• 2023 BUYING GUIDE •
On my quest to discover all sweeteners with xylitol available to you in stores,
I found almost 40 products
QUICK FACTS ABOUT XYLITOL
Xylitol is a synthetic sweetener: Also known as "birch sugar," xylitol is found naturally in a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, because those sources contain minuscule amounts, the store-bought xylitol is a synthetic sweetener. It's produced from the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature, hemicellulose, which is in the cell wall of all plants. The bark of birch trees and corn cobs are used as source material for xylitol.
Xylitol from birch wood versus corn: The two most common sources of hemicellulose include birch wood and corn. Hemicellulose has a polymer called xylan, which is broken down into a sugar called xylose. Xylose is then converted into xylitol. Xylitol from birch wood and corn are chemically identical, i.e., the chemical structure is exactly the same. There's no difference in taste and smell. They are metabolized via the same pathway in the body too. The only difference is that some brands offer slightly finer crystals than others but they all have 99.5 percent xylitol. Most xylitol products you will find in stores are made from non-GMO corn in China and tend to be less expensive than those of birch wood made in America (one brand is from Finland).
Xylitol's taste: Xylitol is as sweet as table sugar, so it is a 1:1 sugar replacement. Like all polyols, when eaten in powder form, xylitol creates a cooling sensation as it dissolves in the mouth, referred to as a cooling effect. It has the most pronounced cooling effect of all polyols. To minimize this effect, you may find xylitol blended with other sweeteners (inulin, erythritol) as you can see in the charts "Xylitol Blends" above.
Xylitol is a tooth-friendly sweetener: Xylitol is a noncariogenic sweetener as it does not promote cavities. It also has a cariostatic effect, as it staves harmful mouth bacteria, inhibiting their growth and activity. Visit my Tooth Friendly Sweeteners page to explore a variety of cariostatic sugar substitutes. The Food and Drug Administration allows xylitol sweeteners to carry claims on their labels such as "does not promote," "may reduce the risk of," and "useful in not promoting" caries.
WHAT HAPPENS TO XYLITOL
IN OUR BODY?
Xylitol is slowly absorbed & partially digested: Twenty-five to fifty percent of the xylitol you eat is slowly absorbed in the small intestine. The remaining unabsorbed amount (half to about 3/4 of the ingested xylitol) reaches the large intestine, where it is fermented by the microbiota (beneficial microbes in the intestinal tract). Because xylitol is only partially digested, it contributes fewer calories than other carbohydrates such as table sugar. According to the FDA regulation for nutrition labels, the caloric value per gram of xylitol is 2.4 calories, 10 calories per teaspoon (4g), and about 500 calories per cup (48 teaspoons).
Xylitol warning to you: Adverse effects — a consequence of undigested xylitol reaching the large intestine — include various gastrointestinal issues. Bloating, stomach rumble, flatulence, cramps, and diarrhea are commonly associated with excessive intake. The uncomfortable digestive effects you might feel are similar to those experienced with high-fiber foods (such as beans). Xylitol is a FODMAP (Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) carbohydrate and should not be consumed by people with "irritable bowel syndrome" (IBS).
Xylitol's glycemic index: Xylitol is slowly absorbed and converted into glucose, so it does not cause a sudden increase in blood sugar. Sellers of xylitol often promote it as a low glycemic index (GI) sweetener. From the University of Sydney Glycemic Index database, xylitol has a GI between 7 and 8.
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