When it comes to choosing a natural sweetener to use in place of sugar, there are quite a few things to take into consideration.
It’s not always easy to decipher what exactly is “good” for us, or even what’s better than plain white table sugar – especially with the abundance of sweeteners on the market.
The type of sweetener called a ‘non-nutritive sweetener’ is one that contains no calories (or no nutrition). This is the category that erythritol falls in to, unlike nutritive sweeteners such as honey or coconut nectar.
Erythritol is stacked up against other non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose, stevia, and aspartame. So, what makes erythritol different, and why is it SO popular amongst the low-carb dieting crowd?
Well, that’s what we’re going to explore today.
Learn more about the benefits of using erythritol, how to use it, some of the side effects, and how it stacks up against its competition.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol isn’t actually a sugar – instead, it’s a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are both naturally occurring in some foods like fruit and alcohol. It can also be produced via fermentation at the industrial level.
You might be familiar with sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol. Like erythritol, these are all sugar alcohols. They are derived from other sugars.
In this instance, the sugar alcohols that make up erythritol are derived from the sugar found in corn. Erythritol is approved for human consumption and safe to use daily, although there are some digestive warnings we’ll discuss later.
The benefits of erythritol
If you’re avoiding sugar, you need a backup plan. Yes – doing a little sugar detox or eliminating all added sugars is a healthy habit too, but some of us need a little indulgence sometimes.
That doesn’t mean giving your blood sugar a run for its money and craving even more sugar later. It just means getting creative. Erythritol is a really good choice for a few key reasons.
- Erythritol doesn’t impact blood sugar. The main difference between erythritol and sugar – or just a sugar alcohol and a sugar – is the effects on blood sugar. Because there is no actual glucose in erythitol or sugar alcohols, blood sugar won’t be at risk of spiking and/or dropping. This makes erythritol a particularly good sweetener choice for people with diabetes.
- Erythritol doesn’t cause tooth decay. Your dentist is likely the last person who’d recommend a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Sugar wears away at enamel and breaks down the teeth over time. Switching to erythritol can help keep your pearly whites pearly, white, and intact. This is because it is unable to be metabolised by the bacteria found in your mouth.
- Erythritol has a sugar-like taste/texture. Many people are wary of sweetener alternatives because they don’t do the job quite like sugar. Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as table sugar so it’s not too saccharine, and its granular texture will mimic the effect of sugar very well in many recipes. If you’re still looking for your sugar substitute sweetheart, try erythritol.
- Erythritol is NOT an artificial sweetener. Unlike Splenda or Equal which are mainly comprised of aspartame, erythritol is not an artificial sweetener. Like stevia, this is a natural compound, found in plants.
- Erythritol does not absorb moisture. This makes it great for baking and tweaking recipes to be sugar-free because your creations won’t end up dry, flaky, and crumbling before you can eat them!
- Erythritol is good for weight loss. Because it has nearly zero calories, has no impact on blood sugar readings or sugar cravings, and it’s suitable for low-carb diets, it’s a fantastic sweetener to use in place of sugar if you’re looking to lose body fat.
- Erythritol is a great choice for the keto diet. The keto diet relies on keeping carbs low. Not all low-carb sweeteners are created equal. Erythritol makes for a healthy, natural, and delicious substitution.
Moreover, erythritol is non-carcinogenic, heat-stable for baking and cooking with, and it even has an antioxidant profile. While some of the research on artificial sweetener isn’t 100% conclusive, it’s not particularly promising.
While erythritol isn’t exactly a “super food” or a “health food,” it’s still sitting above neutral on our health meter with numerous really convincing arguments to make the switch, and even some benefits.
Possible side effects of erythritol
Erythritol hardly has any notable side effects which is another reason we love this natural sweetener. Xylitol, for example, can cause extreme digestive distress, bloating, and diarrhea.
The difference is mainly that the body can absorb erythritol which is great news. In fact, your body absorbs around 90% of it before it hits the large intestine which saves you from the despair of an upset stomach.
As a result, the sugar alcohol is excreted in urine instead of solid waster.
Although very large amounts of erythritol can cause nausea or stomach pain, it will not have the same effects as other sugar alcohol-based sweeteners.
To avoid any trouble, keep consumption to under 50 grams of erythritol per day.
How to use erythritol
One of the least desirable qualities of erythritol is it’s cooling taste – almost menthol-like – which can make it a very strong sweetener that alters the flavor of whatever you’re trying to make.
In order to avoid this, purchase an erythritol-based sweetener like an erythritol stevia. Erythritol is sweet and adds a lot of bulk with its crystalline texture, lending itself well to many baked items.
You may also find it blended with monk fruit sweetener or inulin sweeteners.
One of the most popular brands amongst keto dieters and low-carb eaters is Swerve which is an erythritol sweetener. You can purchase both granular “sugar” as well as confectioner’s sugar for all of your low-glycemic baking needs.
You can also use it in your coffee if you are used to taking sugar. Erythritol is also handy for some savory dishes like stir-fry sauce sweet meat and veggie glazes, and your favorite condiments like BBQ or ketchup.
Recipes to try:
- Chocolate zucchini cupcakes with mocha frosting from I Breathe, I’m Hungry
- Low-carb cheesecake from Wholesome Yum
- Keto chocolate chip cookies from Fat For Weight Loss
- Chocolate mug cake from Ruled.me
All in all, we approve of erythritol! It’s one of the best low-carb, natural sweeteners that you can use for both sweet and savory purposes.
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