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Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from corn. It has a low glycemic index of 7.
Is Xylitol really natural?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is found in the fibers of various fruits and vegetables including berries, oats and mushrooms. It is so natural in fact that the our bodies produce about 15 grams of Xylitol daily during its normal metabolic processes.
While artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) are available, they would not be ideal choices for anyone looking for an all natural, 'no sugar added' sweetener.
What makes Xylitol diabetic friendly?
Our bodies absorb Xylitol much more slowly than ordinary sugar and hence Xylitol does not cause blood sugar spikes the way sugar does.
Since the lack of blood sugar spikes means that an insulin response is not required, Xylitol is great news for diabetics. Diabetes being a medical condition in which the body no longer produces insulin (Type I Diabetes) or fails to respond to insulin (Type 2 Diabetes).
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a way to measure the size of blood sugar spikes caused by various foods. While glucose is GI 100 and table sugar is GI 60, Xylitol is unique is having an ultra low GI of 7.
I am looking to control my calorie intake, how can Xylitol help me?
As each teaspoon of Xylitol contains 40% less calories as compared to ordinary sugar (9 Calories vs 15 Calories), replacing sugar with Xylitol is probably the easiest way to cut calories and still satisfy your sweet cravings.
- Tooth-friendly - Xylitol has been proven to reduce the risk of dental caries. It does this by inhibiting mutans streptococci, the bacteria largely responsible for tooth decay. For this reason, Xylitol is often added into dental care products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes. In fact, dental associations around the world including those in Finland, Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Estonia and the Netherlands have officially endorsed Xylitol for its dental benefits.
- Nasal sprays - Xylitol is often featured in nasal sprays as inhibits the growth of bacteria on the nasopharyngeal cells.
- Ear and upper respiratory infections - Studies have shown that xylitol chewing gum can help prevent ear infections as the chewing action as well as the chemistry of Xylitol can interfere with the ability of many bacteria to adhere.
- Osteoporosis - Xylitol is potentially a treatment for osteoporosis. A group of Finnish researchers has found that dietary xylitol prevents weakening of bones in laboratory rats, and actually improves bone density.
- Pregnant and nursing women - Xylitol is safe for pregnant and nursing women, and studies show that regular use significantly reduces the probability of transmitting the tooth decay bacteria from mother to child during the first two years of life by as much as 80%.
Is Xylitol approved for use in Singapore?
Xylitol is approved for use as a food ingredient in many countries including the US, UK, EU, Japan and Singapore.
Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans. In one study, the participants consumed a diet containing a monthly average of 1.5 kg of Xylitol with a maximum daily intake of 430 g with no apparent ill effects.
Refer to Singapore's Health Promotion Board's position on sweeteners: http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/8400
I am diabetic and I make use of Maltitol as a natural sweetener. Is Maltitol just as beneficial as Xylitol?
Both Maltitol and Xylitol fall into the category of sweeteners known as polyols - both are tasteless, sugar-like substances which can be used to sweeten foods.
While Xylitol is diabetic-friendly due to its low GI of 7, Maltitol has the ability to cause blood sugar spikes in diabetics with its significantly higher GI.
- Maltitol powder: GI 36
- Maltitol syrup: GI 50
Bear in mind that at GI 50, Maltitol syrup is only slightly lower than table sugar (GI 60). Several diabetes websites do warn of the dangers of excessive Maltitol consumption.
If you are diabetic and you are watching what you eat, do not assume that every packet of 'no sugar added' cookies or chocolate is automatically good for you. READ THE FINE PRINT! Caveat emptor as always.
I am currently using Stevia which is also a natural sweetener extracted from plants. Why should I switch to Xylitol?
There may be little reason to switch to Xylitol if you are completely happy with Stevia.
We do find however, that Stevia is an acquired taste. To certain individuals, the aftertaste in Stevia leaves a lot to be desired as it appears similar to saccharin, the most popular artificial sweeteners back in the 1970s and 80s.
Are there any side effects to using Xylitol?
As a low calorie sweetener, Xylitol is absorbed more slowly than normal sugar. This slow absorption may in rare cases cause mild gastrointestinal side-effect such as bloating and diarrhea.
With regular intake of Xylitol, our bodies adapt so that such side effects do not happen.
Can I use Xylitol in my baking?
While Xylitol tastes great in desserts and is certainly heat stable, it will not cause breads to rise. This is because yeast requires sugar to work and it will not metabolize Xylitol to produce carbon dioxide bubbles.
This also explains why Xylitol effectively inhibits tooth decay as compared to normal sugar.
The following are external links where you can obtain more information about Xylitol.