Xylitol

What Is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the wood of birch trees. It can also be produced by bacterial fermentation of corn cobs and sugarcane. 

Xylitol has much less of an impact on blood sugar levels than other sweeteners (white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, honey, etc.). It even has less of an impact than maltitol, which is the most commonly use sugar-free sweetener in commercial products like candies and syrups. Xylitol contains 2.4 calories per gram, but is not completely digested, so many sources state that you should count half the carbohydrates and calories. This sweetener can be a safe alternative to sugar for those on low carb diets, but as always, check with your physician for making any changes to your diet. 

Xylitol has a clean-tasting sweetness that imparts a slight “cooling” sensation on the tongue. Compared to erythritol, it has less of a cooling effect. It’s also not as “gritty” as erythritol and dissolves more quickly in liquids. Because xylitol doesn’t caramelize, it can’t make a true caramel sauce and will make baked goods soft rather than crispy.

Most sugar-free store bought products don’t contain xylitol (they contain maltitol… blech!), but there are a few sugar-free syrups and gums on the market that do. To make a xylitol-sweetened syrup, you need to add a gum thickener like xanthan or acacia. I’m not a fan of these products because syrup made with xylitol is usually a bit runny and “slimy” for my taste. Xylitol sweetened gum tastes great and can even fight cavities! You can purchase it here.

Xylitol has less of an impact on blood sugar than other sugar alcohols excluding erythritol. I generally count half the carbohydrates of xylitol in recipes since it is incompletely absorbed. If you have diabetes, you’ll want to test your blood glucose levels after consuming xylitol to see how it impacts them. 

If you haven’t tried xylitol before, you’ll want to slowly introduce it into your diet. I experience some unpleasant gastric distress when I eat treats sweetened with a lot of xylitol (say, more than a 1/4 cup), but your mileage may vary. In a study performed on 70 human volunteers, the majority of them experienced GI side effects after drinking 1/4 cup or more of a xylitol-sweetened beverage. However, I’ve been told by readers that some people tolerate it well. If wish to try xylitol, start out with small amounts and see how your body responds. I would not, however, recommend using a lot of xylitol to make a dessert that will be served to company. You might have a houseful of unhappy dinner guests on your hands! 😉

Warning: Do not keep xylitol in the house if you have dogs! Our furry friends metabolize it differently to the extent that it can cause life-threatening toxicity. Rest assured that its toxicity to animals does not reflect on the safety of xylitol for humans. 

In some recipes, I add a tiny bit of xylitol along with erythritol and stevia to enhance the sweetness. Combining sugar-free sweeteners is the trick to creating the best tasting treats! To find how out more tips and tricks for baking with sugar-free sweeteners, check out the cookbook! For less than the cost of two lattes, you can support this website.

Where to Buy

You can purchase xylitol here, using my coupon code (built into the link). The lowest priced option for xylitol is the 5 lb bag of it. If you’re concern about the used of GMOs, here‘s a brand that is GMO-free. I’m personally not concerned about the GMO content of sugar alcohols since they are pure crystalline substances that do not contain traces of the source plant.

References:

Calorie content in xylitol (Caloriecontrol.org)

Counting carbohydrates in xylitol (Ucsf.edu)

Counting carbohydrates in xylitol and other sugar alcohols (Ksu.edu)

Gastrointestinal responses of sucrose vs. xylitol vs erythritol (Nature journal)

How xylitol is made (Usda.gov)

How xylitol is made (Bioresource Technology journal)

Toxicity of xylitol to dogs (Veterinary Medicine magazine)

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