Xylitol – Interesting Facts

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and can be made out of various types of vegetables or wood. It is also known as birch sugar, although beech rind rather than birch rind is the main source of xylitol. The sugar substitute was discovered in 1891, but its positive effect on teeth was not recognised until the 1970s. Patients who consumed xylitol rather than cane sugar had significantly less tooth decay. For this reason xylitol is now a common ingredient in both toothpaste and chewing gum.

Food Facts Food Facts

Xylitol

Basis

wood (usually beech) or corn

Season

available year-round

Storage

store dry and cool at 18 to 22°C room temperature

Shelf life

at least two years

Xylitol – Differences and Similarities with Sugar

Xylitol preserves the health of your teeth, although its sweetness is comparable with that of household sugar. For this reason it is increasingly used as a sugar substitute. In its isolated and dried form, xylitol also bears visual similarities with sucrose: the small, light crystals look like sugar and also dissolve similarly. However, they have a cooling effect on the mouth when combined with spit and are significantly more heat resistant than sugar. Caramelising xylitol requires temperatures around 200°C for several minutes. 

Xylitol – Beneficial for Your Teeth and Waistline

Xylitol does not only benefit your teeth, but dramatically decreases the number of calories you consume – it has 40% less calories than sugar. Diabetics also benefit from the effects of xylitol, as it only minimally impacts insulin levels because sugar alcohols are largely metabolised independently. Without the spike in insulin levels that other sugar causes, xylitol also lessens the likelihood of experiencing food cravings. 

Xylitol – Sweet and Versatile

Nowadays not only chewing gum is sweetened using xylitol, but a whole host of other products – even chocolate. It can also be bought in its pure form and used to sweeten your daily tea or coffee. When it comes to baking recipes that require a lot of sugar, this can easily be replaced 1:1 with xylitol. The only exception is yeast dough – xylitol does not react with the yeast fungus like normal sugar, so you should add at least one teaspoon of household sugar, to ensure the dough rises. 

Xylitol – Advantages and Disadvantages

Less calories, no craving and less tooth decay – xylitol offers many advantages as a substitute for sugar. However, there are also certain aspects that are deemed disadvantages by some people. Firstly, not everyone likes the cooling sensation that xylitol causes in the mouth. Like all alcohol sugars it can also have a laxative effect or cause bloating. Some also feel it leaves an aftertaste in cakes or biscuits. All in all though, xylitol is an uncomplicated alternative to sugar. 

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