The comment section over at the “My Dark Secrets” post has still been busy with a discussion on the various sweeteners. A recent comment from Lauren got me looking into sweeteners like Erythritol & Xylitol (“Truvia” has erythritol in it), and I found out they are in a group categorized as “sugar alcohols“.
I've never used them for baking, but have heard of others doing so with success. I also see Xylitol listed as the sweetener in certain brands of gum. Here's what Wikipedia says:
“One teaspoon (5 mL) of xylitol contains 9.6 calories, as compared to one teaspoon of sugar, which has 15 calories. Xylitol contains zero net effective carbohydrates, whereas sugar contains 4 grams per 5 mL. Xylitol has virtually no aftertaste, and is advertised as “safe for diabetics and individuals with hyperglycemia“. This is because sugar-alcohols have less impact on a person's blood sugar than regular sugars.”
There are a couple links below for you to read over, but the best source of clear information I found was at the Weston A. Price site, on a page titled, Sugar-Free Blues–Everything You Wanted to Know About Artificial Sweeteners by Jim Earles. Toward the top it lists all the different sweeteners and what category they fall under. If you scroll almost halfway down the article, you'll find the information on sugar alcohols. (And past the ending of the article is an update with information on Stevia as a good choice for a healthy sweetener.)
Here is an excerpt from the section on sugar alcohols:
The final word on sugar alcohols as a group seems to be a mixed message. The evidence does seem to support the positive claims made on behalf of these sweeteners, and perhaps this gives them a valid place in certain applications. For example, given the choice between treating a child’s ear infection with a course of antibiotics or with administration of a therapeutic dose of xylitol, the latter option would certainly be preferable. Of course, there may be even better options.
While sugar alcohols may indeed occur in nature, their usage as sweeteners also suffers from the same problem as many other sweeteners, pharmaceutical drugs and other substances today–one single factor from a natural food item is being isolated from its normal co-constituents and consumed at levels that are difficult to obtain when eating the food item itself. Rarely, if ever, does this situation lend itself to good health. While sugar alcohols are certainly the lesser of two evils when compared to the non-nutritive sweeteners, they should be consumed with prudence if at all. There are better choices.
The author, Jim Earles, closed with these comments:
Clearly, most artificial sweeteners in use today pose significant dangers. Mother Nature did not intend for us to suffer from the Sugar-Free Blues. There are many healthy alternatives to both refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, including maple syrup, dehydrated sugar cane juice (sold as Sucanat and Rapadura), date sugar, raw unfiltered honey and molasses. Consumed in moderation as part of a nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of good quality fats, these mineral-rich, naturally sweet foods allow us to enjoy the sweet taste while nourishing the body at the same time. In strict moderation, they can even be used by diabetics in conjunction with a nutrient-dense, high-fat diet.
(End of excerpts)
I would also suggest that if you do use sugar alcohols, that you do what Lauren does, and use it in combination with another even better choice for a sweetener, like Stevia, so you're not getting a lot all at once. See her comment and lots of others at the “Dark Secrets” post mentioned up at the top.
WILL YOU COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW IF YOU USE SUGAR ALCOHOLS, AND IN WHAT? I'd be very curious to hear from all of you about this topic.
- Read what Cheeseslave says about Sugar Alcohols (avoid them!)
- Read more about Xylitol
- Here's info on Erythritol
- Do artificial sweeteners cause weight gain?
- More information on healthy fats
- Cut out the soda pop!
Bob Fairchild says
I have just been diagnosed with diabetes.According to life expectancy of 77 I have just 30 years until I croak. No big loss. However I do not want to go through the few remaining years of my life dreading mealtimes and drinking coffee without any sweetener. Currently I use sweet and low not because I am diabetic but because I have to use way too much sugar for the sweetness I like. Can I ever have a drink again? I am a security officer and both the sites I am assigned to have no microwave fridge or running water. I work 12 – 16 hour shifts. I always brought sandwiches but bread is bad for diabetes. Do I need to quit my job to stay healthy? Or should I just go without eating for 12 – 16 hours that I work and just eat healthy before and after? Is there a diabetic bread substitute? Sorry for all the questions. My A1c was 11.4 which I was told was “off the scale”. I only found out yesterday at 1330. It is 0900 as I right this. – Bob
Hi Bob, I wanted you to know that I got your questions and am happy to help, but only have a minute right now so I’ll get back to you with more.
For now though, have you ever tried a small drop of liquid Stevia in your coffee? If that doesn’t work, then I hate to tell you, but if you like your coffee that sweet, you may need to switch to a different beverage you like – I could help you with that too, there are so many good ones out there now, so don’t worry! But plain and simple, a super sweet coffee is going to make your blood sugar shoot up. (Even fake sweeteners are bad for diabetics: https://kellythekitchenkop.com/artificial-sweeteners-cause-diabetes/.)
As far as bread, have you looked into sourdough? Sourdough bread is known to be easier on the blood sugars. Make sure it’s a true sourdough though, one without yeast. Or try making it: https://kellythekitchenkop.com/best-sourdough-bread-recipe/.
If sourdough still makes your blood sugar high, then you may have to go grain-free, and SO many people have done so and survived! There are a LOT of really delicious grain-free snacks and lunches you could take with you to work. You could take a good cooler with you since they don’t have a fridge.
So let’s start there, let me know what other questions you have.
The thing I thought most useful about xylitol is that it really seemed to curb my sugar cravings. For example, I used it to make some quick bread. I LOVE quick bread and have a terrible sweet tooth. But when I ate the bread with the xylitol it seem to be more satisfying. And by the end of the loaf I was trying to get someone else to eat it so it wouldn’t spoil. So if your look for something to help you “trick” your brain into getting over sugar this could help. As many have said, everything in moderation. This has definitely got to be better that traditional processed refined sugar.
Just wondering about maltitol, it’s probably similar to these other alcohol sugars I guess. I occasionally buy a block of chocolate made with maltitol. I’ts delicious but sometimes causes stomach trouble. Not worth it really but I still succumb sometimes!
I’m pretty sure that all of the “tols” are very similar and just another form of (or identical to) the other sugar alcohols.
Amber J says
Thanks for this article, we use stevia in my daughters tea because according to the acupuncturist it is very nutrient dense for a sweetener. I also give my girls gum with zylitol in it because of the supposed good benefit for growing teeth. I also use raw sugar, maple syrup and honey. I have been attempting to limit sugar intake recently and it seems to work best to avoid it all together. I find it very difficult to avoid sweeteners altogether but a work in progress it is. Thanks again!
Xylitol Fresh says
Xylitol and yeast are enemies – very difficult getting them to work together 😉
Oh great, it’s hard enough remembering what all those fake sugars are called without them changing their names, too………
I have also researched xylitol and erythritol and use those in moderation, combined with some stevia or rapadura, etc. Minimizing sugars seems best, choosing less refined/more nutrient dense ones when you do have it, and use xylitol, erythritol and/or stevia to boost the sweetness a little, is working pretty well for me. Although I have a weakness for coffee ice cream and don’t have an ice cream maker that’s working… I stay away from aspartame and sucralose and the others.
Kelly, did you know the Ajinomoto company, which bought aspartame from G.D. Searle, is changing the name to “amino-sweet”? (Not sure of the spelling.) The bad press about “nastytame” must be having an effect.
Natalie, here’s what I love about your comment: you’re not blindly following what anyone says. You’re doing your research then making the best choices you can with what you have. Perfect. 🙂
Unfortunately, there are some of us who have to avoid sugar-spikes and it isn’t just those with diabetes. I have Meniere’s Disease and while it’s mostly under control, there are days and even weeks when I really have to control my sugar and salt intake. So, I do use non-GMO Xylitol. I can’t stand Stevia. I’ve tried to get used to it and I just can’t. This leaves me in a bind. I either drink my tea and oatmeal plain or use Xylitol. A friend, with her Ph.D in nutritional bio-chem, suggested Xylitol. She thinks Splenda is horrible and aside from Stevia, only recommends Xylitol. She’s researched it and doesn’t think there are any long-term affects to using it. Obviously, commen sense should always be used – any “food” that isn’t 100% REAL food, should be ate in moderation…
I am glad you found a non GMO brand of erythritol Lauren, as I just read an old post on your site where you said that budget constraints (and the cost of using mostly organic products) meant you couldn’t worry about every ingredient ie. erythritol. I wouldn’t trust any erythritol that doesn’t advertise it being non GMO. Lots of people cook your fabulous recipes (containing erythritol) so it might be a good idea to advise them to look for the non GMO brands. Ben.
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
Thanks for your comment and info! As to your Splenda question – I’ve never been a fan and haven’t used it at all.
I am going to experiment more with Stevia in baked goods, though. Have you read the debate about sweeteners in the comments at the “My Dark Secrets” post? The comments there keep growing.
Thanks for posting this! It’s always to good to be armed with more information that could potentially influence decisions affecting our health.
Xylitol produced in China, hmmm… makes me think twice about experimenting with this sweetener! I wonder if erythritol is produced the same way? All I know is that the brand I buy claims to be manufactured from non-GMO corn, so that’s a relief. 🙂
Are you still using Splenda? I am so tempted to use it sometimes, but am afraid of consuming a molecule not already existing in nature on a regular basis. I will stick to erythritol in baking applications where the cooling effect is not distracting. If you can keep it mostly dissolved, it performs wonderfully. No tummy issues, either. The insights from the “professionals” seem to reflect a balanced way to approach such substites (minus the part about maple syrup and cane juice- ack!). Glad to have run across your blog again. 🙂
Kelly the Kitchen Kop says
I just found an e-mail from Anna that she’d sent to me a while back when I asked her opinion on Xylitol – this is long, but has a lot of good info if you want to read more on the topic:
I have no major concerns about xylitol, for the most part, after internet-researching xylitol about a year or two ago. There are some reports that is actually good for oral, aural, and nasal health (& a microbiologist I know confirms that theory could make sense, based on how they used xylitol in the lab with bacteria), but there is limited hard, unbiased scientific data on that, too. Currently, I am using toothpaste and gum/mints with xylitol. Like all sugar alcohols, overuse can cause GI problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc.) but my level of use has been so small that I have never experienced that. So I think GI worries are more of a nuisance factor than a safety issue. I haven’t run across any particularly believable safety issues.
I’ve also used xylitol in cooking/baking with fairly good success but it doesn’t behave exactly like cooking (won’t brown, etc.). Replacing half the sugar with xylitol seems to work without problem. Locally, I can find xylitol in the bulk bins for $5.15/lb or nearly twice that price in a package. So it isn’t cheap.
Originally, I think xylitol was made from birch tree sap in Finland and was quite expensive (which curtailed its use in the US). It is used in chewing gum and toothpastes, etc. quite a bit in Europe and has been for some time. But you know how the US manufacturers are. It was in some gums, Trident being one, for a while. But I think it wasn’t a good enough selling point because so few people knew about it, so they went back to cheaper sorbitol and aspartame.
But apparently xylitol can also be manufactured from corn (and perhaps other commodities) and is now coming from China for cheaper prices, so its use is expanding, especially in toothpastes, gums, mints, mouthwashes, etc. in the “natural” food stores. But this past year it became very evident that fractionated ingredients (which is what it is, despite labeled as “natural”) from China are something to keep an eye on because of contamination potential, so its probably buyer beware on that front, too.
I do have some granulated xylitol in my pantry and I use it on occasion (I especially liked 1 tsp in hot cocoa for a while). But as you know, I’ve been trying to cut back on all forms of sweeteners, so I’ve been using less xylitol, too. There are some who think that insulin production rises in response to the taste of sweet (even perhaps the thought or anticipation of it), even if there is no actual sugars in the food (glucose, fructose, lactose, etc.). That issue has my attention, and I keep it in the back of my mind when I’m thinking about sweetening something so I tend to be conservative in my use of all sweeteners.
Donna Gates (Body Ecology author) I think is hot for a new sweetener that is erythritol-based and uses fermented corn or something like that (erythritol is probably derived from corn, too). If I remember right, it is called Sun Crystals, but don’t quote me on that – I am going from memory and not double checking. Super expensive. I saw it at Whole Foods not long ago. Some folks on my local San Diego area NT discussion group (Yahoo) were buzzing about it, but I didn’t pay much attention because of lack of interest. I have some plain erythritol and have mixed that with stevia a few times. My understanding of erythritol is that it is less sweet than sugar and works best in combination with another sweetener. Actually, a lot of sugar substitutes are like that, working best as a combo.
The way I see it (at this point – always subject to new info and new intepretation) is that I already do know sugar and any food that breaks down into a lot of glucose isn’t good for my metabolism (probably true for most people in varying degrees, but that is another issue). Table sugar is half fructose, too, and you already know my concerns with concentrated fructose, AGEs, and fatty liver issue(have you seen the Swedish study that is on a lot of blogs lately?). So those are two things I think are very prudent for me to keep to a bare minimum.
But sugar substitutes are useful when one is avoiding high glucose/fructose levels, even at my “low sweet levels”. So I use a few of them. We even use a small amount of Splenda. My husband (a biochemist, looked at some of the Splenda objections I found but he didn’t think they were very valid). But given the checkered history of sugar subs, I use them sparingly and cautiously, just enough to feel like I don’t live a life of complete deprivation. But I am also very aware that sugar subs are not a panacea or something to be used with abandon, especially if insulin goes up anyway. Small inputs make for small errors and small corrections. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I could be rationalizing just for 88% chocolate :-).
I found a lot of info from sellers of xylitol and xylitol-containing products, but I tend to pay less attention to those, for obvious reasons. Mary Dan Eades’s blog on the Protein Power website has a past blog post about the Eades’ view of artificial sweeteners, which might include xylitol. It was rather common-sensical and I found much to agree with. You might take a look there. You can probably find it from the https://www.proteinpower.com/ URL. Years ago the Eades didn’t have any issues with aspartame (Nutrasweet) but they have revised that in recent years and now advise to avoid it. I like that they keep up with the scientific literature and revise their view points when new info convinces them.
Hope that helps. Ciao,