Last updated: October 14, 2020

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These days people are more aware than ever of the dangers associated with refined sugar. This is why there has been a surge in the range of alternative products used to sweeten foods, that aren’t damaging to your health – one of these is xylitol. Is it easy to get used to the flavour? Can it be used for cooking? Does it sweeten foods just like regular sugar? Continue reading to find out!

Xylitol is a very common substitute for refined sugar. It is popular with consumers because of its pleasant taste, and also because when it is used in small quantities, it has very few calories. In this guide, we will tell you about the wide-range of benefits you can expect from adding xylitol to your diet.

Key Facts

  • Xylitol is a 100% natural sweetener that is obtained from birch trees in Finland. It is an excellent substitute for common sugar and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate and acesulfame K.
  • As a sweetener xylitol is just as potent as regular sugar, but with only 40% of the calories. Although it contains some simple carbohydrates, it does not cause cavities, and actually prevents the buildup of plaque and bad breath.
  • Xylitol is especially recommended for diabetics as it has a low glycemic index. This means that it will not cause a fast spike in the blood sugar level.

Our Selection: The Best Xylitol Products on the UK Market

Xylitol is a natural sweetener which is extracted from the wood of birch trees in Finland. However, some manufacturers mix it with other compounds or artificial sweeteners – making it a less healthy option. In this section we feature the best xylitol products available on the market right now.

The Best GMO-Free Xylitol Sweetener

This product contains 100% natural xylitol soruced from the EU. NKD Living granulated Xylitol is the perfect sugar replacement and great for diabetics. Sourced naturally, their xylitol is deliciously sweet and contains 40% less calories than sugar. It will also improve your oral health. Use it just like sugar for hot drinks and banking.

Xylitol is a fantastic sugar replacement for humans, but please do not feed it to your pets (especially dogs). Their digestive system is different and this substance induces hypoglycemia, which can cause death in some instances. Non-GMO certified.

The Best Gluten-Free Xylitol Sweetener

At PINK SUN they believe that what you eat can make a big difference on how you feel and how well you get on in life. That’s why they have gone to great lengths to source a premium range of certified organic and conventional nutritional wholefoods. Among them is this gluten free natural sweetener, for you and your family’s health and wellbeing.

All their loyal customers are testament to their commitment to service in ensuring that every PINK SUN product is delivered in a durable and timely manner. And this gluten free xylitol is no exception. Priced at around £20, this is an other Amazon’s choice to back up the quality delivered by PINK SUN.

The Best Xylitol Gum

PUR gum 100% xylitol chewing gum, sugarless spearmint flavour is Amazon’s Choice of xylitol gum. With over 3,000 ratings and 4.3 out of 5 stars, this is the best xylitol gum you will find on the UK market. PUR Spearmint gum refreshes your breath with the clean crisp taste of spearmint while providing the antioxidant benefits of white tea.

Sweetened with xylitol, enjoy a great tasting gum that kicks aspartame. PUR Gum prides itself on the use of all-natural flavours, colours, and sweeteners. Moreover, their products are 100% GMO-free. Made in Switzerland, PUR Gum gives you the highest standard of chewing gum on the market. Wait, there’s more…Infused with antioxidants, PUR is naturally coloured and flavoured, vegan friendly, free of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and gluten-free.

The Best Xylitol Toothpaste

Now Foods XyliWhite refreshmint toothpaste gel reduces plaque and has a great fresh mint mint taste. Fluoride-free and SLS free, it was formulated with the purest ingredients. It uses vegan ingredients. This product contains 25% xylitol, one of the highest contents available for adults and children.

Brush thoroughly after meals at least twice a day, or as directed by your dentist. With almost 1000 positive reviews on Amazon.co.uk, this is a great option if you are looking for a xylitol toothpaste.

The Best UK-Made Xylitol Sweetener

This is Amazon’s choice. Xylitol UK is proud to bring to you this 100% birch tree extract. This is a great alternative to sugar with 40 percent less calories. Xylitol is an excellent substitute with many advantages over table sugar and other typical artificial sweeteners. Firstly, regular sugar has a glycemic index (GI) of 100. Xylitol has a GI of 7, letting your body burn off the excess almost twice as fast as table sugar. Xylitol has all the sweetness of common sugars yet 40 percent fewer calories and 75 percent less available carbohydrates.

Xylitol is proven to fight cavities and safe for diabetics. It is also 99 % natural, excellent in weight management, with a low GI and replete with a range of other health benefits. Also proven to benefit dental health. Xylitol is an ideal alternative for anyone who prefers a healthier life style. This product is not suitable for pets.

Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Should Know About Xylitol

If you have never tried xylitol, it’s only normal that you would have many questions about its use, flavour and properties. Even some people who regularly consume this sweetener are not aware of all of its benefits and the different ways of using it. Pay careful attention to the information presented in the following section, and you will learn more about this fantastic superfood.

Xylitol

Sugar is routinely added to hot beverages such as coffee as a sweetener. A substitute like xylitol can perform the same function, without being detrimental to your health.
(Source: Shironosov: 31226388/ 123rf.com)

What is xylitol exactly?

Xylitol, is a sweetener that has a crystalline and granular texture and is sourced from Finnish birch trees. The bark of this tree is rich in a fiber called xylan, from which xylitol is extracted. It is also able to be extracted from corn, however the majority of corn crops are genetically modified.

Even though xylitol is a 100% natural sweetener and free of artificial additives, chemicals are used in order to extract it from bark. Otherwise, it is not possible to obtain xylitol from birch wood. The same is true for other healthy sweeteners, such as stevia for example.

What does it mean when we hear that xylitol is a “sugar alcohol”?

The fact that xylitol is an alcohol sugar is the reason why it is so healthy. Alcohol sugars are metabolised differently than common sugars (sucrose). This means that their assimilation does not produce sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.

Additionally, the body does not fully assimilate alcoholic sugars, so as a result they contain fewer calories than regular sugar. Lastly, these compounds are not fermented by bacteria in the mouth and do not become acidic.

Did you know that xylitol does not damage tooth enamel and even prevents tooth decay?

What is the difference between xylitol and regular sugar?

Xylitol is extracted from Finnish birch trees, while common sugar is sucrose. As we mentioned previously, xylitol is not fermented by oral bacteria, while sucrose becomes acidic in the mouth. This acid damages tooth enamel and can lead to the formation of cavities. Therefore, sucrose is much more harmful to the health of your teeth.

Another big difference between xylitol and sucrose is where they rank on the glycemic index (GI). This indicator is super important for people suffering from diabetes. It measures the changes in glucose levels (amount of sugar in the blood) produced by a certain food that contains carbohydrates. If a food possesses a high GI, it will cause a rapid spike in the levels of sugar in the blood.

Xylitol

Regular sugar has no nutritional value or nutrients. Xylitol can provide lots of benefits.
(Source: Morisfoto: 86796531/ 123rf.com)

Regular sugar (also known as sucrose) has a high glycemic index of 70, while the GI of xylitol is only 7. This is very low and means that it will not cause sudden increases in the level of blood sugar. This makes xylitol the perfect sweetener for diabetics, although if consumed in excessive amounts it can cause intestinal discomfort.

Xylitol also helps to regulate weight control, because it has 40% fewer calories than contained in regular sugar. While xylitol provides 2.4 calories per gram, sucrose provides 4 calories per gram. A teaspoon of xylitol contains 12 calories, compared to a teaspoon of regular sugar which contains 20 calories.

Is xylitol better than stevia?

No, xylitol is not better than stevia. It is different. Stevia is a natural sweetener that does not provide any energy, as it is a “zero calorie” sweetener. Like xylitol, it does not increase blood sugar levels, or lead to the development of cavities. However, some people do not like its fairly bitter taste.

The biggest factor that makes xylitol better than stevia is the taste. Xylitol tastes almost exactly the same as refined sugar. This has made it very popular with consumers. Another reason why people love xylitol is because it has the ability to caramelise after being heated for several minutes, while stevia does not caramelise at all.

Xylitol

Sugar stimulates the body to release opioids and dopamine.
(Source: Boiko: 58199021/ 123rf.com

Another benefit of xylitol is that it is used in the same quantity as regular sugar, since it has the same sweetening potency. Stevia, on the other hand, has a much higher sweetening potency. As a result, stevia drinks or preparations may become too sweet, or taste very different to those made with regular sugar.

It’s important to note that although stevia does not harm teeth, it does not possess the same protective qualities for oral health as xylitol. However, stevia rarely causes digestive discomfort, while xylitol (in amounts greater than 50 grams per day) has a laxative effect.

Xylitol) Stevia Regular sugar (sucrose)
Sweetening potency 1 300-400 1
Glycemic index (GI) 7 0 70
Taste Sweet, almost identical to regular sugar Sweet, although it usually leaves a bitter taste in the mouth Sweet, as is a characteristic of refined sugar
Calories (per 100 grams) 240 calories 0 calories 400 calories
Appearance Granulated Granulated, liquid, tablets Granulated, in cubes
Suitable for cooking? Yes Yes Yes
Does it caramelise? Yes No Yes
Effect on dental health Prevents cavities. Reduces the buildup of bacterial plaque in teeth and gums. Helps to regenerate dental enamel. Helps to reduce inflammation of the gums and fights bad breath. Has no effect on the development of cavities, or on the accumulation of bacterial plaque on teeth and gums. It is cariogenic, meaning that it causes the apparition of dental cavities. Damages tooth enamel and is responsible for the buildup of bacterial plaque. Increases the risk of gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of the gums).
Effect on blood sugar level Does not increase blood sugar level Does not increase blood sugar level Causes rapid increases in blood sugar level

What is xylitol used for?

Xylitol is used in exactly the same way as common sugar and in the same proportions, since it has the same sweetening potency. As xylitol dissolves in drinks and smoothies, it acts just like regular sugar and has a sweetening effect. When used in baked foods, it is simply mixed in with the other ingredients and is cooked along with them.

Can xylitol be cooked?

Absolutely! Xylitol is stable at high temperatures and can be cooked without altering its taste. A big advantage that xylitol has over other sweeteners, is its ability to caramelise – just like regular sugar. Xylitol can be used in custards, biscuits, jams, cookies, pancakes and custard.

Watch this video to see how you can bake a sugar-free cake using xylitol.

Why can’t xylitol be used in recipes that contain yeast?

The label of some xylitol products warn that this sweetener should not be used in recipes containing yeast. This is because yeast cannot ferment xylitol, meaning that carbon dioxide will not be produced. Without carbon dioxide, the dough will not expand and will not be spongy.

What is the daily recommended intake of xylitol?

There is no recommended daily intake of xylitol when it is being used as a sweetener, however it is important not to exceed 50 grams per day. If this amount is exceeded, it can cause flatulence, cramping and diarrhoea. Although xylitol is healthy, it is always a good idea to consume sweeteners in moderation.

What are the benefits of xylitol for oral health?

Xylitol, unlike sucrose (regular sugar), is not fermented by bacteria present in saliva. As a result, no acid is produced that damages dental enamel and the development of bacterial plaque is reduced. If tooth enamel is not damaged, cavities are less likely to form.

In addition, regular consumption of xylitol, or xylitol-based gum, candy or mouthwash produces the following benefits:

  • Regeneration of dental enamel
  • Lower incidence of halitosis (bad breath)
  • Fights gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of the gums)
Hans Adolf KrebsGerman physicist
“In the course of the 1920s and 1930s, great progress was made in the study of the intermediary reactions by which sugar is anaerobically fermented to lactic acid or to ethanol and carbon dioxide.”

How is xylitol used as a mouthwash?

There are commercial mouthwashes available that contain xylitol, but pure xylitol can also be used as a homemade mouthwash. Simply place one teaspoon of xylitol in the mouth, wait for it to dissolve, when it is mixed with saliva, and keep it in the mouth for three minutes. After you spit it out, rinse your mouth with water and the job is done.

Does xylitol help to fight against Candida infection?

Oral candidiasis is an infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans, which can spread from the mouth to the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Those who suffer from this disease should avoid sugar altogether, because it will aggravate their condition. Xylitol does not perform as a substrate for Candida, and therefore slows its growth.

Xylitol

Xylitol is the perfectly healthy way to sweeten your favorite deserts.
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Does xylitol really help with weight loss?

Like all sugar alcohols, xylitol should still be consumed moderately even though it contains 40% less calories than regular sugar. The low calorie content of xylitol is one of the main benefits of all sugar alcohols, according to health coach Chris Kresser:

“Sugar alcohols are a popular choice for weight loss due to their reduced calorie content, and for diabetics due to their low glycemic index. There’s not nearly as much research on the metabolic effects of sugar alcohols as there is on artificial sweeteners, but the evidence we have suggests that sugar alcohols are at least harmless, and possibly beneficial.”.

Xylitol is beneficial for diabetics because it does not increase the blood insulin level. In contrast, common sugar increases both glycemia and insulinemia. Excess insulin causes carbohydrates to be converted into fat, leading to weight gain and an increase in the percentage of body fat.

What contraindications does xylitol have?

Xylitol is a sweetener that is safe for human consumption and it is approved by the M.H.R.A. (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency ). However, people who suffer from chronic diarrhoea or are experiencing gastroenteritis should not consume this product. It is important to note that xylitol is toxic to many animals, especially dogs.

Does the consumption of xylitol produce any adverse reactions?

The side effects most commonly associated with an excessive consumption of xylitol are diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, nausea and cramping. Some people have experienced allergic reactions to xylitol or develop hives after using this sweetener, however this is very rare. It is not recommended to consume more than 50 grams of xylitol per day.

Xylitol

Xylitol will help you keep your teeth healthy.
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What types of xylitol exist and which one is the best for me?

Xylitol is 100% natural and sourced from Finnish birch trees. As a sweetener, it is sold under the name of birch sugar or xylitol. However, there are other products containing xylitol on the market that do not have an alimentary application. Here is a summary of the difference between these products:

  • Xylitol (Alimentary use)
  • Xylitol (Non-alimentary use)

Xylitol for alimentary applications (as a sugar substitute)

Xylitol that is used as a replacement for common sugar is designed to add sweetness to drinks, infusions, baked goods and desserts. It comes in the form of a crystalline, granulated powder. It looks very similar to refined sugar, and is used in the same way. Xylitol in liquid or tablet form is not available on the market.

Advantages
  • Identical taste, colour and texture as regular sugar
  • It dissolves easily
  • It can be used in cooking
  • Can be caramelised
Disadvantages
  • Higher price
  • Excessive consumption causes digestive discomfort

Xylitol for non-alimentary applications

Non-food xylitol, for example when used to improve oral health, comes in the form of powder, spray, gum, candy, creams, toothpaste and tablets. These products are used by dentists to reduce gum inflammation and eliminate bad breath. They are also used for the treatment of oral candidiasis.

Shopping Criteria

Although all xylitol products might look the same, they are not. It’s true that the flavour, appearance and sweetening potency are often quite similar from one brand to another. However, there are other factors that you should consider before making your purchase, so that you choose the product that is perfect for you:

Source of the Product

As we mentioned earlier, xylitol can also be sourced from corn. In general, the corn from which this compound is obtained is genetically modified. If you do not consume GM products or have a corn allergy, you have to buy xylitol extracted from birch, which is the original form of birch sugar.

Presence or Absence of Gluten

As a general rule, gluten-free products of any type are often more expensive. Therefore, if you are not celiac or gluten intolerant, you can simply purchase any brand of xylitol. On the other hand, if you suffer from celiac disease, you need to carefully check that the product you are purchasing is certified as gluten-free.

Allergy Friendly

During processing and packaging, xylitol can be contaminated with traces of soy, nuts, sesame or other allergens. For this reason, if you are allergic to any of these foods, you should check the label of the product for a seal that guarantees that the product is free of allergens.

Shelf Life

Generally, xylitol should be consumed within 6 months after opening the container. So if you are only going to use it as a sweetener for drinks and smoothies, it is a better idea to buy it in smaller quantities or to opt for sachets. This way you will avoid waste and save money too.

Summary

If you had never heard about xylitol, surely everything you have read in this guide about this superfood has been a pleasant surprise. Or possibly you discovered something new about this natural sweetener. The simple fact is that xylitol is one of the best substitutes for regular sugar.

Xylitol fights a wide-range of diseases, while simultaneously protecting oral health. Additionally, it can be used in a lots of different types of drinks, smoothies and sweet foods.

If you liked this article about Xylitol, share it so that more people can improve their health, while sweetening their meals at the same time.

(Source of featured image: Koosen: 45651542/ 123rf.com)

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