Xylitol | Chemical Sounding Alternative is Better Than you Think

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xylitol

In a world where we are constantly told to avoid processed foods, foods with chemicals, etc. (and for very good reason), we understand why some people turn away from xylitol at first glance – its name sounds like a chemical.

However, xylitol is a very safe and good alternative to sugar and other sugar alternatives. It is made from birch trees or from a plant fiber called xylan.

Why we love it…

Xylitol has fewer calories than sugar, doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar, and is much better for our teeth.

In addition, it looks and tastes like sugar and can be used gram for gram to replace sugar in recipes.

So what exactly is it?

Xylitol is characterized as a sugar alcohol. It contains some sugar molecules and some alcohol molecules, and it stimulates the receptors on the tongue to taste “sweet.”

Don’t let the “alcohol” reference alarm you – sugar alcohols are safe for children and for adults with alcoholism.

Because xylitol can be found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables, it is considered a natural product. Humans even produce trace amounts of xylitol during regular metabolism.

In recent years, xylitol has been used as a sweetener in chewing gum, candy, toothpaste, and diabetic-friendly products. Now, as more and more people aim to limit the amount of sugar in their diet, and as the benefits of xylitol as an alternative become more widely known, it is being used to replace sugar (and other nasty ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, etc.) in many other foods.

While xylitol tastes as similarly sweet as sugar, it contains 40% fewer calories, making it a good choice for people with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or those trying to reduce their caloric intake.

Now, let’s not be fooled into thinking that xylitol is GOOD for us. It is, at the end of the day, still a refined sweetener and, while it is better for us than sugar, it still delivers empty calories with no real nutritional value (i.e. no vitamins, minerals, or protein).

When compared to sugar, xylitol is a healthier alternative, and here is why:

  • It doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels or insulin levels making it a suitable choice for people trying to lose weight or people with diabetes
  • Studies show that it may reduce belly fat
  • Dentists believe that xylitol reduces the amount of harmful plaque on your teeth because the bacteria needed to create plaque can’t feed on it (the bacteria love real sugar)
  • The same bacteria that feed on plaque in your mouth also do not thrive in the ear, making ear infections less common in young children. People who consume xylitol also experience a reduced frequency of yeast infections
  • Xylitol does feed the “friendly” bacteria in your gut, so it is linked to improved digestive health

Good for us, but not for dogs:

Xylitol is extremely toxic to our canine friends, so you will want to keep any products containing this ingredient away from them. While our bodies know the difference, a dog’s does not – they mistake it for sugar and start producing large quantities of insulin. This can lead to hypoglycemia, liver failure, and even death.

It only takes .1 grams of xylitol per kg of dog weight, so ½ a piece of chewing gum has the ability to make a small dog very ill.

If you think your dog has eaten something containing xylitol, take them to a vet immediately.

Side effects in humans:

Fortunately, most people tolerate xylitol very well. In large quantities, it can lead to some digestive upset. (Gas, bloating, diarrhea) as the sugar alcohols pull water into your intestines. However, this isn’t common, and if it does happen, just start out by consuming small amounts at a time, and gradually increasing to develop a tolerance.

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may wish to limit or avoid products containing xylitol.

Of Interest:

*Studies on animals show that xylitol increases the absorption rate of calcium, ultimately reducing the incidence of osteoporosis. Future studies will determine if the same results occur in humans.

So, in summary, when we crave something sweet, xylitol seems to be a pretty good alternative to sugar. However, all of us should aim to reduce our cravings for sweets (regardless of their source), and here are some ways to do this:

  1. Enjoy dessert as a treat – not as a daily event.
  2. Limit or eliminate sweet beverages from your diet. Try adding lemon and mint to your water for some flavour, or, drink herbal teas.
  3. Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and increase the amount of fresh foods instead – snack on a handful of nuts or seeds as opposed to reaching for a protein bar, for example.

Lastly, thank you so much for visiting! I hope you have found some valuable information, if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Please feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit, and comments are always welcome!

I look forward to connecting with you next time!

And be sure to check out why you should order your family’s next meal courtesy of Ki’s Kitchen  
spirulina

From our kitchen to yours,

Love + Peace

Kiran 

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