Have you heard of this wonder-sweetener? I couldn’t figure out why Matt was buying a $7 bag of this stuff several months ago until I started hearing about all of its benefits. I decided it was time for me to do some of my own research if I wanted to start including xylitol in any of our DIY recipes. I was NOT disappointed in what I found out about this sugar substitute, and think you will be interested to know what I discovered. (Sorry for giving you grief Matt, the $7 was totally justifiable!)
The Scoop on Xylitol
This natural sweetener is actually a sugar alcohol found in many fruits, vegetables and plants. It is even produced naturally by the human body in small amounts every day. Xylitol is the same texture, color and taste as table sugar, but has far less calories and none of the negative tooth decay or insulin release effects of sugar.
Xylitol is interchangeable with sugar for baking purposes except where sugar is needed for yeast to rise. Sprinkle it on your cereal, use it in coffee and tea, and bake your favorite cookies using this low-calorie sweetener.
Not Your Grandma’s Sweetener
Xylitol is not just a sugar substitute, but a sweetener that actually PROMOTES health. Xylitol has been studied around the world for more than 40 years and has been shown to have many benefits.
Research supports the use of xylitol to prevent tooth decay and cavities. The icky bacteria and yeast in the mouth can’t metabolize xylitol – as they do sugar – so they aren’t able to create the lactic acid that attacks our teeth. Therefore, fewer of these decay-causing bacteria rest on the tooth’s surface over time, leading to less plaque formation and less cavities. Not only does xylitol starve bacteria in your mouth, but it enhances mineral absorption to actually strengthen your teeth. Ummm…more xylitol please!
Another great benefit of xylitol is that it may help regulate blood sugar levels for people with Type 2 diabetes. The body doesn’t metabolize sugar alcohols as sugar, so xylitol has no impact on insulin. This is great news for diabetics!
There is also some research on the link between xylitol products and decreased ear infections in children, and also on improved upper respiratory health with the use of certain xylitol products.
You Should Also Know…
Look for xylitol to be the first ingredient or at least the only sweetener in products in order to get the full benefits. (Some of my findings indicated that xylitol’s benefits were diminished when mixed with other sweeteners.) A total of 5 grams per day is suggested for optimal benefit. Getting too much xylitol can lead to bloating, gas, and upset stomach.
The only really serious caution I found was that xylitol can be extremely toxic to dogs. Keeping man’s best friend in mind, it is best to keep any xylitol products or items sweetened with xylitol in a place where dogs will not be sniffing around for goodies.
I also found out that most xylitol is corn derived, so look for non-GMO xylitol if you are purchasing it in granular form.
Where to Find Xylitol
Xylitol products are popping up all over the place. In addition to its use as a sweetener, it can also be found in nasal sprays, chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, and other natural products sold in health food stores. Bags of the sweetener are available in health food stores, some national chain grocery stores, and can also be purchased online.
I have been sweetening my homemade mouthwash and toothpaste with xylitol for the past several weeks now, and can rest in the fact that I’m actually benefiting my oral health by sweetening these products. BONUS!
I officially count xylitol as a MEGA upgrade over table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. My recent findings mad me wonder…when will they start serving this awesome stuff in little pink packets on the table in restaurants?
What xylitol products do you use in your household? Share your experience in the comments below!