With low-carb diets like Atkins, Keto and Paleo being super popular right now, it is a big deal for food companies to find new low-carb sweeteners. These sweeteners should have few to zero calories and little effect on blood glucose and insulin levels, yet have no harmful side effects. If they're naturally occurring, like the new allulose sweetener, all the better.
An example of a sweetener that fits that description that has been around for years is stevia. Stevia may be the most popular zero calorie sweetener for keto diets. The only issue with stevia is that it has a bitter aftertaste, so you know when you're eating it.
Recently a new naturally occurring sweetener called allulose has come out. It is different from stevia in that it is naturally occurring, yet chemically made, while stevia is naturally derived. Either way, it may give stevia a run for its money as a natural sweetener for ketogenic diets.
Allulose, the new low calorie, naturally-occurring sweetener
Allulose is an up and coming sweetener that is almost zero calories. It is a naturally occurring epimer of fructose (meaning it almost has the same chemical structure as fructose). For the sake of manufacturing in large quantities, it is actually made from fructose in a chemical process.
Allulose is very similar to erythritol, a popular zero calorie sugar alcohol for keto, in that they both are about 70% as sweet as sugar. But it also has something bad in common with erythritol: for some people, in excess it can cause negative side effects like bloating, gas and diarrhea. However, in small amounts, the FDA has cleared allulose as safe to consume.
Calorie Content of Allulose
In a study in rats[i], allulose (it's chemical name d-psicose), was found to contain 0.007 kcalories per gram. Yet the company that got it approved by the FDA claims it has 0.2 kcal/g[ii]. In any case, it is not zero calories, but has very, very little. In addition, in some studies in dogs[iii] it has been shown to actually lower blood glucose and insulin levels.
Is allulose healthy?
D-psicose can be considered healthy enough. It was approved with a GRAS rating (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA. As mentioned above, it has been shown to lower blood glucose and insulin levels in dogs in some studies, therefore making it a good sweetener for diabetics - which is perfect for people on the keto diet.
However, it may have the side effects mentioned above of gastrointestinal upset symptoms like bloating, gas a diarrhea.
Remember, similar to other calorie free sweeteners, allulose has not been studied long term. We don't recommend eating any chemically made ingredients very often.
Allulose as an ingredient in Food
Health food companies have already caught on to using allulose in products for low-carb diet foods. KNOW Better is using it in food products like cookies. Quest, maker of a popular low-carb snack bar, uses it in their snack bars.
Reading Nutrition Labels
The FDA requires food companies to label allulose as a carbohydrate/sugar on the back of the label, so it is somewhat confusing to read food labels with it as an ingredient. They count it as a carbohydrate, but can't specify it as fiber or a sugar alcohol, or any other non-caloric carbohydrate. So if you're looking at a food product containing allulose while on the keto diet and are unaware of what it is, you're going to think it counts as a carbohydrate.
However, some food companies, like KNOW Better, are smart enough to label on the front of the package the actual net carbs with allulose subtracted out. KNOW Better states on the website how they calculated the net carbs, but they don't state it on the food item itself. But now you know how allulose counts towards your net carbs while on Keto (KNOW Better and Quest calculate the calories as 10% of those of table sugar, but other studies show even less).
Recommended: Eating Foods With Allulose or Sugar Alcohols
We would like to point out that the amount of allulose in this KNOW Better cookie is A LOT... 26 grams! This is on the tipping point of what the FDA recommends for the maximum allowed for a whole day.
If you're going to try out one of these cookies, we recommend only eating a small amount of the cookie to know if it has undesired digestive effects in your stomach. It will vary from person to person, so test it out before eating a large amount all at once.
In addition, drink a good amount of water with food containing allulose. We also recommend drinking water with food products containing sugar alcohols as well to help with digestion. Some drinks that contain sugar alcohols may have less digestive effects simply because you're ingesting water at the same time to help with the digestion.
Using Allulose in Keto Recipes
(Some of these links are affiliate links, check out our disclaimer here).
If you would like to try it out in your foods, you can actually purchase allulose on Amazon. Give it a shot and less us know what you think of using allulose in your food! Allulose is normally a white powder, but some companies like that below have made it into a syrup sugar replacement. As a powder, it can be substituted just like stevia or erythritol since it is 70% as sweet as sugar.
This brand actually has some maple flavored allulose that we think would be great for keto pancakes!
[i] "D-psicose is a rare sugar that provides no energy to growing rats." Matsuo T1, Suzuki H, Hashiguchi M, Izumori K.
[ii] "GRAS exemption claim for D-psicose" www.fda.gov
[iii] "Effects of D-allulose on glucose metabolism after the administration of sugar or food in healthy dogs." Nishii N, Nomizo T, Takashima S, Matsubara T, Tokuda M, Kitagawa H.