Sugar alcohol has fewer calories per gram than regular refined sugar and is a good substitute for the sweetness you crave if you are dieting or a diabetic. Sugar alcohol is a hydrogenated form of carbohydrates. This product occurs naturally in plants. The simplest form of sugar alcohol is known as ethylene glycol, a sweet but very toxic chemical that is commonly found in anti-freeze. Sugar alcohol does not contain ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages.
Substituting sugar alcohol for regular sugar to help you lose weight is a good idea if you know what you are putting in your body, and how you react to it. Compared to regular sugar, sugar alcohol does contain calories, just not as many. So, if you are dieting, you still have to be aware of the fact that you are ingesting carbohydrates. Read the food labels carefully so that you know how many carbs you are consuming.
Adding sugar alcohol to the diet is an excellent idea for someone who has diabetes, especially Type I diabetics. It converts to glucose more slowly and does not cause the sudden spikes in blood sugar, which makes it a favorite sugar substitute for people with this disease.
The difference between sugar alcohol and artificial sweeteners is the calorie amount. The artificial sweetener has 0 calories, and the sugar alcohol has 2.6 per gram, so there will be some effect on the blood sugar, but not much.
Forms of Sugar Alcohol
- Mannitol – It is found in potatoes and carrots, as well as pineapples, asparagus and olives. It has about 50 to 70% of the sweetness of sugar.
- Sorbitol – This is found naturally in fruits and vegetables and is about 50% as sweet as sugar.
- Xylitol – Also known as “wood sugar”, it is found in such things as straw, corncob, cereals and mushrooms. It has the same sweetness as sugar and is used in chewing gum.
- Lactitol – This is usually found in sugar-free ice cream, chocolate, confections and baked goods. It is 30 to 40% as sweet as sugar.
- Isomalt – Used mainly in the manufacture of hard candies like cough drops and toffee, it does not break down during the heat processes used.
- Maltitol – A 75% sweetness ratio to sugar, it gives a creamy texture to foods like ice cream and confections.
Although it is a very good idea to add sugar alcohol to your diet, there are certain things you should know, or expect. It can ferment in the intestines which could lead to bloating, gas and diarrhea. Even though it contains the name alcohol, you cannot get drunk by eating it. Adding fresh fruits and berries to your diet is a good substitute for sugar and a high source of sugar alcohol (1/2 to 1/3 less calories, in actuality, which is why is it a good choice for diabetics). So, yes, it is a good idea to add sugar alcohol to your diet if you do so in moderation, and if you are using it as a substitute for sugar and not in combination with it.