Erythritol, the calorie-free sugar also suitable for diabetics: here are properties, use and contraindications

Erythritol is a calorie-free natural sweetener that can help us reduce sugar use without giving up the sweet taste.

Limiting the use of sugar since, if taken in excessive quantities, it can stimulate the development of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertriglyceridemia. Although this recommendation is well known to all, it is still difficult to completely eliminate sugar.

In this sense, erythritol is a valid sugar substitute, in fact it can be used by everyone, even by diabetics as it does not bring calories and does not increase blood sugar, moreover it is a natural sweetener that tastes very similar to that of common sugar. Let’s find out what erythritol is, its nutritional and organoleptic characteristics as well as how to use it in the kitchen and all the benefits that health derives from its use.

What is Erythritol

Erythritol is a sweetener that belongs to the polyol family such as sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol. It is naturally present in nature in fruit and vegetables, in fact it is obtained from a bacterial fermentation process of these foods.

Although it has only been known to the general public for a few years, in reality, European legislation has already classified it as a food additive since 2006 and it is possible to identify it with the initials E968 in the list of ingredients of various food products.

One of the main characteristics of erythritol is that its taste is very similar to sugar and compared to other sweeteners it does not have a particular aftertaste. Compared to sugar it has a sweetening power of 70% and therefore slightly lower, that is, to have the same sweetening power of 100 g of sugar it is necessary to use 130 g of erythritol, but since it does not provide calories and does not affect blood sugar it is possible to use it in quantity major without too many worries, as long as you do not overdo it in any case.

Erythritol: nutritional values ​​and calories

Erythritol provides only sugar alcohols which, even if absorbed in the intestine, are then directly eliminated in the kidney, for this reason not only does it not provide calories, but, compared to other polyols, does not cause a laxative effect. The absence of simple sugars gives it a glycemic index equal to zero, therefore it does not cause an increase in blood sugar. Erythritol does not provide fiber, fats, proteins and there are no micronutrients and vitamins.

Nutritional values ​​for 100 g of erythritol:

  • Power: 0 kcal
  • Proteins: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates such as sugar alcohols: 100 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Fat: 0 g

The benefits of using erythritol

Using erythritol in place of sugar has numerous health benefits. Let’s see below what they are.

  • Useful in low-calorie diets: its use is useful in low- calorie diets as it does not add calories and this allows it to be used instead of sugar to sweeten yogurt, coffee, tea and other drinks without increasing the daily energy intake;
  • It does not increase blood glucose values: erythritol does not provide sugars, therefore, if used as a sugar substitute it does not increase blood sugar and insulin values. In particular, it is observed that with the use of erythritol the blood glucose values ​​are lowered. This characteristic makes it a useful food for those suffering from diabetes or insulin resistance and following a low glycemic index diet;
  • Suitable in case of high cholesterol or triglycerides: in these cases, it is generally recommended to limit the intake of simple sugars. Using erythritol instead of sugar allows you not to give up the sweet taste but without negatively affecting the cholesterol and triglyceride values;
  • Reduces the risk of tooth decay: Erythritol is increasingly used in chewing gum. This sweetener reduces the risk of dental caries since the bacteria normally present in the mouth are unable to metabolize it and form the organic acids that cause tooth decay;
  • Antioxidant effect: another advantage of using erythritol instead of sugar is its antioxidant action, in fact it has been observed that this sweetener is able to reduce the activity of free radicals responsible for cellular aging;
  • Possible cardiovascular prevention: Erythritol could also be useful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. In particular, in a pilot study it was observed that those who used erythritol had better endothelial function and reduced stiffness of the central aorta.

How much erythritol to put in place of sugar?

The sweetening power of erythritol is equal to 70% of that of sugar, therefore, to obtain the same sweetness of 100 g of sugar it is necessary to use 130 g of erythritol. To give a more practical example, if in coffee we are used to adding a level teaspoon of sugar (about 5 g) if you use erythritol we must add a heaping teaspoon (about 7 g). In any case, since in a healthy diet it is advisable to limit the consumption of sweeteners, an idea could be to use a level teaspoon of erythritol to get used to a slightly less sweet taste.

What does erythritol taste like

One of the main characteristics that distinguishes erythritol from other sweeteners is its taste very similar to sugar and does not have a particular aftertaste: it does not have an aftertaste similar to licorice as happens with stevia, it does not have the bitter aftertaste of acesulfame K or the metallic aftertaste of aspartame . Sensitive palates claim that it tastes slightly refreshing, but equally pleasant, especially when tasting it on its own.

Ideas for using erythritol in cooking

As we mentioned in previous chapters, erythritol can be used to sweeten yogurt and various drinks without adding calories and sugars. Despite this, the use of erythritol in cooking is not limited to this.

Erythritol can be used in desserts as a sugar substitute, in particular it works well in the preparation of creams, sorbets and ice creams, spoon desserts such as panna cotta or cheesecake, meringues and jams. For example, in the traditional meringue recipe it is possible to replace the amount of sugar with erythritol, in this way it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of simple sugars in the preparation, as well as the calories, but without sacrificing the sweet taste and the classic consistency of this sweet.

This sweetener can also be used in cakes or shortcrust pastry , but in this case it is preferable to replace the sugar with erythritol only partially to avoid obtaining a too chewy consistency.

In the kitchen you can also use erythritol for savory preparations, for example in marinades you can use an aromatic salt made with spices, salt and erythritol, in this way you get a marinade with less salt but equally tasty.

Can anyone with diabetes consume erythritol?

The nutritional characteristics of erythritol make it suitable for consumption by people suffering from diabetes. In fact, this sweetener is not only calorie-free but does not lead to an increase in blood sugar. Currently no maximum dosages are established, but the recommendation is always not to exaggerate in quantities to avoid the undesirable effects.

Does erythritol have any contraindications?

Erythritol is a safe sweetener and has no harmful health effects related to toxicity or carcinogenicity. Also, compared to other sugar substitutes, it has no laxative effects. However, excessive amounts can still lead to gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea and diarrhea.

As for the use of other sweeteners, even for erythritol, its abuse is not recommended because, despite the absence of calories, it could accustom the palate to a too sweet taste. Finally, it has been observed that using too high doses of erythritol can favor the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area.

Does using erythritol help you lose weight?

Replacing traditional sugar with erythritol can be an aid in weight loss diets ; the first advantage, in fact, is that it does not add calories compared to sugar. Just think that a teaspoon of sugar brings about 20 kcal, therefore, replacing sugar with erythritol involves an important saving in terms of calories. Furthermore, its low glycemic index allows you not to have glycemic fluctuations that can promote the sense of hunger.

As we have already said before, erythritol is certainly a valid substitute for sugar and also helps to lose weight, but the fact that it does not provide calories should not be a justification for using it in excessive quantities.

Erythritol vs Stevia: which one to choose?

Erythritol and stevia have in common the characteristic of being natural sweeteners that do not add calories and do not affect blood sugar levels.

Despite this, the sweetening power of stevia (300 times that of sugar) is much higher than that of erythritol and this aspect makes it difficult to dose in preparations. In addition, stevia, unlike erythritol, has a slight aftertaste of licorice and this characteristic can alter the taste of the recipes in which it is used.

As we said previously, erythritol lends itself to numerous preparations: creams, sorbets and ice creams, spoon desserts, meringues and jams. In addition, erythritol has a taste and a sweetening power very similar to that of sugar so it is very simple to dose and replace in any recipe.

Stevia, despite the advantages it has compared to sugar, is more difficult to dose, in fact 100 g of sugar is equivalent to about 40 g of stevia, it can also alter the taste of preparations, for this reason it lends itself well especially in recipes where it is the use of cocoa, chocolate or coffee is foreseen, which have a predominant taste and hide the aftertaste of stevia.

Sweetening power: 70% of the sugarSweetening power: 300 times higher than sugar
Zero caloriesZero calories
It does not raise your blood sugarIt does not raise your blood sugar
It has no aftertasteIt has a licorice-like aftertaste
Very simple to doseIt is more difficult to dose
It can be used in any recipeMore suitable for recipes where the use of cocoa or coffee is required

Erythritol: prices and where to buy it

Erythritol is not easily found in supermarkets, but despite this, many stevia-based sugar substitutes that we find on supermarket shelves are often not based on pure stevia but are mixed with erythritol in order to limit the licorice aftertaste of the stevia and make the sweetener easier to dose. Pure erythritol can be found more easily online or in the most well-stocked herbalists, the price ranges from 10 to 25 USD per kilo.


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