Sugar Alcohols-Are They Healthy?
Sugar alcohols have been quite popular replacements for sugar for several decades. Sugar alcohols have an appearance and taste that is just like sugar but have lesser calories and less number of negative health effects!
What are sugar alcohols?
Sugar alcohols are a type of sweet carbohydrates. They are hybrids of sugar and alcohol molecules just like their name. Their name has the term ‘alcohol’ but they don’t have any ethanol which is the compound that makes you get drunk. So sugar alcohols are safe in that sense.
Many sugar alcohols are naturally present in fruits and veggies. However, most of the sugar alcohols are produced industrially.
Having a chemical structure similar to sugar, they tend to activate the tongue’s sweet taste receptors.
Sugar alcohols contain calories but they are fewer when compared to table sugar.
Sugar alcohols that are commonly used
The modern diet uses different sugar alcohols as sweeteners. Different sugar alcohols have differences in tastes, health effects and calorie count.
Xylitol is the most well-researched and common sugar alcohol. It is a commonly found in sugar free chewing gum, mints and toothpastes. It is as sweet as table sugar but has 40% lesser calories. When consumed in large amounts it can cause digestive problems. Otherwise, it is well tolerated.
It is another sugar alcohol with an excellent taste. It is made by fermenting glucose in starch. It provides 70 percent of the sweetness of sugar and just 5 percent of the calories! Along with stevia (natural sweetener), erythritol is the main ingredient in Truvia, which is a famous sweetener blend.
It does not have the kind of side effects related to digestion as most of it doesn’t reach the large intestine. It instead gets absorbed into the bloodstream and then gets out of the body through urine.
Sorbitol has a cool taste and is 60% as sweet as white table sugar. It has 60% of the calories of sugar. It is a commonly found ingredient in sugar-free drinks and foods that include soft candy and jelly spreads. It doesn’t have a huge effect on blood sugar and insulin but it can cause digestive distress.
Malitol is made from the sugar maltose. It is 90% as sweet as white sugar and having just 50% of its calories. Products sweetened with malitol are labeled “sugar-free” but this sugar alcohol is absorbed by the body and causes blood sugar spikes.
Few other sugar alcohols
There are a few other sugar alcohols that are found in food products and they are mannitol, lactitol and isomalt.
Sugar alcohols have a low GI
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast foods raise levels of blood sugar. When you consume foods that are high on GI, you are increasing your risk of obesity and other metabolic diseases.
Most sugar alcohols have almost no effect on the levels of blood sugar. The GI is zero when we talk of erythritol and mannitol. The sugar alcohol maltitol has a GI of 36 but it is still low when compared to sugar and refined carbs.
For those who suffer from metabolic syndrome, diabetes/pre-diabetes, sugar alcohols are an excellent replacement to normal sugar.
Sugar alcohols are good for dental health
It is a known fact that too much of sugar consumption leads to tooth decay. But do you know that consuming sugar alcohols such as xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol can protect against tooth decay. This is why they find their way into chewing gums and toothpastes.
Sugar alcohols can lead to digestive problems
When consumed in large amounts, sugar alcohols can cause digestive problems. As the body is unable to digest most of them, they travel to the large intestine where they metabolize gut bacteria. Eating lots of sugar alcohols can lead to bloating, gas and diarrhea. People with IBS should avoid sugar alcohols totally. Sorbitol and maltitol cause a lot of digestive trouble whereas erythritol causes the minimum symptoms.
Xylitol is a toxic for dogs
If you own a dog, please keep him away from xylitol as it can be fatal for him.
Which sugar alcohol is the best?
Erythritol is the clear winner among all the sugar alcohols. It has negligible calories, no effect of the levels of blood sugar and causes less digestive problems than others. It is good for oral health and won’t harm your dog.
It is like sugar minus the calories.
Are you going to replace sugar with sugar alcohols?
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