Snacking without a guilty conscience? This is what the sugar substitute Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, promises. It has become increasingly popular in the course of the low-carb trend of recent years. Xylitol has the same sweetening power as sugar but contains significantly fewer calories. This is why it is not only preferred by diabetics, but also by anyone who wants to lose weight.
We explain how the sugar substitute is produced – and whether Xylitol is really as healthy as claimed.
What is Xylitol sugar?
Xylitol is obtained from the vegetable raw material xylose. Because it is mainly derived from birch bark, the sweetener is also known as birch sugar. But it is also contained in some other woods as well as fruits and vegetables, such as cauliflower, corn, plums, and berries.
Visually, the white, crystalline powder resembles conventional household sugar and can even absorb its sweetening power. Chemically speaking, however, birch sugar is a sugar alcohol and not a carbohydrate. Xylitol birch sugar can also be found on product labels under the E-number code 967.
Xylitol: How many calories does it contain?
Although the sugar substitute Xylitol has a similar sweet taste to normal household sugar, it has around 40 percent less energy content. 240 calories per 100 grams, to be precise. For comparison: classic sugar has 400 calories per 100 grams.
So anyone who wants to lose weight will find Xylitol a good alternative to the classic sweetness. If you want to save even more calories, you can also rely on erythritol, which is related to birch sugar and is practically calorie-free.
The health benefits of Xylitol
1. Birch sugar helps with weight loss
Birch sugar is a low-calorie as well as a carbohydrate-free alternative to conventional sugar and optimally supports a diet or low-carb nutrition. The sweetener also has a very low glycemic index. This means that it hardly affects the blood sugar level. This in turn has a positive effect on fat burning and prevents ravenous appetite attacks.
Tip: If you have an acute craving for sugar, you can also use a mouthwash with xylitol. To do this, simply take half a teaspoon of birch sugar in your mouth, move it back and forth for a few minutes and rinse it out.
2. Sugar substitute Xylitol is suitable for diabetics
The birch sweetener is contained in many diabetes foods, because it can be metabolized almost without insulin and keeps the blood sugar level constant – in contrast to sugar.
3. Birch sugar promotes healthy teeth
While household sugar is harmful to the teeth and promotes the development of caries, birch sugar is very gentle on our teeth. Because sugar alcohols such as Xylitol or erythritol have an anti-cariogenic affect – numerous studies have already proven this. The sweeteners provide no breeding ground for bacteria that cause caries, stimulate the flow of saliva, and increase the pH value in the oral cavity. Therefore birch sugar also counteracts plaque formation, bad breath, and gum inflammation.
Because of these positive properties, the sugar alternative can also be found in many sugar-free chewing gums or dental care products.
What does Xylitol taste like?
The natural sweetener is not only visually similar to sugar – there is also hardly any difference in taste. A clear advantage of birch sugar Xylitol is that other sugar substitutes such as Stevia often have a strong aftertaste and taste of their own.
BUT the sugar substitute Xylitol also has side effects
Whether stevia, erythritol, or xylitol: like all other sugar substitutes, birch sugar in larger quantities has a laxative effect and can cause flatulence. Because sugar alcohol binds water, excessive consumption can also lead to diarrhea.
However, the human body gets used to birch sugar over time. It is therefore best to start with small amounts and then increase slowly.
Xylitol: How much should I take daily?
Scientists recommend not taking more than about 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. However, people with a very sensitive gastrointestinal tract, and also children are better advised to avoid the sugar alternative completely.
And: While xylitol is basically harmless for humans, it can cause serious health problems in dogs. The quadrupeds therefore please never let food with the sugar substitute nibble.
Where can you buy Xylitol sugar?
Xylitol products can be bought online as well as in well-assorted supermarkets or health food stores. The following criteria must be observed:
- Production: Due to the increasing demand, industrial production is no longer based solely on the bark of wood, but mainly on corncob residues. High-quality powders, on the other hand, are therefore always made from wood – preferably from Finnish birch.
- Organic quality: The enzymes used in production often come from genetically modified microorganisms. So it is essential to use organic products when buying.
Cooking and baking with birch sugar: correct use
Super practical: Household sugar can be replaced with Xylitol in a 1:1 ratio in cooking or baking recipes. Because of its good sweetening power, you even need a little less. By the way, the highly soluble powder can be used for both sweet and savory dishes and sauces. Of course, xylitol can also be found in many finished products such as chewing gum and spreads.
Xylitol: Our conclusion on the nutritional trend
Birch sugar makes you slim and promotes strong teeth. It is therefore a healthy alternative to normal sugar. Nevertheless, it should only be enjoyed in moderation and remember that, despite its natural origin, it is a highly processed product that does not contain important nutrients. A balanced, healthy diet should therefore always be accompanied by the use of this food.