than seek out packaged goods that have maltitol added. If they contain other carbs, eating too many of these foods could interfere with ketosis.
Maltitol is available in powdered and syrup form.
Many recipes that call for maltitol tell you exactly how much syrup or powder to use. However, if you’re simply substituting maltitol in place of regular sugar in a recipe, you can use roughly the same amount of maltitol as you would sugar.
Maltitol is safe for the keto diet when used in moderation, though it may not be as ideal as other sugar alcohols. In general, you should be careful with packaged foods that contain maltitol, as these may also harbor other carbs.
The bottom line
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol commonly used to lower the calorie content of gums, candies, and other sweets.
While it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels as drastically as plain sugar, it still provides carbs. Plus, many foods that contain maltitol, such as packaged desserts, pack other carbs.
Thus, if you choose to use maltitol on the keto diet, it may be best to add it to foods on your own — and only eat it sparingly.