We’ve talked about sugar and artificial sweeteners. But you might wonder, where do sugar-alcohols like Erythritol (ur-i-thruh-taal) fit in? It does occur naturally in some foods, but most of what you see is manufactured by fermenting wheat or cornstarch. Erythritol often is found with other sugar substitutes like stevia. Other sugar alcohols include xylitol, glycerin, sorbitol, etc.
Erythritol is pretty much zero calorie sweetener at .2 calories per gram (table sugar is 4 calories per gram). This is because your body can not break it down; it doesn’t get metabolized and is excreted through urine within 24 hours. This also makes it a good option for diabetics. Erythritol has been approved by the World Health Organization since 1999.
Even though it is called a “sugar alcohol” it generally comes in a powder or granular form, and as you can see above it can look very much like table sugar!
But Is It Any Good?
Erythritol has 60-80% the sweetness of table sugar. It comes as a powder or granular form. It does not have a bitter aftertaste like some sweeteners and people can generally tolerate erythritol better than other sugar alcohols. You’ll find erythritol in many sugar free foods and snacks like Crystal Light Pure, sugar free candy, protein bars, gum, sugar free fruit spreads, Smart Cakes and muffins, Vitamin Water Zero, etc. It is also found in the brand Truvia sweetener.
Even Dentists Like It!
Dentists like erythritol because not only does it not cause tooth decay like sugar, it helps prevent it and reduce the formation of plaque. Sugar, on the other hand, turns into acid in your mouth when combined with mouth bacteria.
Is It Natural?
As we said before Erythritol can be manufactured by fermenting wheat or cornstarch, but it can also be found naturally in carrots, cherries, mushrooms, and more. Japan has been using erythritol since the early 1990s as a natural sugar substitute. Still, in the end, erythritol might be a good sugar substitute for you, but whole foods should still be the bulk of your diet.
Possible Side Effects
Like most sugar alcohols when used in large amounts, erythritol can cause diarrhea, gas/bloating, and/or an upset stomach. If you choose to use erythritol, as with most things, do so in moderation. At the same time, most people can handle a gram for every kilo of body weight (or .45g per pound). That means at 150 pounds someone could presumably consume more than 13 teaspoons without ill effect. However, if you suffer from IBS, it’s probably better to stay away from sugar alcohols.