Xylitol is a polyol or sugar alcohol, also called "wood sugar"; is a substance from sweetening power and tastes similar to sucrose, but it is a lot less caloric.
It looks like one white crystalline powder and it comes extract generally from the birch, but also from beech, but also from certain types of fruit, such as plums, strawberries or raspberries, and from wheat. We find it equally in oats, corn, mushrooms and other berries.
Even the human organism, through the metabolism and the liver, produces a minimal amount.
As food additive we find it in products with the initials E967, mainly contained in chewing gum and candy, but also in toothpastes. It is sold a lot online, it is not yet easily found in supermarkets or organic shops. A 250 gram bag of xylitol costs between 8 and 11 euros.
Birch Xylitol: A Healthy Alternative Sweetener?
Let's find out in detail the characteristics of this alternative sugar, with its pros and cons:
Pros of birch xylitol:
- Calorie almost halved: refined white sugar contains almost 4 per gram, while xylitol just over half.
- Low glycemic index: xylitol has a glycemic index of 7, low compared to the 60-70 of refined sugar.
- Good for i teeth. The process that triggers the formation of dental plaque sees the bacterium Streptococcus mutans as its protagonist, which feeds on the glucose present in the oral cavity. Xylitol does not like this bacterium, which does not use it and does not feed on it. In addition, saliva is less acidic, therefore the prevention and reduction of caries is also greater.
- Better absorption of calcium. According to various researches, xylitol would help the digestive system to better assimilate calcium.
- Use in the kitchen. It is used as it is with sugar, both for cakes and biscuits and ice cream or puddings. Also ideal for hot or cold drinks. Once opened, the product can agglomerate over time, but it dissolves easily again.
So xylitol is good for diabetes sufferers oha problems of obesity and overweight. Various researches, especially Finns, have highlighted the positive aspects of this alternative sugar too for those suffering from osteoporosis.
In fact, in Finland it is very popular and there are many products that contain it. Xylitol is therefore widely produced by the Nordic countries, especially Denmark. There is no lack of Chinese xylitol.
Cons of xylitol
- Digestion and intestines. For some people, the intake of xylitol has caused digestive problems or intestinal disorders, such as excessive fermentation or laxative effect. Irritable bowel sufferers should avoid it.
- Refined product. In any case, like white sugar, it is xylitol is a refined product and industrially processed, especially when it comes to xylan, xylitol derived from transformed vegetable fiber; therefore it does not contain precious substances such as minerals, vitamins or proteins like other natural sweeteners (honey in the first place).
- Cost. Xylitol is certainly not as cheap as refined sugar, as we have seen, a kilo of pure Finnish xylitol, produced from certified forests, costs around 20 euros.
Please note:: birch xylitol is not suitable for dogs! For them it has the same extremely negative effects as sugar.