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Erythritol in the daily diet – what is it and how to use?

Erythritol – otherwise known as erythritol – is an increasingly popular healthy sweetener. Its glycemic index is zero. Thanks to this, it can be used without any problem by people with diabetes and insulin resistance. In addition, it reduces tooth decay and protects against free radicals. What other properties does erythritol have, and is its long-term use safe for health?

What is erythritol?

Erythritol is a sweetener from the group of polyhydroxy alcohols. It also includes such popular sweeteners as sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol. All these compounds have a low energy value. In addition, their consumption does not raise blood glucose levels. Therefore, they are considered healthy sugar substitutes. In appearance, erythritol is also very similar to its less safe counterpart. The most common form is acceptable and free-flowing crystals.

Where does erythritol come from?

Erythritol occurs in nature, primarily in pollen. However, it can also be found in fruits such as pears, melons and grapes. Other places where it is found are cap mushrooms, seafood, fermented beverages or lichens and marine algae. Despite its wide availability in nature, erythritol found commercially is waste glycerin synthesized by the yeast Yarrowia lipolytic Wratislavia. It is found in soil and some products (margarine, vegetable oil, mayonnaise, blue cheese). Glycerine for the production of erythritol is, in turn, one of the products of biofuel production. This sweetener was obtained from starch hydrolysates or glucose not so long ago. However, their high price has made these production methods no longer viable.

What is the taste of erythritol?

As mentioned earlier – erythritol in appearance resembles sugar. However, it is less sweet. Depending on the manufacturer, it has about 30-40 per cent less sweetness. To illustrate this better – 10 grams of sugar would be replaced by 13-14 grams of erythritol. Many people experience a cooling sensation in their mouths after consumption similar to that of products containing menthol. Compared to artificial sweeteners, erythritol does not leave an aftertaste. For this reason, it is often combined with other substances, such as aspartame to compensate for their unpleasant taste.

Is erythritol healthy?

Unlike sugar and other sweeteners, erythritol is not metabolized in the human body. It is excreted unchanged in the urine. Therefore, it has no effect on insulin and glucose levels in the blood. The glycemic index – an indicator of how fast the blood glucose level rises after consuming a product – is zero for erythritol. This makes it very popular among people with diabetes. Its regular use also reduces the risk of tooth decay. This is due to the inhibition of sugar fermentation by oral bacteria. It is also worth mentioning that erythritol has antioxidant properties. Combining with free radicals protects the body from their adverse effects.
Erythritol during weight loss

In connection with the previously mentioned arguments – erythritol instead of sugar is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to lose weight. One gram of this sweetener provides about 0.3 kcal. Many manufacturers consider this value negligible and state that it is calorie-free. To further illustrate how good erythritol is for people on a diet, refer to the fact that one gram of sugar contains four calories. Therefore, it is the sweetener with the lowest calorie content.

Side effects of erythritol

Studies indicate that erythritol does not have any harmful side effects on health even when consumed in large amounts. The World Health Organization has even issued a unique statement about it. It states that erythritol is an entirely safe food additive.

How to use erythritol?

Erythritol is a noteworthy alternative to regular sugar. As such, you can add it to cakes and coffee or tea without worry. It has been used in food products in the European Union since 2006. According to the regulation, it can be found in ice cream, jams, jellies, marmalades, candied fruit, confectionery, chewing gum, mustards, sauces or dietary supplements. Interestingly, it is not used to sweeten yoghurt and beverages in the European Union. However, in the United States and Asia, such use is permitted. Therefore, it is often marked as E968 on product labels.

Erythritol in food and cosmetics

Foods and products in which traditional sweeteners are replaced with erythritol have up to several tens of per cent fewer calories. Chocolates and hard caramels are prime examples. While the calorie content of the former is reduced by about 35 per cent, caramels made with the sweetener can have up to 90 per cent fewer calories. Some food manufacturers also use it as a flavour enhancer or a substance that prevents flavour change over time. It is also sometimes used to thicken products. Another popular application for this sweetener is in cosmetics. Without much trouble, we can find products in which erythritol replaces glycerin on the market. Thanks to this, cosmetics are protected from spoilage for a more extended period.



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