Xylitol (Malitol, and anything else ending in "…ol")
These sweeteners are known as sugar alcohols. Xylitol is found naturally in a few foods, like beets and corn. It is also used to as a sweetener in many low sugar, "low carb" items … sugar free gums and many "energy bars" come to mind, but also some beverages and other products as well.
So what’s the deal? Is THIS the best sweetener that’s out there?
Xxylitol does have a few calories (about half that of sugar). It’s almost as sweet as sugar and is only partially absorbed by the body. Most packages suggest you can substitute for half the sugar in a recipe if using it as a replacement.
There are some solid data suggesting xylitol prevents bacteria from causing plaque to stick to teeth (hence its use in gums). On the downside, too much of this stuff will make you a very unpleasant dinner guest as you’re running to the bathroom. Remember, it’s not digested well by the body — good for calorie control, bad for, well, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Not sure those few extra calorie "savings" are worth it — just eat a little less to save the calories!
This last negative effect shouldn’t be an issue if you’re chewing some sugar free gum, but be careful eating too many "sugar free" type bars or other products, as they may have a pretty good amount of this stuff.
This one is a new kid on the block. Many may not have even heard of it.
Basically it’s a unique combination of different naturally occurring sugars — fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar).
While that doesn’t sound that "special" — the unique combination of sugars is supposed to make them interfere with each other so they’re not fully absorbed, meaning less calories, but the same sweetness.
It can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking since its flavor and texture are so similar; the problem is it’s a bit more difficult to find.
Whole Foods and similar stores often carry it. Let’s see if it makes it a little more mainstream …
…to my knowledge, there’s no research using Whey Low vs. other sweeteners, but the concept is good. I like "real" ingredients vs. the artificial stuff.
So that’s a wrap on the sweeteners — from sugar to xylitol and most in between!!!
Take home points? Eat real foods and if you can’t pronounce the name, keep it on the shelf!