There are many sugar substitutes out there to choose from, from aspartame (Equal) to sucralose (Splenda) to saccharin (Sweet’N Low) to stevia (Truvía). But one you may be less familiar with is xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that tastes just like sugar, is great for diabetics, and also has some amazing dental and health benefits!
Here is some helpful information about xylitol and how to use it as a sugar substitute.
Why Choose Xylitol
Xylitol looks and tastes like real sugar with no bitter aftertaste, and it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. It has 40% fewer calories than sugar, 75% fewer carbohydrates, and about nine calories per teaspoon. It is also all-natural, gluten-free, and low on the glycemic index.
Xylitol also has numerous health benefits when used as a sugar substitute. Research shows that xylitol can help:
- Prevent tooth decay
- Repair tooth enamel
- Clear nasal passages
- Prevent ear infections
- Contribute to eye health
Xylitol comes from fibrous plant parts and is already found naturally in our bodies as well as in most of the fruits and vegetables we eat. It is backed by 25 years of dental and medical research and is endorsed by six national dental associations.
Using Xylitol as a Sweetener
Xylitol can be substituted 1:1 to sweeten beverages like coffee or tea. You can also use it to sweeten cereal, to make cinnamon-“sugar” toast, or to replace some or all of the sugar when making Kool-Aid.
Cooking with Xylitol
Unless you are diabetic, a good rule of thumb is to substitute xylitol for only about half of the sugar in your recipe. Large amounts of xylitol cause mild gastrointestinal problems like gas or diarrhea for some people. But if it doesn’t bother you, you can try substituting more.
Here are some other tips to make note of:
- Baking – Xylitol absorbs more moisture than sugar, so check your brownies and cookies for doneness earlier than you normally would or adjust your recipe slightly. You may need to remove them sooner to maintain their softness and consistency.
- Jams and sauces – If you’re using xylitol as a sugar substitute in jams or sauces, add a bit of xantham gum to the xylitol before adding it to your recipe. This will help keep the xylitol from crystallizing.
- Brown sugar – To use xylitol as a substitute for brown sugar, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of molasses for every cup of xylitol you use.
There are a few instances where xylitol can’t be substituted in cooking:
- Yeast bread – Yeast can’t metabolize xylitol, so it won’t work for breads that rise.
- Hard candy – Xylitol remains stable under high heat, so it won’t reach a “hard crack.”
- Crème brulee – Xylitol does not caramelize, so don’t use it in desserts like crème brulee.
Where to Buy Xylitol
Xylitol can be purchased directly from companies like Xlear (Lite&Sweet or Xylosweet), Dr. John’s Candies (Simply Xylitol), and Xyloburst. Or you can stop by your local natural grocery store. You can also order it online through the Vitamin Shoppe.
Written by: Dr. Yahya Mansour