Erythritol: Uses and Benefits

If you have a sweet tooth but are hoping to cut down your sugar intake, erythritol just might be the perfect substitute for you. Although it sounds too good to be true, erythritol is a calorie-free, natural sweetener that tastes just like sugar but doesn’t have any of the health risks associated with high sugar consumption. 

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the uses and benefits of erythritol, paying special attention to how this miraculous substance is made and the best way to incorporate it into your diet. 

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Erythritol Basics

Erythritol is a healthy alternative to sugar because it belongs to the group of carbohydrate compounds labeled sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners that are partially resistant to digestion and consequently behave somewhat like fiber in the gut. Eating too much sugar can lead to a whole range of issues from acne to Type 2 Diabetes, which is why using substitutes like erythritol is vital. 

Given that sugar alcohols are a mix of both sugar molecules and alcohol molecules, they activate the taste receptors on your tongue that correlate to sweetness. However, they naturally have a lower calorie count than traditional sweeteners which makes them a healthier alternative.

Erythritol is considered to be the healthiest sugar alcohol available because it does not cause the bloating and stomach discomfort that is sometimes triggered by other sugar alcohols. The delicious, sweet taste of erythritol can be found in several popular sweeteners such as Truvia.  

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Erythritol By the Numbers

Regular table sugar has approximately 4 calories per gram whereas erythritol has zero calories per gram. The main reason why erythritol has no calories is because it is absorbed quickly by your small intestine. In fact, it exits your body in your urine in 24 hours or less, meaning that this type of sugar alcohol has no time to metabolize in your body. 

That being said, erythritol is still 70% as sweet as table sugar which makes it a delicious, healthy substitute. It is important to keep in mind when using erythritol in recipes that it is not quite as sweet as regular sugar, so make sure to adjust your quantities accordingly. 

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Uses of Erythritol

Given it’s incredible sweetness and texture, erythritol can be used exactly as you would use table sugar. You can mix it into your morning coffee or tea, sprinkle it on top of baked goods or grapefruit, or use it in your favorite recipes. 

However, keep in mind that it is a sugar substitute which means that the texture of the dishes you usually make with table sugar might change slightly if you substitute erythritol in. 

Is there a recommended amount to consume?

There’s no official recommendation for the amount of erythritol that’s healthy to consume. However, given nearly 90% of it is absorbed into the bloodstream leaving only 10% to go undigested to the colon, there are no real dangers of over consumption. 

Unlike other sugar alcohols, erythritol seems to be resistant to the bacteria in the colon that induces fermentation and creates gas. Studies suggest that about half a gram per pound of your bodyweight can be easily tolerated by your body. 

That being said, as with anything eating too much erythritol can lead to an upset stomach or nausea. If you find that this is happening to you, consider eating a smaller daily amount to allow your digestive system time to properly process this sugar alcohol.

How is Erythritol Made?

Although erythritol is a naturally occurring substance, often found in fruits and vegetables such as pears, watermelon, mushrooms, and peaches, it is only found in small amounts in nature. For this reason, erythritol is often commercially produced by fermenting the glucose from corn or wheat starch using a specific type of yeast. 

Erythritol is also a byproduct of other fermented foods such as beer, cheese, wine, and Tepache, a traditional Mexican beverage made from fermented pineapple. 

Benefits

Alongside being a healthy substitute for sugar, erythritol also has several other health benefits that make it a desirable choice when you’re craving something sweet. 

Oral Health 

Unlike the negative effects of sugar consumption for your teeth, erythritol is actually good for your oral health for a few reasons. All sugar alcohols are noncarcinogenic which means that they do not contribute to cavity formation and tooth decay like regular table sugar does. 

Table sugar also feeds the bacteria in your mouth which consequently secrete acids that erode the enamel on your teeth that acts as a protective barrier. Erythritol, on the other hand, is non-acidogenic which means that it helps reduce the amount of acid produced by bacteria. In this way, erythritol directly counteracts the harmful effects that sugar has on your tooth enamel. 

Blood Sugar and Insulin

Another reason why erythritol is a great sugar substitute is because it has no effect on blood sugar levels whereas regular sugar usually causes a blood sugar spike. The reason that it has no effect is because we do not have the enzymes needed to metabolize erythritol. 

Therefore, this calorie-free sugar substitute enters the bloodstream and exits the body in urine unchanged. Alongside leaving blood sugar and insulin levels unchanged, erythritol also has no effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 

Potential Benefits for the Heart

Although the research is not entirely conclusive, it is possible that erythritol acts as an antioxidant and reduces damage to the blood vessels caused by high blood sugar levels. Improved blood vessel functioning is often associated with reduced risk of heart disease meaning that consuming erythritol can potentially help protect your heart. 

Weight Management

Given that erythritol is not digested by the body, it does not lead to the same weight gain that sugar consumption does. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the body does not metabolize erythritol, so you might not feel very full after consuming foods and beverages with this sweetener in them, which could lead to overeating. 

Are There Any Risks To Consuming Erythritol? 

Erythritol is considered to be one of the healthiest natural substitutes for sugar and was recognized as safe by the FDA in 2001. Given that it is calorie-free and goes through the body mostly undigested, erythritol has very little effect on your overall health when consumed in normal amounts. 

Eating extremely large amounts of erythritol can lead to an upset stomach, but this is unlikely. There’s also evidence that suggests excessive consumption of erythritol can lead to increased urination and dehydration, but again this only occurs in extreme cases.

That being said, erythritol is a much healthier sugar substitute than other synthetic sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, which have been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, dementia, and seizures. Additionally, aspartame has been linked to weight gain whereas erythritol can help with weight management. 

Conclusion

Erythritol is an excellent sugar substitute because it has no calories, is 70% as sweet as sugar, and is even beneficial for your oral health, blood sugar levels, and potentially your heart health.

You can use erythritol as you would normal table sugar: in beverages, baked goods, and any recipe that needs a sweet twist. However, keep in mind that erythritol is a sugar alcohol, so it might slightly alter the texture and taste of dishes that you normally make with sugar. You can find erythritol naturally in fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods, and sold on its own like sugar.

Overall, erythritol is an extremely safe sugar substitute that will give your favorite foods and drinks a sweet taste without compromising your health!

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Sources:

https://www.ynhh.org/services/nutrition/sugar-alcohol.aspx

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5

https://usrtk.org/sweeteners/aspartame_health_risks/

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