Diet Soda: Can You Have it While on Keto?

One question commonly asked by people who are considering the Ketogenic diet is whether they can drink soda.

Here’s the thing: The Keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It also prioritizes genuine, high-quality food that is packed with nutrition.

That said, let’s tear it down to see how diet soda measures up to these standards. In this article, we’ll look at the ingredients in diet soda, the effect it has on your health, and where it fits on keto.

What is Keto Diet?

To know whether soda is Keto-friendly, it’s best first to understand what a Keto diet is.

First, it is a low-carb, high-fat diet. Meaning, you have to limit your carb intake.

Second, the Keto diet allows you to achieve ketosis. It is a metabolic state wherein your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The reason you can accomplish this is a Keto diet is that your daily carb intake is limited.

Studies have shown that entering ketosis and living a ketogenic lifestyle can help with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. If your quality of life is in the gutter due to lack of sleep, digestive problems, hormonal imbalance, lack of energy, or excess weight, it is pretty exciting to know that you can take control of your health.

What’s in Your Diet Soda?

If you consider a lifestyle transformation like keto, it may mean changing some of your old eating patterns. Since diet soda is so famous in the US, this could be one of the turns you’re thinking about changing.

Let’s try to see if it’s worth it! We’ll begin with the nutrition label.

Diet Coke ingredients, for instance, are carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, aspartame, potassium benzoate, citric acid, natural flavors, and caffeine.

They said it has zero calories and zero carbs. While it looks safe, that doesn’t mean that it is enough to achieve weight loss and ketosis.

Keep in mind that the Keto diet is all about eating real, high-quality foods for optimal health. Diet Coke may check some keto boxes, but it doesn’t check the one we believe is the most essential: natural and nutrient-dense.

Simply put, diet sodas don’t add any nutritional content to your daily diet.

If we jump into the nutrition label a bit further, we stumble upon a few difficult to pronounce ingredients, aspartame being one of them.

As it turns out, aspartame isn’t the safest component. Learning a bit more about it may help you determine if diet soda belongs on the keto diet―or any diet for that matter.

Aspartame Poses Health Risks

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that you can find in diet sodas. It’s also an essential ingredient in popular sugar alternatives like Equal and NutraSweet.

These are all brands we recognize well and that have kept our sweet tooths happy. But, there’s some mad science behind the substance they are composed of.

Aspartame is made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which are both varieties of amino acids.

Aspartic acid is produced naturally in the body, and phenylalanine is an essential amino acid. Meaning, we get the latter from the food we eat.

When absorbed in the body, aspartame turns to methanol, which is toxic in large doses. When heated, it can even transform into formaldehyde―a cancer-causing element.

It is also believed that aspartame contributes to a couple of health problems like seizures, kidney disease, depression, heart issues, stroke, and dementia.

Diet Soda and Weight Loss

By now, you should know that diet soda is unhealthy. Moreover, it prevents you from losing weight.

We know that it is confusing since a diet soda does not have calories and carbs.

One probability is that diet soda makes you crave more sweets. This can lead to a vicious cycle that can hinder you from losing weight.

In addition, the sweet taste may trigger your blood sugar to spike, and imbalanced insulin levels are a relevant factor to weight gain. That’s because artificial sweeteners in diet soda can alter your gut’s microbiome.

An altered microbiome could produce insulin-resistant gut bacteria that causes blood sugar levels to spike.

Diet Soda and Keto

Technically, a diet soda ticks a couple of boxes relevant to the Keto diet.

But it is a healthy option, despite FDA saying that artificial sweeteners are safe to consume.

If you’re looking to stay healthy and obtain your body transformation goals, we advise staying away from these sweeteners. They are made in labs and aren’t natural, which is the most significant reason we believe they don’t belong on keto or any other diet.

5 Reasons Why Diet Soda on Keto is Bad for You

We are talking about carbonated water infused artificial sweeteners and other synthetic additives. On the other hand, non-caloric drinks without added sugar and carbohydrates are keto-friendly.

But is it that simple? The quick answer is no.

That’s said, let have an in-depth look at natural and artificial sweeteners:

Diet Soda can Harm Your Gut Health

Synthetic sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are known to mess with your gut microbiome.

They are killing so-called “good” microbes while letting the bad ones overrun your gut microflora.

Even stevia can alter the composition of your gut microbiome. According to a study, a single package of the sucralose-based sweetener Splenda destroys 50 percent of healthy gut microflora.

With this in mind, such a rise of “bad” gut microbes causes an immunological effect in the body. This can lead to weight gain.

Another artificial sweetener that’s becoming infamous is the acesulfame potassium. It’s as sweet as aspartame and 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

Acesulfame K is more repellent to heat and acids than aspartame. Hence, it has critical side effects other than altering your gut microbiome and weight gain. It is also believed to harm your cognitive brain function.

In short, acesulfame potassium is as risky for you as aspartame on keto.

Sweet Taste is a Fat Storage Signal

From a historical view, sweet taste used to be rare. Nature gave a sweet taste in the form of ripe summer fruits and honey. Moreover, in medieval times, honey was the only sweetener.

Fruits and honey are rich in fructose – a vital driver of insulin resistance in liver cells. Thus, it’s possible that obesity could have been our Stone Age ancestors’ pass for survival.

If they discovered something sweet, nature made sure that humans ate it. Moreover, today’s fruits are candy on a tree compared to their ancestral versions.

For example, the middle ages’ apples (crab apples) were practically inedible, and wild strawberries used to be way smaller.

The first sugar cane plantations were developed in the days of the crusaders. Since it was a luxury good until the 19th century, sugar was essentially used for medicine and rarely for cooking.

Consequently, people didn’t have sweet dishes at all.

For hundreds of thousands of years, sweet taste was seasonal and inadequate due to natural events.

Therefore, our bodies still recognize it as an evolutionary signal for storing fat to survive wintertime. But thanks to artificial sweeteners and sugar, our bodies are encountering an endless summer.

Since it disrupts its circadian clock, the 24/7 availability of sweet taste is similar to jet lag to the human body.

Besides the 24 hours based circadian clock, there’s also one tied to the moon cycle, drawing a sense for seasons.

Fruit season used to be necessary for survival. But since then, we are interrupting the circadian rhythm.

Because we are consuming dietary fructose and sweetened drinks like diet coke all year round, we tend to gain weight.

The sweet taste is an evolutionary signal to the body, animating fat storage to survive winter. Since it’s not about sugar, non-caloric sweeteners are efficiently promoting body fat.

Diet Soda Keto Promotes Cravings for Sweets

Did you ever ask yourself why we are so susceptible to sweetness and why it seems to be the most addictive taste? A significant reason is that two-thirds of our taste buds are responsible for sweet taste.

The big hint to the evolutionary sensitivity to sweetness is not just sugar molecules but also artificial sweeteners, which adhere to the tongue’s receptors. In other words, diet soda makes our brain grasping for sweet taste.

Because compared to salty taste, sweetness has a positive feedback arrangement. It’s more likely to make you addicted. The more you consume, the more you desire.

If the brain craves sweets like glucose but receives non-caloric sweeteners, it results in more cravings. Moreover, functional magnetic resonance imaging examinations showed that sucralose does not fully activate the brain’s reward center like glucose does.

Consequently, the brain aims towards the full activation of the reward center. This makes it more likely to amplify cravings and a bad habit of eating sweets.

With that in mind, researchers have also found that replacing caloric beverages with diet soda does not lead to total calorie loss. This is due to increased appetite.

Recently, scientists at Yale University discovered that the intensity of sweetness indicates the amount of energy stored in food to our brains. Therefore, the signal representing nutritional value and the metabolic response can be distracted by drinking diet soda.

Since a sweetened non-caloric drink can trigger a more robust metabolic response than a sugary beverage, diet soda on keto is a bad idea.

Artificial sweeteners are scrambling our brains by partially stimulating the reward center and fostering cravings for sweets. Furthermore, the metabolic response is disturbed due to missing nutritional value in diet soda.

Diet Soda Raises Insulin Levels

Insulin, not calories or a shortage of physical activity, is the ultimate driver of obesity. With this in mind, it does not matter if food increases blood sugar levels as long as it elevates insulin.

Therefore, we need to have a glance at the insulin response to artificial sweeteners. Sucralose doesn’t produce any glucose or calories in your body, but it raises insulin levels by 20 percent.

Likewise, other artificial and natural sweeteners spur insulin.

Nevertheless, the traditional sweeteners aspartame and stevia almost don’t have an impact on blood sugar levels. But they increase insulin more significantly than table sugar does.

Although diet drinks on keto may not produce any additional carbs, sugar, or even calories, they support your body to produce insulin. And the hormone affects weight gain.

A single diet coke might not beat you out of ketosis, but too much of it can. Furthermore, diet soda intensifies the risks of metabolic syndrome, strokes, and heart attacks.

Non-caloric sweeteners can raise insulin levels more than regular sodas. Consequently, you are developing modern diseases and weight gain by drinking diet soda on keto.

It can lead to Weight Gain and Health Risks

Here’s a general question produced by statistical evidence. If diet soda is at least impartial in weight gain, why did its consumption and obesity skyrocket in the last decades?

The University of Texas Health Sciences Center discovered that weight gain could increase as much as 47% when you consume diet soda.

In another research, the American Cancer Society demonstrated how diet soda could foster weight loss among 70,000 plus women. But the outcome wasn’t what they anticipated. Women consuming artificial sweeteners were significantly more likely to increase in weight.

And the list of related research goes on.

However, artificial sweeteners don’t just raise the risk of obesity.

The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study examined 59,614 women over 8.7 years. The outcome? Participants drinking two or more diet sodas per day encountered a 30% higher risk of cardiovascular events.

And that’s consistent with an investigation conducted at the University of Miami, yielding a 43% rise in strokes and heart attacks.

Do you see why diet soda on keto is a poor approach? Because there is a lot of evidence that it causes weight gain and other health risks.

There’s Still Hope for Your Sweet Tooth

We understand if you’re starting to have a negative connotation about diet soda. But there is still hope.

Eliminating diet soda from your diet doesn’t mean that you have to stop treating yourself to refreshing and sweet drinks. You’ll just need to make things a little differently.

If you’re on the Keto diet, you can use keto-friendly sweeteners like monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia to sweeten our desserts and drinks.

One of the most common zero-calorie soft drinks is Zevia. This is a beverage sweetened by SweetSmart. It is a mixture of stevia extract, monk fruit extract, and erythritol. 

The number of flavors in their line gives each recovering soda addict something to enjoy.

Other great alternatives are sparkling water like Perrier, La Croix, and Bubly. 

Below is a list of keto-friendly drinks you can attach to your diet. You can sweeten them with the sweeteners we suggest as they are natural and plant-based, don’t raise insulin levels, and are low-carb.

  • Coffee, or Keto Butter Coffee
  • Iced or Hot Tea
  • Water
  • Carbonated Water
  • Electrolytes
  • Alcohol (certain types, in moderation)
  • Keto Protein Powder Smoothies
  • Low-carb nut or alternative dairy drinks

Final Thoughts

So, does diet soda have a spot on the keto diet? The quick answer is no.

The Keto diet emphasizes real food. Meaning, what you consume should be natural, high-quality, and nutrient-dense. Doing so can help you attain your health goals.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame don’t fit the bill. But don’t be discouraged because sweets are still welcome on keto. It is just a matter of using Keto-friendly sweeteners like monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia.