A few weeks ago I was contacted by the people at Xyla to see if I wanted to do product review. As a rule, I don't usually do product reviews. However I decided to accept this one because:
A) As a future RD, I think it is important to be familiar with products that my clients may have questions about
B) I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide you guys with some credible information about xylitol.
So Xyla sent me a few products to review, including xylitol crystals, candies, mints and gum. But I thought I'd start off the post by giving some information about it:
What is xylitol?
It is a sugar alcohol, which are derivatives of sugar where one of the chemical groups are replaced by a hydroxyl group. Sugar alcohols also include sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol (1). They are naturally found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables, but the sugar alcohols sold commercially are manufactured from sugars (1,2).
Is it safe?
Yes, Health Canada deems them as safe to consume (2). However, eating more than 10 grams per day (2.5 teaspoons) can cause gas, cramps, diarrhea and bloating. This is because they are not completely absorbed, so they get fermented by bacteria in the intestine leading to these symptoms (1).
Luckily in Canada all products in Canada that contain xylitol must state the grams of xylitol per serving on its label so that we can make sure we don't consume more than 10 grams in a day (2).
Is it calorie free?
No, Xyla contains about 2.4 calories per gram, which is 40% less than the calories contained in sugar (3).
What are the benefits of xylitol?
Xylitol doesn't raise blood sugar levels, so it is a good choice for people with diabetes (1). Also unlike sugar, it doesn't cause tooth decay (2).
What did I think after trying it?
Since I wanted to know what xylitol tasted like on its own, I ate a small spoonful right out of the package. It didn't have a weird taste, but I could tell it wasn't sugar - it had more of a "cool" taste. Then I decided to put it to the test in one of my favourite recipes: banana
bread. Except I made muffins instead, since I didn't have enough bananas
to make a whole loaf.
I substituted the xylitol in a 1:1 ratio since it has about the same sweetness as sugar. The verdict: I couldn't taste it at all. If I hadn't known I had made it with xylitol, I would have thought they were just normal muffins made with sugar.
Overall, Xyla seems to be a safe substitute for sugar, holds up well in baking, and doesn't have a weird taste. It does have some GI side effects, but these can be avoided by eating a maximum of 10 grams (or 2.5 teaspoons per day). I would definitely feel comfortable recommending it to future clients who just want to use it in small amounts.
1. Sugar alcohols and diabetes: a review (Can J Diabetes).
2. Sugar alcohols (polyols) and polydextrose used as sweeteners in foods (Health Canada).
3. Xylitol Canada website
Have you ever tried xylitol?
Do you use artificial sweeteners? Which is your favourite?
Disclaimer: I was provided free products from Xyla for the purpose of this review, however I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.