Full disclosure. I started making these gummy bears in my own kitchen for purely selfish reasons.
"I wanted yummy gummy bears that were truly keto-friendly with no sugar because that’s how I eat (low carb). And I wanted a treat that I could give to my kids and grandkids with zero guilt."
For me, it means no artificial colors or flavors, no chemical additives, zero sugar, non-GMO ingredients, with food ingredients ideally not sourced from China.
This turned out to be tougher than I expected when I formulated this for commercial production. But, we’ve done a pretty amazing job.
We’ve created a zero-sugar gummy bear that’s not only scrumptious but made with ingredients that tick all the boxes–including multiple ingredients that are suitable for diabetics and a ketogenic diet.
Every ingredient serves a purpose. No fillers. No unnecessary anything.
Gummy bear-making is a pretty no-nonsense activity, but when you take away the sugar part, it changes everything. But, we figured it out, and with ingredients we can feel comfortable being completely transparent about.
We've worked hard to create a recipe with the cleanest ingredients possible.
Allulose is newer to the sugar alternative stage. It acts like sugar when cooking or baking, which makes sense because it is actually a naturally occurring rare sugar found in tiny quantities in certain fruits like raisins or figs, molasses, and even wheat and corn.
It is a monosaccharide that is very similar in structure to fructose, but it is not metabolized by the body. In fact, it’s passed through the urine weirdly with zero impact. Pretty cool, eh?
Benefits of Allulose Sweetener Based on Clinical Studies
There are studies that indicate that allulose can reduce insulin response and assist in metabolizing sugar and carbohydrates indicating that it is even suitable for diabetics.
Monk Fruit Extract Sweetener
Have you heard of monk fruit extract? It comes from a gourd fruit and has been used for thousands of years and is zero on the glycemic index making it a great sweetener for diabetics and people who want a healthier, sugar-free lifestyle.
It's a high-intensity sweetener, so a little goes a long way. When it's married to allulose, it actually creates a pretty close replacement for sugar in terms of flavor and usage.
Benefits of Monk Fruit Extract Based on Clinical Studies
Monk fruit also has some amazing metabolic advantages in studies and has even been considered a beneficial ingredient for diabetics (see articles below from Diabetic publications). It truly is an awesome sweetener alternative to sugar.
Monk Fruit Extract for Diabetes
Why Monk Fruit is a Power Food for Diabetes by The Diabetes Council
Sweeteners: Monk Fruit Diabetic Self-Management
We sourced a monk fruit sweetener from a company that manages every aspect of the monk fruit process from seed to harvest, processing, packaging, and delivery. It is also Non-GMO Project Verified.
Soluble Vegetable Fiber (corn) Non-GMO Project Verified
If the corn part freaks you out, stay with me for a minute because even if you’re sensitive to corn (like our founder is), this soluble vegetable fiber is not considered an allergen. In this case, the soluble fiber has been extracted from the corn and serves as fiber. It can be deducted from the total carbs because it is not metabolized by the body.
Soluble fiber is a popular ingredient in most keto-friendly foods because it helps “move things along”, adds bulk, and is not absorbed by the body. You’ll see some form of soluble fiber on many low-sugar, keto, and diabetic-friendly foods for this reason. But some of these fibers can cause intestinal discomfort.
We chose a soluble fiber that is significantly more tolerated than most other soluble fibers. In fact, studies indicate that the norm for tolerance of our chosen soluble vegetable fiber is 68g a day. As a comparison, other soluble fibers like inulin have a tolerance level of 10-15g a day. Others have even less.
Soluble fiber has several benefits acknowledged by every health organization. The soluble fiber we use has documented benefits backed by science in hundreds of studies and over 30 years of research. It’s not just about being regular either–though that is a benefit in itself.
Benefits of Soluble Corn Fiber
Just 5g of soluble corn fiber with each meal may help reduce blood sugar levels after a meal and help minimize blood sugar spikes after a meal.
And 6-8g daily has been shown to help support intestinal regularity, relieve occasional constipation, may help nourish the intestinal flora, and maintain a healthy intestinal tract environment.
Soluble fiber helps with blood sugar response, feeds the good gut bacteria, and also helps the liver by binding to fatty bile (and all the waste it carries) so it can be eliminated through the intestinal tract with better regularity. It is a true soluble fiber and passes through the body without being absorbed or negatively impacting blood sugar.
In fact, soluble fiber is supposed to be a part of a healthy diet with an RDA (recommended daily allowance) of 25g-35g depending on caloric needs. This can be hard to get daily in most diets. For example, beans have 5g in a 1/2 cup, and have more soluble fiber than most other vegetables.
We researched soluble fibers in detail, reading many of the studies personally, and in the end, decided that this was an ingredient worth including.
Our gummy bears have 18g of non-GMO Project Verified soluble fiber in a single serving.
Our caramels have 6-8g fiber per serving.
Traditional gummy bears have always contained gelatin since the very early recipes over 100 years ago.
It's the one ingredient that creates the gummy texture that most people love. It also happens to be an excellent source of protein and because it's derived from collagen, it helps with connective tissues, skin, hair, and the gut lining.
On a personal note, one of the reasons our founder started making gummy bears in the first place was so she could get additional collagen into her diet.
This is not a vegan ingredient as it’s typically gotten from the rendered hide of cows or pigs (and even fish). Ours is porcine gelatin because we could not get the beef gelatin to work no matter what we did (and we really tried). We also could not find non-GMO verified gelatin anywhere. We almost abandoned bringing these to market altogether because of that one point.
However, it turns out that our gelatin is 3rd party tested and verified to be 100% free of residual glyphosates (which is the biggest problem with GMOs).
Benefits of Gelatin According to Experts and Based on Clinical Studies
There are numerous articles and studies that indicate that gelatin has health benefits including improving hair, skin, nails and rebuilding cells. But also in helping to reduce inflammation and improve joint pain. The article below covers all these points with numerous citations included.
This is a great article on the many benefits of gelatin from Medical News Today.
Organic Natural Flavors
Generally speaking, we try to eat whole foods. But this is candy.
Sugar-free or not, it’s intended to be a candy treat without the guilt. And candy traditionally comes in many, many flavors. And let’s be honest, most people love them.
Artificial flavors were never on the table. For many reasons. Sure, they’re dirt cheap. Sure, they last longer and are more intense. But ingesting chemicals is not something we would do willingly personally. And it isn’t something we would feed to our kids (or grandkids).
But, it turns out “natural flavors” can have a lot of nonsense in them too. Including GMOs. They have emulsifiers that can be oils or alcohol like ethanol. And guess what? Since that other stuff makes up such a small percentage of the overall ingredients, it doesn’t even have to be disclosed on the label. Even if it contains GMOs. Obviously, this was a big "No."
We chose to go with organic natural flavors and even formulate our own flavor with MCT oil instead of inflammatory seed oils despite the added cost. They turned out delicious nonetheless and have improved with each commercial production run.
Organic Natural Colors
Colors. Oh boy. This was an adventure. There’s a reason artificial colors are the go-to in the candy industry. That pop of artificial color is unmistakable. But the sensitivity to artificial colors and potential reactions are not worth it.
There are a lot of different kinds of “natural colors” and we experimented with a number of them. Natural colors are way more sensitive to light and heat, and acids. So yeah. It was work.
BUT, we finally settled on some gorgeous organic natural colors from real fruit and vegetable sources, and other natural sources like organic spirulina extract and non-GMO annatto extract.
And guess what? Our fruit and vegetable colors are extracted with pressure and water only. I mean, look at these colors! #whoneedsartificialcolorsanyway
Non-GMO Citric Acid
Look on any candy label and you’ll find citric acid on the list of ingredients. There’s a good reason for that. Acids add that bit of flavor oomph. When used in the correct ratios with sweeteners and flavors, they can enhance a flavor and complement a sweetener. I can vouch for this because we made a batch of strawberry gummy bears and I forgot to add the acids and it was terrible. Like, terr-i-ble. And, of course, our citric acid is non-GMO.
Non-GMO Malic Acid
Different acids provide different boosts depending on the flavor. For example, apples have a naturally higher amount of malic acid in them. So do some berries, while lemons and oranges have a higher amount of citric acid.
There’s a lot of science to this that we learned about. In fact, we even consulted with a flavor specialist in the formulation of our flavors to ensure we got our ratios and acids perfect. Based on taste-tests, it seems we nailed it.
Non-GMO Carnauba Wax in an MCT Oil Base
Well, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? So, what does that actually mean?
Well, carnauba wax is the slightest sheerest coating that is added in a super fine mist at the very end of the whole gummy bear-making process. It’s used to seal the gummy bears for freshness, prevent sticking, and increase their shelf-life. There’s such a small amount, it’s the last ingredient on the nutrition label.
Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree, native to Brazil. It’s a harder wax, and when used in gummy making, it requires some kind of oil as a carrier. We really did not want to use a seed oil in our formula if we could avoid it because seed oils can increase inflammation. We also didn’t want to use mineral oil for the same reasons.
Besides, according to science, there are actually some real health benefits of MCT Oil, so we hunted until we found a source of non-gmo carnauba wax in MCT oil.
MCT is short for Medium Chain Triglyceride and it is an oil that comes from highly refined coconut oil.
Benefits of MCT Oil Based on Clinical Studies
MCT has several health benefits backed by science including helping with weight loss, memory, Alzheimer’s, satiety, and even endurance for athletes and performance.
Not all MCT oils are equal.
You can get MCT oil from coconuts or palm kernels (seeds). But palm oil is considered inferior because it has less potency of a couple of key components, and it's an unsustainable crop. But, because it is pretty cheap, some keto brands use it in their formulations anyway.
Our MCT oil is derived from non-GMO coconuts because, of course it is. #onlythebest
MCT oil is so refined, it is not considered an allergen. And it’s one of the last ingredients because it’s just part of the misting process at the end as a carrier for the carnauba wax. It's also used as a carrier in one of our natural flavors instead of using a seed oil.