1.25.2010

Sugar Alcohols.. what are they?

If you consume sugar-free products (candies, cookies, baked goods, gums, and hard candies) you are probably consuming Sugar Alcohols. I'm sure most of you are thinking, 'what the heck are sugar alcohols?' 

Are they a sugar? Are they an alcohol? What are they? 
Check out this article to get all the entire low down on sugar alcohols. Here is a quicker version of what they are. 
What are Sugar Alcohols? 
 Sugar alcohols get their name from their unique chemical structure, which resembles both sugar and alcohol. But they're neither a sugar nor an alcohol. In fact, sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate that sweetens foods.. When reading a food label, the following ingredients are all sugar alcohols- they usually end in -ol. 
Erythritol, Lactitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol.  
Sugar alcohols can be tricky ingredients to interpret. A product can be called "sugar-free" and contain sugar alcohols. In that case there must be a separate line for them on the nutrition label.



So why use them?

  • Fewer calories. They contain fewer calories (0.2 to 3 calories per gram- see chart below) than sugar (which is normally 4 calories per gram) does, making them a diet-friendly choice for people who want to limit their caloric intake, but still enjoy sweet foods.


  • Ingredient
    Sweetness
    GI
    Cal/g
    Sucrose(sugar)
    100%
    60
    4
    Maltitol Syrup
    75%
    52
    3
    Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate
    33%
    39
    2.8
    Maltitol
    75%
    36
    2.7
    Xylitol
    100%
    13
    2.5
    Isomalt
    55%
    9
    2.1
    Sorbitol
    60%
    9
    2.5
    Lactitol
    35%
    6
    2
    Mannitol
    60%
    0
    1.5
    Erythritol
    70%
    0
    0.2
  • Safe for diabetics. Sugar alcohols are absorbed more slowly (and incompletely) by the body. But don't think that you can eat huge amounts of these and have them not affect your blood sugars... they will... just not as much.   
  • Better dental health. Sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay since they are not metabolized by the bacteria that produce dental cavities. 
  -When sugar alcohols are consumed in excessive amounts of sugar; digestive stress, diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence may occur.   A weird after taste may result if you are used to regular sugar free candies.
Next time you are checking at the grocery store, check the label of sugar-free goods and see if you can spot the Sugar Alcohols. 

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