Using erythritol as a replacement sweetener is becoming increasingly popular, but before adding this to your diet, it’s best to understand the potential benefits and side effects.
What is Erythritol?
Erythritol is a four-carbon sugar alcohol that can be isolated and extracted from certain natural sources such as wine, soy sauce, and other fermented foods, as well as synthetically produced. It is growing in popularity since it is able to reduce the sugar and calorie level of many different foods, without sacrificing the sweetness. The most common sources of this sweetener are fermented foods and fruits, but the majority of what is now being added into foods is derived from GMO cornstarch. More specifically, the glucose is removed from that cornstarch and then allowed to ferment with a specific type of yeast.
While erythritol is generally considered safe, there are some concerns, depending on your pre-existing conditions and current medications. Many people believe that stevia and erythritol are the same things, but in fact, stevia is an herb and has the same sweetness as sugar, while the sweetener in question tends to have between 60 and 80% the sweetness of sugar. This sweetener does factor heavily in ketogenic diets since it is calorie-free and has a minimal amount of carbs – only 5 per 100 grams!
Erythritol helps in reducing lipid peroxidation and glucose metabolism, thereby improving oxidative damage involved in the development of diabetes, as per a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Unlike traditional sugars and other alternative sweeteners, erythritol has no negative effects on your teeth, since the bacteria in the mouth cannot metabolize this compound, thus lowering your risk of cavities.
Erythritol being a zero-calorie option as a sweetener can help improve metabolic processes and aid in weight loss efforts.
Some studies have found that this sweetener has antioxidant properties, including the ability to reduce oxidative stress on the skin and organ systems. It can help improve the appearance of wrinkles, reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body, and even protect vision health, among many others.
- Stevia: Stevia can often be substituted for erythritol when it comes to baking, but stevia powder and extract are extremely concentrated, so very little is needed to produce the desired effect. For every tablespoon of erythritol, you only need 1/4 teaspoon of the powdered stevia extract.
- Monk Fruit: Similar to erythritol, despite monk fruit’s extreme sweetness – in its extracts – it has no effect on your calorie intake or blood sugar fluctuations. Again, a very small amount of monk fruit extract is necessary to sweeten a wide variety of dishes.
- Xylitol: Unlike the sweetener in question, xylitol contributes about 2 calories for every gram that is consumed, and it has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. It also retains the same sweetness as traditional table sugar.
- Raw Honey: While honey has very high inactive ingredients and antioxidants, it is also rather high when it comes to glycemic load. If you are using erythritol for diabetes control, using raw honey as a replacement isn’t the best choice.
Erythritol Side Effects
There are some side effects to using erythritol, which has made this sweetener somewhat controversial.
- GMO Issues: Many people choose to avoid GMO-derived products, as there are concerns over the long-term effect of these genetically modified aspects of our food.
- Stomach Problems: Those with sensitive stomachs, or who eat a lot of this sweetener, may experience diarrhea, nausea or stomach upset, but most people don’t experience these symptoms.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Some erythritol products are blended with other artificial sweeteners, making it less of a pure and healthy product.
- Overeating: There are some reports that using this sweetener can stimulate the appetite, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.
- Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, people may be allergic to this substance, so speak with your doctor before switching to this as your main sweetener.