What are Sugar Alcohols?
Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are a group of natural sugar substitutes that include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, and erythritol. Despite the name, they are neither sugars nor alcohols — they’re carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol, but they don’t contain ethanol as alcoholic beverages do. Known for having fewer calories and a pleasing sweet flavor, sugar alcohols are found in many food products labeled "sugar-free," including hard candies, baked goods, chewing gums, and beverages.
The Erythritol Difference
Erythritol has a few distinct and important characteristics that set it apart — and make it a cut above — other sweeteners. First of all, like other sugar alcohols, erythritol is sugar free. It’s also naturally derived, unlike artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. But erythritol is the only sugar alcohol that is fermented rather than produced by catalytic hydrogenation (treated with hydrogen). As a result, erythritol has unique features and function that make it stand out among the others.
Features of Erythritol
Erythritol is a sweet answer to the call for reduced sugar intake. While it offers 70% of the sweetness of sugar, it is 100% sugar-free.
Erythritol is the only sugar alcohol that has zero calories per gram, making it a popular choice for people conscious of caloric intake.
Erythritol is 0 on glycemic index. While sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar, erythritol has no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. There are also no effects on cholesterol, triglycerides, or other biomarkers.
Erythritol has a natural, pleasing flavor with no aftertaste. In fact, in a recent National Geographic article erythritol was noted as a favorite for its “clean flavor” in contrast to other sweeteners.
Erythritol helps to fight the free radicals responsible for the aging process. A study from Maastricht University found that erythritol may be beneficial in the reduction of oxidative stress.
GOOD FOR TEETH
Erythritol helps prevent the buildup of bacteria that causes tooth decay. While sugar feeds the bacteria, studies confirm that erythritol actually helps reduce and delay tooth decay.
EASY TO DIGEST
While other sugar alcohols have been known to cause digestive upset, erythritol has been found to have fewer digestive side effects, even in large amounts.
ZERO NET CARBS
The total carbohydrates in erythritol are listed on the nutritional panel, but because the body does not convert erythritol to glucose or blood sugar, the grams of net carbs (the ones that affect the body) are zero.
A Unique Process
The key to understanding what sets erythritol apart is found in the way it behaves in the body. Instead of being metabolized like most things we consume, 90% of the erythritol we ingest is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and released unchanged in the urine. That means it is neither broken down nor used by the body, which accounts for its minimal impact and lack of side effects. The 10% that reaches the large intestine isn’t fermented by gut microbiota, which is what can cause digestive distress, and is eliminated unchanged from the body.
A common question for health-conscious consumers is, “Is it safe?” The answer with erythritol is clear: Yes. This natural ingredient was first classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in 1999, and the status was confirmed in 2001. Studies support the findings that it doesn’t have any toxicity concerns and is safe for consumption, even in large amounts and on a regular basis.
How Erythritol is Made
Erythritol occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, including mushrooms, cheeses, and fruits like pears, watermelon, and grapes. Because it is only found in small amounts in these foods, it is commercially produced by fermenting the natural sugar found in corn. In a natural, chemical-free process, the plant starch is mixed with water, fermented, heated, and purified. The final step is crystallization, where the broth is cooled and sugar-free crystals form. The result is a natural product that is over 99% pure, with zero fillers and no artificial additives. Because it is made from corn, it is suitable for gluten-free diets and for vegetarians.
Watch out for GMOs
Because many food manufacturers start with genetically engineered corn to produce erythritol, it’s important to make sure that the product is certified non-GMO. Otherwise, the ingredient can be GMO-derived and carry with it the negative effects of genetically engineered crops. The simplest and surest way to check the status is to look for non-GMO verified certification on the package. Products like NatureWise Energy that have sourced non-GMO (and certified organic!) erythritol will most likely have the certification prominently displayed.
With a taste, sweetness, and texture similar to refined sugar, erythritol makes a great substitute in baked goods and beverages, as well as a wide range of other products. Unofficially known as the missing link between great-tasting sweet products and health products, erythritol offers the sweetness of sugar without the negative effects.
With all its benefits, erythritol is becoming an increasingly popular staple in health food stores and high-end food products around the country. In fact, its popularity is increasing around the world, as it is now widely used in Japan, Europe, Mexico, and Canada. It seems the only thing stopping it from taking over as the main sweetener in commercial products is the cost, as erythritol is the most expensive of the sugar alcohols to produce.
Sweetener of Choice
The cost of erythritol doesn’t stop NatureWise, who shows an unmatched commitment to quality by using organic erythritol as the main sweetener in NatureWise Whole Body Vitality Drinks. In these natural, zero-calorie beverages, erythritol is complemented by two other natural sweeteners — monk fruit and just the right amount of stevia — to create balanced, great-tasting beverages. It’s part of the NatureWise commitment to better ingredients and a better you.