With so many options out there to replace sugar the ‘natural’ way, it seems like xylitol might be overlooked because the name just sounds, well, unnatural. The images that might come to mind when hearing the word may be more connected with a chemistry lab than with nature. Xylitol is actually classified as a natural sweetener and can be found in many health food co-ops in products such as gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Xylitol can also be found naturally in fruit and vegetable fibers and is extracted from berries, corn husks, sugar cane, oats, mushrooms and birch trees.
Xylitol is processed extensively, is fermented from whole plant pulp and ultimately looks very similar to sugar. It contains about equal sweetness as table sugar with the appealing benefit of having ⅓ less calories. Is Xylitol a good natural sweetener? It’s debatable; some think it is and some disagree. Read on to decide for yourself. Listed are some established benefits, followed by some of the possible downsides of using this sweetener.
Benefits your teeth.
Xylitol has been well known to help prevent tooth decay when used regularly, since the 1970’s. It helps remineralize already decaying teeth and prevents bacterial growth.
Helps ear infections.
There are several studies that have shown xylitol to be effective in the reduction of ear infections, which is most likely a result of its antibacterial properties.
Possibly good for osteoporosis.
Based on experiments conducted on rats, scientists believe it may aid in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Gut/yeast bacteria benefits.
Xylitol is a prebiotic, which means it is good for your gut, encouraging the helpful microorganisms that live there. Sugar does the opposite. It is good to use if you suffer from chronic yeast infections.
Easy on Insulin and blood glucose.
Unlike sugar, xylitol doesn’t cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. It’s great for diabetics to use because it doesn’t have any effect on insulin and a very small effect on glucose.
Helps fight infections.
Xylitol has been shown to increase white blood cells, neutrophils in particular, which help fight infections.
- It’s processed.
- It can cause gastrointestinal complications in some people because it’s not fully broken down.
- Some companies use genetically modified corn for their product.
- Xylitol has been shown to be toxic to dogs, causing dangerously low blood sugar levels in them.
It appears that there are many wonderful benefits that come along with using xylitol as a sweetener. Keeping some of the downsides in mind, the decision of whether to use it as a sugar substitute might be easier than you thought!