What Is Xylitol?
German physicist Emil Fischer discovered the all-natural sugar substitute, xylitol, in 1891.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that can be found in a number of different fruits and vegetables, like berries, corn, oats, and mushrooms (and a great deal of the xylitol that is available today comes from birch bark. It tastes very similar to table sugar and works the same in cooking, but it has about forty percent fewer calories.
Xylitol has a number of health benefits, but there are also some problems with over-consumption of this sweetener, as well as some dangers to consider. Read on to find out more.
Xylitol and Diabetes
In the 1960s, xylitol began to be promoted to diabetics in Europe as a safe alternative to sugar.
Because the body absorbs xylitol more slowly than it does sugar, xylitol is not responsible for making blood sugars rise at the same rate. It also does not lead to the same “crash” sugar causes.
That’s good news for everyone, but especially diabetics.
Xylitol and Dental Health
In the early 1970s, researchers in Finland noticed that people who consumed xylitol had fewer cavities and healthier mouths. Chewing gum makers began to add it into their recipes to help prevent the tooth decay that occurred from the presence of sugar in chewing gum.
Xylitol has since become a major ingredient in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and pharmaceuticals.
Xylitol and Osteoporosis
Researchers in Finland have also found that xylitol consumption can actually prevent the bone loss that occurs in osteoporosis.
That’s great news for aging women and anyone who wants to stay stronger longer.
Xylitol and Ear Infections
Trident and other xylitol chewing gums have been shown to prevent ear infections. The chewing and swallowing actions are responsible for clearing the ear of excess wax. And xylitol is actually responsible for stopping bacteria from growing in the eustachian tubes that connect the nose and the ear.
I’ve bought some xylitol gum from my favorite online shopping club, and the whole family chews it. I have one daughter who’s prone to ear infections, and a daughter and a husband who have major tooth problems, so I really think we can all benefit from using it. It’s too early to tell what our results are yet, but I’ll be sure to update if something amazing happens!
Xylitol and Pregnant Women
Women who are pregnant or nursing may want to eat more xylitol. Xylitol has been shown to reduce the spread of a specific bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, from mother to child by about 80 percent. This effect lasts up to the first two years of the child’s life.
I know when I was pregnant I was afraid to eat artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet because of all the chemicals. I wish I had known about xylitol then!
Some Hazards for People and Animals
Eaten in excess (over 400 g per day, or about 26 TABLESPOONS), xylitol can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, and diarrhea in humans. But that’s a lot of sweetener to consume in a day. I don’t think I’d get anywhere close to that on a normal day, and I’m not sure I know anyone else who’d eat that much (or more) per day, either.
Consumed in large amounts, xylitol can be dangerous – even fatal – to dogs. This same effect does not exist for cats, however, or any other animal. So don’t ever share your xylitol-sweetened cookie with your pet dog.
Ideal sweetener is a major name brand version of xylitol.
It is marketed as a sugar alternative that “looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, and bakes like sugar.” And it doesn’t have any nasty aftertaste, like NutraSweet. Since I try to do a lot of low-sugar cooking, I’m always interested in sugar substitutes, and this is a very promising one indeed.
You can buy Ideal on Amazon if you can’t find it in a store near you. Give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Don Godleski, aka “Chef Ozzie” is a professional chef and social networking genius.
He is the main promotional power behind Ideal sweetener, touting its benefits all over the Internet, television, and other types of media. His book, Sweet Revolution: Cooking Without Sugar, is available now on Amazon.
This is the “official” Ideal cookbook. It’s a great little book that includes recipes for treats like apple pie, banana nut bread, buttercream frosting, and raspberry lemon muffins.
I’ve been a fan of xylitol for a while now, and I wish more people knew about all its health benefits.
Have you tried xylitol? Maybe you’ve used Ideal sweetener to cook something? Tell me about it in the comments.