Sugar alcohols are nothing to be alarmed about. They are a completely safe ingredient found in many foods and gummy vitamins to enhance and sweeten the flavors. But what is the difference between normal sugar and sugar alcohols?
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What is Sugar Alcohol?
Polyols, also known as a sugar alcohol, is an ingredient used as a sugar alternative to sweeten processed foods. Some sugar alcohols are manufactured while most are found naturally in fruits and other plants. This makes it a great alternative to sugar due to sugar alcohol only has 2 calories per gram while granulated white sugar has 4 calories per gram.
Is Sugar Alcohol healthy?
While sugar alcohols have fewer calories per gram than refined sugars it does not make it one hundred percent healthy. Like anything else we eat, everything has to be in moderation to keep a well-balanced healthy lifestyle. Sugar alcohols are classified as a type of carbohydrate which makes it different compared to other sweeteners that can increase glycemic levels but not as much as regular sugar. Sugar alcohol is not an ingredient that is in every household pantry for home-prepared meals or foods. But it is a common ingredient in processed foods. When you see it on a nutrition label it is nothing to be concerned about. Remember, it is still considered a sweetener with the daily recommended intake being 10 to 15 grams.
Excessive amounts of sugar alcohol may lead to bloating and diarrhea.
What is the Glycemic Index?
Glycemic index seems like a daunting scientific term that is difficult to understand but is actually simple to comprehend. It is used to rank various different foods using numbers to rate how much they increase a person’s blood sugar. Now fruit has lots of sugar, but since it contains fiber and many different nutrients to keep the body healthy. Fruit does not spike blood sugar levels as much as highly sweetened foods. But even then it will always be the healthier option compared to any foods with refined sugar which has a glycemic index of 65. An apple on the other hand will raise glycemic levels to about 39.
There are many different types of sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol & maltitol) and all of them have different glycemic index levels. Maltitol is the highest with 36 which is still on the low end while mannitol and erythritol are the lowest with zero.
In the end, sugar alcohols are safe to consume but remember to limit the intake. It is lower in calories but does not add much nutritional value to any diet. But sugar alcohols are not only just a sweetener but are great for holding in moisture and adding texture to various different foods. If you are trying to eat less refined and added sugars, sugar alcohols (the best options are mannitol & erythritol) are a good swap.