Sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate that may be a healthier alternative to white sugar. But what exactly are sugar alcohols and do they really offer health benefits?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the definition of sugar alcohols, the various types available, their potential health benefits, and any possible risks associated with them.
I officially gave up sugar about 4 years ago (minus Holidays, date nights, parties, or other special occasions). . . Ok, so maybe I only have sugar once a week. . . But still, since I was inadvertently eating it all day every day before that, just having even one day a week where I am completely sugar-free is pretty amazing.
But what do I mean by sugar-free? I’m not just talking about cane-sugar, I’m including all unhealthy sweeteners. . . corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, etc. These sweeteners are in everything! Cereal, yogurt, breads, crackers, sauces. . . You probably are eating way more ‘sugar’ in a day than you realize, without ever picking up a candy bar!
Why Going Completely Sugar-Free Even For 3 Days A Week, Is Worth It.
The biggest reason why I gave up sugar, is because sugar is a highly inflammatory food. . . Meaning your body will react, down to a cellular level, when you eat sugar. It’s a defense mechanism that is helpful to your body for a short period of time.
Imagine if you will a fort, with gates that people come in and out of, bringing food to the marketplace, taking out piles of waste. . . But the fort is getting invaded by barbarians! quick, close the gates, guard the walls, no one is getting in or out! This is great for a bit, but if it is being attacked day after day, week after week, with no break, they start losing their outside food supply, they can’t get their waste out, they don’t get outside orders on how to proceed. . . This gets very dangerous. This is what is happening to our cells if we are chronically inflamed.
Once I began to FEEL my body functioning normally, I knew I couldn’t let my cells be chronically attacked anymore. They can survive a day or two, (my cheat days), but then I get right back into not eating sugar (same thing goes for most grains, but that is a story for another day).
There are natural sweeteners that don’t cause an inflammatory reaction, like maple syrup and honey. But the reason I choose sugar alcohols is because my body is very sensitive to carbohydrates, and the fewer carbs, the happier I am (literally – here’s my happiness post).
If you want an excellent book about Healthy Chocolate Recipes that you can eat for meals, and not just desserts, click the link above.
So what are sugar alcohols?
Definition of Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are a type of carbohydrate that is found naturally in some fruits and vegetables. Unlike traditional forms of sugar such as sucrose or fructose, sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body when consumed. This means that they provide fewer calories and fewer carbs, than traditional sugars while still providing sweetness.
A healthy eating plan, (such as the ketogenic diet that I do), requires careful calculation of net carbs. As a result, I use sugar alcohols to replace regular white sugar in baking and cooking.
Sugar alcohols are the healthier alternative when compared to white sugar, allowing me to calculate the net carbs without sacrificing my sweet tooth.
Calculating Net Carbs From Sugar Alcohols
So how do you calculate the net carbs of alcohol sweeteners?
Net carbs are the number of carbohydrates left after taking away the fiber and sugar alcohol from a food. For example, if a cookie has 16 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of sugar alcohol, then the net carbs for that cookie would be 11.
because sugar alcohol is not completely digested, it can be subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrates consumed. This is an important factor to consider when following a ketogenic diet.
We only need to count the carbs that make it into our bloodstream, which is why sugar alcohols are a popular sweetener on the keto diet. They provide a great way to enjoy sweet and delicious treats without having any negative consequences!
Sugar alcohols are used as a sugar substitute in many products and are often labeled as “sugar-free.” While they contain fewer calories than regular sugars, they are not totally free of carbohydrates. The body cannot use these sweeteners like it does normal sugars, so your body processes them more slowly and absorbs less of them.
Warning: Not all sugar alcohols are keto-friendly
All though there is a huge list of sugar alcohols:
- Monks Fruit
Not all of these react the same within our body. The ones generally considered safe in the keto community are:
Let’s Talk About Monk Fruit:
Monk fruit sweetener is a natural, zero-calorie sugar substitute made from the extract of. . . well. . . monk fruit.
It is about 200 times sweeter than regular table sugar, meaning only a very small amount is needed for food and beverage applications as a sweetener.
Its sweetness comes from antioxidant compounds called mogrosides, which are naturally found in monk fruit but are not metabolized by our body when consumed and provide no calories or carbohydrates whatsoever.
The extract has become popular among low-carbohydrate dieters, diabetics, and those looking to reduce their sugar consumption due its lack of calories, carbs, and glycemic impact on blood sugar levels.
Unlike artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame, monk fruit sweetener does not leave any aftertaste or have any known side effects on human health other than being indigestible by humans in large quantities due to its high concentration level.
This is the one I buy for myself
The Good And The ‘Cool’ Of Stevia
Stevia is one of the earliest, and most natural, alternative sweeteners. i have a weird relationship with it, as in, it gives me a weird reaction. . . I don’t do well with a lot of it, but I think that is just me.
Stevia is a natural, sweet-tasting plant that has many health and environmental benefits over regular sugar, making it an attractive choice for those looking to reduce their intake of processed sugars.
The first benefit of using stevia is its low-calorie count. Because it comes from a plant-based source, it only contains one-tenth of the calories in regular table sugar. This makes it ideal for those trying to lose weight without having to cut down on sweet treats. Additionally, stevia can be up to 250 times sweeter than traditional sugar, so you need less of it for the same sweetness.
Second, stevia does not affect your blood glucose levels like white or brown sugar does – meaning that it is suitable for diabetics who want something sweet without the worry of spiking their blood glucose.
Stevia also doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy additives found in processed sugars.
Finally, stevia is environmentally friendly because it requires fewer resources for cultivation than regular sugar and may reduce pesticide use.
It does have a ‘cooling effect’ aftertaste. I think of it as almost a ‘minty freshness’, but a lot of people hate it.
My Favorite: Erythritol
Erythritol is my favorite sweetener. Some people like it mixed with stevia or monkfruit, but I like it just fine plain.
The first benefit of using erythritol is low calories. Erythritol is about 70 percent as sweet as table sugar but contains only five percent of the calories of regular sugar. This makes it ideal for those trying to lose weight without having to cut down on sweet treats. Moreover, erythritol is quickly absorbed by the body and does not spike blood glucose levels like other artificial sweeteners do.
Second, erythritol doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy additives found in processed sugars.
Additionally, unlike other natural sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit extract, erythritol does not have a bitter aftertaste which makes it more desirable for people looking for a sweeter alternative.
Erythritol is naturally found in some fruits, vegetables, and certain fermented foods. It is also produced through fermentation of glucose by a type of yeast called Moniliella pollinis. During the process, the glucose is converted into erythritol, water, and carbon dioxide. This process involves the use of beneficial microorganisms that are safe for human consumption and are often used in the food industry.
Most commercial erythritol is typically produced from glucose derived from corn or other plant sources. The glucose is typically obtained through a starch hydrolysis process which breaks down the complex carbohydrates found in plants into simpler components such as glucose, maltose and fructose. These are then fermented with yeast to produce erythritol, the main component of commercially available sweeteners.
Why I’m Trying Out Xylitol
I just barely started using xylitol. I used to stay away from it because it is supposed to be dangerous, or even lethal to dogs. Even though I don’t have dogs, but it made me a little worried about putting something like that in my body anyways.
Then I listened to a Doctor about gum health, and he talked about using xylitol helped with your teeth, so I started using it, and I really like it.
Xylitol has several advantages, including being low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and hypoallergenic, meaning it is well tolerated by people with food sensitivities. It is also said to have greater sweetness than other low-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame.
Xylitol is typically produced through a process called yeast fermentation, which begins with the breaking down of natural carbohydrate sources such as corn or wheat into simpler components such as glucose and fructose.
The glucose is then fermented with yeast to produce xylitol, which is the main component of commercially available sweeteners. During this fermentation process, the yeast consumes oxygen and other nutrients from the solution and produces carbon dioxide, ethanol and other byproducts. Finally, after passing through various steps such as filtration, evaporating and drying processes, xylitol crystallizes in its final form.
However, xylitol does have some disadvantages which should be taken into consideration when making decisions about its use. For example, xylitol can potentially cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals, especially in high doses. Consuming large amounts of xylitol may lead to stomachaches and diarrhea due to its osmotic effects on the digestive tract. Finally, animals are particularly sensitive to the effects of xylitol toxicity and so this should be taken into account when considering its consumption for humans or pets.
New In The Game: Allulose
Allulose is the last one that is considered a ‘safe’ alternative sweetener for low-carb and keto diets. I personally haven’t had any experience cooking with it yet, I’ve only eaten it a few times when it has been in some store-bought keto foods. But after doing a little research, it might be a good option by helping with probiotics in the gut.
When compared to common sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose, allulose has about 70% fewer calories per gram. Unlike these more commonly used sugars, allulose does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels when consumed because it is metabolized differently.
Additionally, because allulose is not metabolized until it reaches the large intestine or colon region of the digestive tract, it passes through the body undigested and can act as a prebiotic. This means that allulose helps to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome which can support digestive health.
Beyond its health benefits, allulose also offers food manufacturers with improved texture characteristics when used in processed foods like baked goods or ice cream.
The sugar also melts at relatively lower temperatures—soaring up to 160-degree Fahrenheit—which allows for faster cooking times than traditional sugars.
Finally, allulose’s sweetness profile is slightly different from traditional sugars; it doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste or cooling effect on the tongue which makes it ideal for use in recipe applications where these qualities are undesirable.
Health Benefits of Sugar Alcohols
One of the main benefits of using sugar alcohols instead of white sugar is that they contain fewer calories per gram than regular table sugar does.
They also have a lower glycemic load compared to white sugar which means they don’t cause blood glucose levels to rise as quickly.
As a result, consuming foods containing these sweeteners can help people manage their diabetes better than if they were to consume regular table sugar. Additionally, many people find that using these sweeteners causes fewer digestive issues than if they were to consume traditional sugars.
Potential Risks Associated With Sugar Alcohols
Although there are some potential health benefits associated with consuming sugar alcohols over white sugar, there are also potential risks as well.
For people on low-carb diets such as keto or paleo diets, these sweeteners may contain empty calories and excess carbs that can take them out of ketosis or throw off their diet plan in general.
Many people in keto, can still lose weight with sweeteners, and some unfortunate people found that they could have ZERO sweets in order to lose weight. Luckily I’m not one of them.
Additionally, consuming large amounts at once can cause unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and bloating, so be careful with your serving size! When I first started eating alternative sugars, I had these problems, but once my body got used to it, I didn’t suffer anymore.
To avoid any adverse effects from consuming too much at once it’s important to keep your intake moderate and always calculate net carbs before indulging in any sugary treats!
It’s also important to note that everyone reacts differently so be sure to listen to your body when you start incorporating new foods into your diet! Successfully moderating your consumption will allow you to enjoy all the delicious treats without having any negative consequences!
To sum Things Up:
- Sugar alcohols are found in many low-carb and sugar-free foods, but they still contain carbohydrates.
- Common types of keto sugar alcohols include erythritol, monk fruit, xylitol, and stevia.
- Some people may be more sensitive to certain types of sugar alcohols than others; if you experience any digestive issues after consuming them it’s best to avoid them.
- When calculating net carbs for the ketogenic diet it’s possible to remove the amount of grams from a product that come from its sugar alcohol content.