Sugar alcohols are one type of reduced-calorie sweetener. You can find them in ice creams, cookies, puddings, candies and chewing gum that is labeled as “sugar-free” or “no sugar added.” Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar and have less of an effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) than other carbohydrates.
Foods listed as “sugar free” or “no sugar added” may seem like a good alternative if you have diabetes or are following a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss, and on occasion they can be. These foods are commonly sweetened using sugar alcohols such as erythritol, which contain fewer calories than sugar. While sugar alcohols have the advantage of containing fewer calories, they also have disadvantages. In short, sugar alcohols are hardly a free ticket to eating as many sweet snacks as you want without consequence. Moderation still applies.
Sugar alcohols such as erythritol are difficult for the body to digest, which can cause digestive problems if you eat too much. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas and bloating. The amount needed to cause symptoms varies greatly based on your individual tolerance. Some find that even small amounts of sugar alcohols upset their stomach, while others can tolerate higher amounts before they experience gastrointestinal symptoms.
They Still Raise Blood Sugar
It’s common to believe that, because they are “sugar free,” sugar alcohols have no effect on blood sugar. However, sugar alcohols are still a form of carbohydrate and raise blood sugar, although not as much as regular sugar. While sugar alcohols have less effect on blood sugar, they are also less sweet than sugar, requiring a higher amount to get the same rate of sweetness, according to Jim Smith, author of “Food Additives Data Book.” Depending on the food item, this means the higher sugar alcohol content needed may cancel the benefits when compared with the same item sweetened conventionally.
Examples of sugar alcohol are:
- Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
- hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Even though they are called sugar alcohols, they do not contain alcohol.
Foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners can have fewer calories than foods made with sugar and other caloric sweeteners. That can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight or even to prevent weight gain. These products often times also have less carbohydrate which can be helpful in managing blood glucose levels.
Low-calorie sweeteners are useful for adding extra flavor or sweetness to your food, with few if any extra calories. In addition, these sweeteners are useful for reducing calories and carbohydrates when used instead of sugar in coffee, tea, cereal and on fruit. You can experiment with your own recipes to include low-calorie sweeteners.
When you’re considering foods with low- or reduced-calorie sweeteners, always check the Nutrition Facts on the label. Many of the food products containing these types of sweeteners still have a significant amount of carbohydrate, calories and fat, so never consider them a “free food” without checking the label. By comparing the calories in the sugar-free version to the regular version, you’ll see whether you’re really getting fewer calories.
You’ll also want to compare the fat content of the labels. There is often more saturated and or trans fat in sugar free baked products.
Sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect or other gastric symptoms in some people, especially in children.
For example, if a food label doesn’t list sugar as an ingredient, but it has 20 grams of sugar alcohol, that is equal to the calories in about 10 grams of sugar. If you are counting carbohydrate and there are more than 5 grams of sugar alcohol in the food, you can subtract half the grams of sugar alcohol from the total grams of carbohydrate. For example, if the food has 30 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of sugar alcohol, you can count that food as 26 grams of carbohydrate.
Sugar alcohols occur naturally in plant foods in small amounts, such as berries and fruits. Common names for sugar alcohols are erythritol, glycerol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH).
What are sugar alcohols used for?
Sugar alcohols are used to sweeten diet foods. They are also used in chewing gums, toothpaste, and mouthwash. People who have diabetes eat foods made with sugar alcohols, because sugar alcohols turn to glucose more slowly and don’t cause sudden increases in blood sugar.
Sugar alcohols used in chewing gum do not cause tooth decay.
If foods are “sugar-free,” does this mean I can eat all I want?
No. Even though the food is “sugar-free,” it still has carbohydrate and calories.
If you have diabetes, read food labels closely to find out the amount of carbohydrate in each serving of food containing sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols don’t cause sudden spikes in blood sugar, but they do have some effect on it. Artificial sweeteners, on the other hand, are calorie-free and have no effect on blood sugar.
Are there risks from eating too much sugar alcohol?
If you eat too much of them, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea, bloating, and weight gain.
Now that I’ve found these various articles, I will recommend that we avoid foods containing sugar alcohols and let my dear friend know it WASN’T THE HEALTHY CHOCOLATE, it was instead, the ERYTHRITOL! To see what we’ve learned are chemicals to avoid in our food and still enjoy yummy foods including sweets, visit our EAT HEALTHY! page.
TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH- DELICIOUSLY!!
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