Using Erythritol as a Low-Carb Sugar Substitute

Learn about this sugar alcohol and how to use it on a low-carb diet

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Erythritol is the sugar alcohol (polyol) that has the least known impact on blood sugar. It is used by many on a low or no sugar low-carb diet. Erythritol has almost zero calories, zero carbs, and a zero glycemic index score. The reason is a bit different than most sugar alcohols, which are only partially absorbed in the small intestine. As much as 60 to 90 percent of erythritol is absorbed into the blood but is then excreted in the urine. Because of this, erythritol tends to produce much less intestinal distress than other sugar alcohols.

Benefits of Erythritol vs. Other Sugar Alcohols

  • Erythritol has 0.2 calories per gram, virtually zero calories.
  • Many people feel erythritol is the closest in taste to table sugar as compared to other sugar alcohols like stevia.
  • Erythritol is not associated with stomach upset or diarrhea, unlike other sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol.
  • Erythritol has no effect on either blood sugar or insulin levels.
  • Erythritol is not harmful to tooth enamel and does not contribute to tooth decay.

How Erythritol Is Made

Erythritol occurs naturally in small amounts in some fruits, such as corn and in greater amounts in certain mushrooms and other fungi, as well as in fermented foods such as wine and soy sauce. The form used in foods is generally made by the fermentation of plant sugars. Some erythritol is made from plant sugars through a process of adding water and plant-based sugar, with erythritol resulting in a crystallized substance much like table sugar in taste and texture.

How to Use Erythritol in Your Low-Carb Diet

Erythritol has 60 to 80 percent of the sweetness of sugar. Especially when used plain, it tends to have a cooling effect in the mouth. It can be used in baking, where it also has some of the tenderizing effects of sugar, but results won't be exactly like sugar. It can at least partially replace sugar or artificial sweeteners for most uses. It is especially useful in combination with chocolate in candy or brownies, as using purely artificial sweeteners produces unsatisfactory results. Some people replace erythritol one-to-one with sugar in recipes, but you may also try adding 25 percent more erythritol than the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. This way you overcompensate for the less sweet taste compared to what is expected when using sugar.

Finding and Buying Erythritol

Erythritol is not widely available in stores at this time, so most must order it online. You may want to check with health food stores or low-carb grocery stores in your area. It is reasonably priced.

Erythritol comes in both granulated and powdered forms. The powder is preferable for most uses because the granulated form seems to stay grainy unless dissolved in water. If you end up with some granulated erythritol, run it through the blender for awhile to pulverize it. You may not use the food processor as it doesn't work for the purpose of smoothing out the taste of granulated erythritol.

View Article Sources
  • Sweeteners—Sugars. MedlinePlus.
  • Sugar Substitutes. American Academy of Family Physicians.