Keto-friendly candy is a bit of a contradiction.
The ketogenic diet allows fewer carbs than any other diet. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to make a keto-friendly candy that doesn’t raise your blood sugar. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find “low-carb” or zero-sugar gummy bears, chocolates, and suckers popping up in your local grocery store.
Even keto dieters experience an extreme sweet tooth now and then. Which is fine, as long as you know what’s in your sweet treat and how those ingredients interact with your body.
But even low-carb treats can spike your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis.
In this article, you’ll learn about Smart Sweets low-carb candies and their ingredients, what happens when you eat them on keto, and what to eat instead so you can stay in ketosis.
What Are Smart Sweets?
Smart Sweets are candy for people who want to steer clear of sugar, artificial colors, and excess calories. They’re non-GMO with no added sugar, no sugar alcohols, and no artificial sweeteners.
So far so good, because most of those things are bad for your health — whether or not you’re on the keto diet.
The maker of Smart Sweets says they can help you #kicksugar, build a healthier relationship with food, and feel good about eating candy.
As statements go, those are pretty bold! Naturally, as a result, these products caught the attention of the low-carb and keto communities.
Before we take a deeper look at the ingredients of Smart Sweets and their effects, here are some possible issues with Smart Sweets:
- Staying in ketosis is a delicate thing, and you have to monitor your results–especially if you eat anything sweet.
- Smart Sweets doesn’t say whether or not they’ve tested their candies for effects on blood sugar and ketone production.
- Be careful to treat low-carb treats as just that — treats. Just because they’re low in carbs doesn’t mean they’re nutrient-dense.
The company offers sweet fish, sour blast buddies, fruity gummy bears, sour gummy bears, and peach rings, all with 3 grams of sugar per bag. These treats may be tempting, but do they fit into your healthy keto lifestyle?
To learn the answer, let’s take a look at each ingredient and what actually happens when you eat Smart Sweets.
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Smart Sweets Ingredients
The ingredients lists vary with each candy, but Smart Sweets has clearly put a lot of thought into their products.
Here’s a breakdown of every ingredient in Smart Sweets and what happens when you eat them.
Carnauba wax is also called palm wax. It’s used to harden and give structure to food, pills, and other products. It’s a natural and fairly safe ingredient, but some people may be sensitive to carnauba.
Plus, it isn’t always harvested in an environmentally-friendly way. In some cases, carnauba wax has leftover solvents from processing, which definitely isn’t a good thing for your health.
Carrageenan is an additive made from red seaweed used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve food and beverages. Unfortunately, studies have linked carrageenan with inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, and type 2 diabetes[*]. Degraded carrageenan, sometimes found in food-grade carrageenan, may raise the risk of cancer[*].
Chicory Root Fiber
Chicory root fiber, also called inulin, comes from the chicory plant. Like other fiber, inulin feeds the gut bacteria in your large intestine. Because of that, it can also cause gas and bloating.
Citric acid is a weak organic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits. It gives sour candies their sour flavor. Most citric acids are manufactured, not derived from citrus fruits. The manufactured form of citric acid has been linked with inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and muscle and stomach pain[*].
Coconut oil is derived from coconuts, of course. This healthy fat is definitely keto-friendly and may boost your heart health[*].
Fruit and Vegetable Juice
Fruit and vegetable juice (for color) usually contain fructose, which is bad for your heart and liver. This ingredient may be why Smart Sweets have about 3 grams of sugar per bag. However, trace amounts of fruit and vegetable juice probably aren’t an issue.
Fumaric acid is a fruity-tasting acid used as a flavoring compound and preservative. Low doses are generally recognized as safe, but high doses of fumaric acid may cause kidney problems[*].
Gelatin is a gel-like protein derived from collagen. The amino acids in gelatin promote joint healing and help keep your skin looking young, but you’ll need a higher dose than you can get from Smart Sweets[*][*].
Lactic acid is an organic acid created during fermentation. Bacteria can create lactic acid from simple sugars. In foods, it’s used a preservative and sour flavoring agent.
Malic acid is another sour-tasting organic acid found in fruits. It’s most often used to flavor extremely sour candy.
Natural fruit flavor and natural peach flavor are basically mystery ingredients. Most natural ingredients are proprietary mixtures of both natural and lab-created ingredients. But the only way to really know what’s in them is by contacting the company directly.
Pectin is a soluble fiber from plants. Some people report gas or diarrhea, and it may prevent the absorption of beta-carotene. In small amounts, it should be fine, however.
Prebiotic soluble fiber from tapioca can raise your blood sugar, unlike most fiber. And it also has a sweet taste. Even though it’s not counted as a net carb on the label, it’s not exactly keto-friendly. Because Smart Sweets list this ingredient first, there may be over 20 grams of it per bag.
Rice flour is used as a thickening agent in place of wheat flour. It’s gluten-free, but definitely not keto-approved.
Spirulina extract (for color) is a blue-green algae. Some people use it as a nutritional supplement. But it can be contaminated with unsafe toxins that can cause an upset stomach and liver damage[*].
Stevia leaf extract is a keto-friendly sweetener that may help improve your insulin sensitivity[*].
Can Smart Sweets Raise My Blood Sugar or Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
Now that you know all about the ingredients, let’s move to an even more important topic: what happens when you eat Smart Sweets on keto?
Going off the nutrition facts alone, you wouldn’t necessarily expect any problems:
- 7 grams of net carbs
- 3 grams of sugar
- 28 grams of fiber (possibly 20 grams or more of soluble fiber from tapioca)
But for a candy with so much fiber, Smart Sweets can definitely spike your blood sugar.
The easiest way to measure blood sugar is at home with a blood glucose monitor. According to our tests using a Keto Mojo meter, one bag of the candy elevated blood glucose for over 90 minutes, with a peak value of over 160 mg/dl occurring after about 30 minutes.
For reference, a healthy blood sugar level is between 70-99 mg/dl, and high blood sugar is toxic to your cells[*]. If you have diabetes, this is even worse news.
Basically, this is bad news if you were hoping Smart Sweets were a loophole that would allow you to eat candy on keto every day. Their effect on your blood sugar resembles eating strawberry Twizzlers[*].
And their effect on ketone levels wasn’t much better. A full bag of Smart Sweets sour gummies resulted in a 73% drop in blood ketone levels within an hour, and they didn’t recover past 50% for over two hours.
Eating more than a bag of Smart Sweets, or snacking on them daily, would very likely kick you out of ketosis.
Is There Such Thing as Keto-Friendly Candy?
Honestly? Not yet.
It’s not impossible to create a gummy that won’t spike your blood sugar. But Smart Sweets are not the answer.
Soluble fiber from tapioca appears to be the main problem. Although it’s labeled as fiber, it behaves more like a sweet-tasting carb in your body, spiking your blood sugar.
But the basic problem is that sweet treats often do raise your insulin levels, whether or not they raise your blood sugar[*]. Higher insulin in your bloodstream halts fat-burning, and insulin in your brain in the absence of sugar can throw off your hunger and raise your appetite hormones[*].
Smart Sweets: What to Eat Instead
Smart Sweets might be okay for an occasional treat. They’re most certainly a better option than store-bought candy. But they’re still candy, and they are likely to decrease your insulin sensitivity and kick you out of ketosis if you eat them every day.
If you have a gummy craving and want a better option, you’re in luck! You can make healthy, filling, keto-friendly treats at home:
The secret is using grass-fed collagen and exogenous ketone base with a little bit of fresh fruit. Once you get the hang of it, you can even invent new favorites by mixing and matching ingredients.
The best part? You know exactly what’s in them because you made them!
The other good news is that some fruit is keto-friendly, in moderation. Too much fruit will also kick you out of ketosis, but if you don’t overdo it, it’s an excellent and tasty source of fiber and nutrients.
And remember to test your ketone levels frequently, especially when you first start keto or after you indulge a craving.
Overall, if you want to succeed on the keto diet, it’s best to cut out most sweet-tasting foods and allow the cravings to go away on their own. This is especially true if you’re just starting out. Eating sweets if you’re addicted will only make your cravings worse.
After you retrain your sweet tooth, you can enjoy homemade treats and fruit as an occasional treat without exiting ketosis.