As we become more health-conscious, many of us are shifting toward reduced sugar diets to improve overall health. Concerns about the negative effect of sugar on health led to the increased popularity of sugar alternatives, including sugar alcohol.
If you've recently read the "Nutrition Facts" panel on sugar-free gum or sugar-free supplement package, you might be surprised to learn that it contains "sugar alcohol." Don't be tricked by the name, though! Let's just say it's a people-friendly name given to this ingredient which simply means a form of carbohydrate with a chemical composition comparable to sugar.
Despite having the same name, sugar, alcohol, and alcoholic beverages do not have the same chemical structure. Sugar alcohol contains no ethanol, which is present in alcoholic beverages.
What are Sugar Alcohols and Their Uses?
Sugar alcohols (or polyols) are ingredients primarily used as sweeteners and bulking agents. We don’t normally use them at home in food preparation, but they are usually found in various products such as food, beverage, supplements, etc. Manufacturers use them to sweeten their products and decrease calorie content at the same time.
How are Sugar Alcohols Different from Regular Sugar?
Bissell (a nutritionist) said that while some sugar alcohols are produced from fruits and vegetables, most are actually artificial, unlike sugar which is 100% natural — exclusively from fruits, vegetables, plants, and milk.
A major difference? Sugar is easily digested and converted to energy our bodies use to function. On the other hand, sugar alcohols are not completely digested and absorbed, thus offering several advantages compared to regular sugar.
Why is Sugar Alcohols Better Than Normal Sugar?
- Sugar alcohols DO NOT impact insulin levels (sugar does)
- Sugar alcohol DO NOT metabolize in your system (sugar does)
- Sugar alcohols contain fewer calories per gram
- Sugar alcohols help to manage blood sugar levels *
- Sugar alcohols may reduce the build-up of bacteria and cavities. *
- Sugar alcohols may aid in weight loss since they have a lower glycemic index and carbohydrate content than sugar. *
Forms of Sugar Alcohols
- Naturally found in fruits such as berries, peaches, grapes, and watermelon.
- Produced from corn fermentation
- Sweetest among all forms of sugar alcohols and contains approximately 40% fewer calories than regular sugar
- Commercially used to manufacture mints, chewing gums, and oral care products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Produced from corncobs
- has 75%-90% sweetness and contains about 50% calories of a regular sugar
- Commercially produced from starch and is used in the production of baked goods, sugar-free chocolates, chewing gum, candies, etc.
- Also used in chocolate-flavored desserts due to its creamy texture and high melting point.
- has 60% sweetness and about 60% of the calories of a regular sugar
- a common ingredient in sugar-free foods and drinks such as soft candy and jelly spreads
- has a cool taste and smooth mouthfeel
- 50%-70% sweet as sugar
- Naturally found in carrots, olives, and asparagus
- Manufactured from seaweed
- About 45%-65% as sweet as sugar
- Comes from beet sugar
- Provides about 40% sweetness of sugar
- Produced from milk
Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
- Has about 40% - 90% sweetness of sugar
- Produced by mixing different forms of sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols come in different forms and are used to enhance the taste and texture of most products we consume and enjoy. They help satisfy our sweet cravings without compromising our health by reducing calorie and sugar intake.*
'Though FDA approved sugar-alcohols for human consumption, remember not to consume them excessively as it may trigger stomach upset and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Now, if you are always on the go and don't want to risk dealing with bloating or diarrhea, you may want to be keen to check on the label and look for products containing erythritol as it is found to be more gut-friendly* than any other forms we've mentioned above. Root'd uses non-GMO erythritol for this reason, along with its low-calorie count. It also does not metabolize in your system, thus not impacting your insulin levels. It really is a wonder sweetener!