Xylitol: nutrition, safety, and side effects

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Xyla to see if I wanted to do product review. I don’t usually do product reviews; however I decided to accept this one because:

A) As a future RD, I think it is important to be familiar with products that my clients may have questions about
B) I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide you guys with some credible information about xylitol

So Xyla sent me a few products to review, including xylitol crystals, candies, mints and gum. But I thought I’d start off the post by giving some information about it:

Xyla xylitol sugar alternative

What is xylitol?

It is a sugar alcohol, which are derivatives of sugar where one of the chemical groups are replaced by a hydroxyl group. Sugar alcohols also include sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol (1). They are naturally found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables, but the sugar alcohols sold commercially are manufactured from sugars (1,2).

Is xylitol safe?

Yes, Health Canada deems them as safe to consume (2).However, eating more than 10 grams per day (2.5 teaspoons) can cause gas, cramps, diarrhea and bloating. This is because they are not completely absorbed, so they get fermented by bacteria in the intestine leading to these symptoms (1).

Luckily in Canada all products in Canada that contain xylitol must state the grams of xylitol per serving on its label so that we can make sure we don’t consume more than 10 grams in a day (2).

Is xylitol calorie free?

No, Xyla contains about 2.4 calories per gram, which is 40% less than the calories contained in sugar (3).

What are the benefits of xylitol?

Xylitol doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, so it is a good choice for people with diabetes (1). Also unlike sugar, it doesn’t cause tooth decay (2).

What did I think after trying it?

Since I wanted to know what xylitol tasted like on its own, I ate a small spoonful right out of the package. It didn’t have a weird taste, but I could tell it wasn’t sugar – it had more of a “cool” taste. Then I decided to put it to the test in one of my favourite recipes: banana bread. Except I made muffins instead, since I didn’t have enough bananas to make a whole loaf.

Baking with xylitol

I substituted the xylitol in a 1:1 ratio since it has about the same sweetness as sugar. The verdict: I couldn’t taste it at all. They tasted just like normal muffins baked with sugar.

Overall, xylitol seems to be a safe substitute for sugar, holds up well in baking, and doesn’t have a weird taste. It does have some GI side effects, but these can mostly be avoided by eating a maximum of 2.5 teaspoons per day. However, I personally prefer to promote whole foods first and would rather recommend using fruit (like ripe bananas and dates) and/or small quantities of sugar rather than relying on artificial sweeteners.

1. Sugar alcohols and diabetes: a review (Can J Diabetes).
2. Sugar alcohols (polyols) and polydextrose used as sweeteners in foods (Health Canada).
3. Xylitol Canada website

Have you ever tried xylitol?

Do you use artificial sweeteners? Which is your favourite? 

Disclaimer: I was provided free products from Xyla for the purpose of this review, however I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.


Filed under nutrition, product review

10 Responses to Xylitol: nutrition, safety, and side effects

  1. I haven't tried xylitol but this is the second positive review that I've read so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled! Also, thanks for the GI note – that's one of the worst side effects of artificial sweeteners that I think a lot of people forget…

  2. I've got my review planned for Tuesday, so I'm going to try baking with it today. Glad to see that you liked it! I've found that other sweeteners (Stevia) you can tell that it's not real sugar, so it's nice that this one seems to disguise that a little better.

  3. I've never used anything other than normal sugar in recipes, but I use stevia sometimes to sweeten yogurt or in smoothies. I hate that artificial taste, but I would try this stuff since you said it tastes normal!

  4. nice review! I actually didn't know much about sugar alcohols before reading this so thank you for informing me! Xyla actually sounds pretty cool, and I like that you can use it in a 1:1 ratio…however….my intestines may not enjoy it so much LOL…sensitive stomach problems :-/. You are going to make such an awesome RD, seriously!!

  5. Thanks for the review Chelsea. I have heard about Xyla on other blogs but never tried it! Since giving up artificial sweeteners last year, I tend to use honey as a sugar alternative. It's great to know that some exist which aren't dangerous like aspartame…and actually taste pretty decent too. Although a lot of bloggers seem to love NuNaturals, even a couple of drops tasted gross to me!

  6. iiiiinteresting. i use nunaturals most often for my sweetner. well, besides honey. i love honey.

  7. Ohhhh future dietitian talk. Learned about this in my clinical class that I just took this semester if good ol' diabetes section lol. Never actually tried it, but interested to see what this "cool" taste is like!!

  8. I've heard great things about Xyla, and think it's great that it tastes so similar to sugar! Sadly, I don't tolerate sugar alcohols well, though, so even a gram or two sends my tummy into a tailspin! I try to steer clear of of all the "-ols"–especially maltitol, which seems to be the most problematic. I love stevia, though! And I don't shy away from other natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and even sugar. :)Hope you had a wonderful Monday, Chelsea! <3 xoxo

  9. Other than in products that contain it, I have never tried it on its own. I like that you reviewed the product by the spoon and in baking. It is awesome there is no after taste because I know that is a huge problem people experience with splenda and truvia and other sweeteners that might be used to replace sugar.

  10. I LOVE xylitol! It's definitely one of my favorites…right up there with NuNaturals stevia. I was super nervous about trying it so I'm glad that Xyla offered to let me sample some products for a review as well…I totally swear by the maple syrup that they sent me! I actually tried some regular syrup last weekend and found it to be waaaaaaay too sweet for me. Guess I'll have to start BYOMP'ing if I go out for breakfast anywhere, huh? Lol

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