Xylitol (birch sugar) is a natural sweetener that is a healthy alternative to sugar. In contrast, xylitol contains as much as 40 per cent. Fewer calories and has a much lower glycemic index, which is why it is recommended primarily for diabetics and people on a diet. Check what other properties xylitol has.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol (birch sugar) is a sweetener of natural origin, which next to sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol and maltitol belong to the group of polyols, i.e.sugar alcohols – carbohydrates characterized by low energy value and because they do not raise blood glucose levels. Such properties of xylitol make it recommended especially for diabetics and people fighting overweight.
Xylitol (birch sugar) – occurrence. What does xylitol taste like?
Xylitol is most often obtained from the bark of Finnish birch, although it is also found in some fruits (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, pears), corn cobs and mushrooms. It is worth knowing that the human body also produces xylitol in small amounts.
Birch sugar looks and tastes like traditional sugar. In addition, when using it, you can also feel a very pleasant, mint aroma. Xylitol can be found in many products. On sale, it is most often found as caramelized sugar, although you can also find chewing gums with xylitol, peppermints, as well as toothpaste and nasal sprays.
Xylitol (birch sugar) for diabetics
Xylitol belongs to the group of polyols. These are carbohydrates that are absorbed more slowly in the gastrointestinal tract and their metabolism takes place in a manner practically independent of insulin (or with a slight contribution), i.e. they do not cause an increase in blood glucose and do not stimulate insulin secretion. Therefore, the glycemic index of xylitol (IG = 8) is several times lower than that of sugar. And the lower the IG, the lower the blood sugar level. For this reason, xylitol is recommended for diabetics, people with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.
Xylitol (birch sugar) and slim. How many calories does xylitol have?
This natural sweetener is ideal for people struggling with overweight and obesity. Brown sugar contains almost 2 times fewer calories than sugar – it provides an average of 2.4 kcal/g, compared to regular sugar, which provides 4 kcal/g. In addition, it reduces craving for sweets.
Xylitol (birch sugar) ideal for baking
Xylitol is ideal for all kinds of cakes and fruit preserves because it is resistant to high temperatures and does not lose its natural properties.
Xylitol (birch sugar) and osteoporosis
Xylitol increases mineralization, i.e. the absorption of calcium by bones, thanks to which it restores bone density loss with age. For this reason, it is recommended not only to people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis but also to children (but only from the age of 3) whose skeletal system is still under development. It is worth knowing that traditional sugar has the opposite effect – it ‘leaches’ from the body mineral salts, including calcium.
Xylitol (birch sugar) against caries and other dental diseases
Researchers whose results have been published in the Journal of the American Dental Association have also shown that xylitol helps prevent tooth decay and other dental diseases. Birch sugar quickly restores the proper pH of saliva, reducing the time of exposure of teeth to harmful acids. In addition, it inhibits the reproduction of bacteria that are responsible for tooth deterioration. This thesis is confirmed by researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, who state that ‘xylitol clearly reduces the number of dental cases’.
Therefore, children, instead of sugar, which causes tooth decay (and also periodontitis), it is better to give this natural sweetener. Some people recommend swallowing xylitol with saliva and rinsing the mouth before swallowing. Others make water solutions from it as a rinse (not only for the mouth but also for the throat).
Xylitol (birch sugar) supports the body’s immunity
Unlike sugar, xylitol gives an alkaline reaction, therefore it stabilizes the acid-base balance of the body, and thus – inhibits the growth of bacteria and yeast. For this reason, xylitol is recommended for people struggling with bacterial diseases and mycosis, who should give up sugar, because it only ‘feeds’ bacteria and promotes the development of fungi.
Can xylitol be harmful?
Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that xylitol has no known toxic properties. The Committee of Experts on Food Additives of the World Health Organization (WHO) has a similar opinion, which even considered that there is no daily intake limit. However, you should not overdo the amount of xylitol you eat. Its excess in the diet can lead to excessive accumulation of gas in the intestines, light diarrhoea or cramps. Fortunately, this is a temporary effect, and the body quickly gets used to its increased doses in all-day food.
It is good to know that on the packaging of products in which the content of xylitol (and other polyols) exceeds 10 per cent. product weight, the manufacturer is required to provide information that consumption in excessive quantities may have a laxative effect.