Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that’s good for your teeth, waistline and blood sugar!

Natural sugars and sugar alcohols such as xylitol are great sugar substitutes over artificial sweeteners. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols don’t cause weight gain and won’t impact blood sugar levels. This is important because sugar consumption is on the rise and with it, so are many health concerns such as: heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay, high blood pressure, stroke, weight gain and unhealthy cell formation. Continue reading to learn more about xylitol to see if it’s the right sugar alternative for you.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol, pronounced Zai-LUH-tall, is a type of compound called a sugar alcohol or polyol, and belongs in the same class as erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol sweeteners. Most sugar alcohols act as no-impact sweeteners, meaning they do not impact your blood sugar, making them an ideal choice for many. Xylitol is similar in sweetness to regular sugar but contains 40% fewer calories. Xylitol is derived from birch trees and hardwood, although it can be found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. Xylitol can be purchased on its own and can be found in some sugar-free or low-sugar products like chewing gums, candies and mints, plus some natural toothpaste and dental care products. Xylitol is sometimes confused with sorbitol, another sugar alcohol with a similar molecular structure. Lastly, it’s important to note that xylitol is toxic to pets, so keep it and foods or products containing it out of reach of your furry friends.

Xylitol and Blood Sugar

The glycemic index of xylitol is 7, compared to regular sugar, which is 60-70. The glycemic index (GI) assigns a value to foods and beverages based on their impact on blood glucose levels. Generally, goods low on the glycemic index, like xylitol, will release glucose more slowly and steadily while foods higher on the glycemic index will release glucose quickly. Sugar alcohols like xylitol do not raise blood sugar levels and do not count as net carbs. For this reason, xylitol and other sugar alcohols are popular sweeteners in diabetic and low-carb products. Xylitol is also generally believed to not break a fast when intermittent fasting.

Xylitol and Dental Health

By now it is generally accepted that excessive sugar consumption is bad for our health, including our dental health. Harmful bacteria in the mouth use sugar for energy and release acids that are harmful to tooth enamel. Because they are not sugars, sugar alcohols can be found in dental health products and there is some evidence to suggest that erythritol and xylitol can slow the growth of teeth damaging bacteria.

Xylitol, Digestion and Gut Health

Generally, xylitol is well-tolerated by the digestive system. However, some people may experience some digestive effects after consuming too much. Xylitol belongs to a class of fibre called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols), which means that it could potentially cause digestive symptoms for some people with a sensitivity to this class of fibre. However, one study suggests that xylitol could actually support gut health by feeding the “friendly” bacteria in your gut. As a rule of thumb, if you start to feel digestive discomfort, either discontinue use or consume less going forward and monitor symptoms.

Why is Xylitol Bad For Dogs?

Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Although xylitol does not impact insulin production and blood sugar in humans, it behaves differently in dogs. When dogs ingest xylitol, their bodies mistake it for glucose and start to produce insulin, and then absorb glucose from the bloodstream. This can cause hypoglycemia (also known as low blood sugar) and even death. Xylitol may also cause effects with liver function in dogs. It is important to note that dogs can get sick from eating less than one gram of xylitol depending on their size. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep xylitol out of your house if you own a dog and look for another healthy sweetener or sugar alcohol instead, such as erythritol. If you are worried that your dog accidentally ate xylitol, take it to your vet immediately.

How to Use Xylitol

Xylitol generally looks and tastes like sugar; for this reason it is often used in place of sugar, in baking, hot and cold drinks, sprinkled on oats, etc.

Shopping For Xylitol

The granule form of Now Foods Xylitol makes a great substitute for sugar when baking.  The packet form of Now Xylitol Plus is available in single-serving sachets and is enhanced with stevia extract for coffee and tea. Resembling sugar in its consistency and taste, xylitol has less calories and low glycemic index;  it’s pure, beautifully sweet, and non-GMO.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.

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