Xylitol: The Natural Sweetener With Many Health Benefits

by Dagmar Bleasdale on May 30, 2011

Xylitol: The Natural Sweetener With Many Health Benefits

“Sugar is sugar.” Every time I see that deceptive commercial, I wonder how the actor must feel getting paid to tell a total lie: sugar IS NOT sugar, and most people know this by now, I hope.

High-fructose corn syrup is not the same as cane sugar, honey, or molasses.

Making Sense of Sugar and Sweeteners

I’ve recently been looking into all kinds of sweetener options — sugar, artificial sweeteners, and syrups — and even started a discussion about Splenda and Stevia in the Savvy Living community.

I already knew and have written about agave nectar not being a good sweetener alternative, because agave syrup is as bad as high-fructose corn syrup.

In my research, I read posts like “Is Sugar Toxic?,” “Chemical Cuisine – Learn about Food Additives,” HealthyChild.org’s “Which Is Worse: Aspartame Or High-Fructose Corn Syrup?” and “The Sweet Stuff: The Best and Worste of Sweeteners” and watched Robert Lustig’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” that has been watched over 1,350,000 times on YouTube.

I like Stevia, which is an herb, and raw honey because it has many minerals and helps with a sore throat and cough just as well as commercial, food-dyed cough medicine.

But the winner of natural sweeteners is:

Xylitol.

 

Move over, sugar, there is a much better alternative: xylitol seems to be the best option to sweeten food and drinks.

Don’t know what xylitol is?

It’s not just another word I can use to teach my preschooler the letter x.

Xylitol is a natural substance found in fibrous vegetables and fruit, corn cobs and various hardwood trees like birch. It is a natural, intermediate product that regularly occurs in our glucose metabolism.

While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity, protects against chronic degenerative disease and has anti-aging benefits.

Xylitol has 40% less calories than sugar and can replace sugar in cooking, baking or as a sweetener for beverages.

Xylitol also dramatically reduces the incidents of middle ear infections (if kids chew xylitol-flavored chewing gum), it is a perfect sweetener for people with diabetes, and increases your bone density and fights osteoporosis.

My favorite aspect of xylitol is that is helps with tooth decay since my son is prone to cavities. It helps to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth and reverses destructive effects of sugar on oral health. It even has the ability to enhance the mineralization of the enamel and can stabilize cavities.

In the last two years, I have put some Biotene mouth wash, which has xylitol in it, on my son’s tooth brush with his tooth paste, and his small cavities have stabilized.

With so many health benefits, xylitol is clearly the winner when it comes to sweeteners.

I suspects we will see it appear in many more products very soon, hopefully replacing chemical, artificial sweeteners for good.

One important note: you can get xylitol in bulk for not much money by now, but that xylitol is processed from corn husks, which could be genetically modified (GMO) and is most likely not organic. Make sure the xylitol you buy is real birch sugar —  search for “birch xylitol.”

One of my readers told me about Xylitol USA and I love all their products. I’ve bought their xylitol packs,  jams, lollipops, and gum. And they always have some kind of great sale. Need a lot of xylitol? They seem to have the best offer on non-GMO, birch Xylitol made in the US.

Caution: xylitol is fatal for dogs, so make sure that everyone in your household knows that and doesn’t feed the dog the cookies you just made with it.

{photo credits good.is and Motifrummage.com}

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

kina January 22, 2014 at 1:44 PM

My parents eat it. I am starting to. I am normal and slim family eats healthy . That makes me mad that they make it out of corn. and yes Gmo. so if u get it in gum it just says xilotal. So it could be from corn. Can i use this in the raw form and just brush my teeth w it? My folks also just found powdersugar xilotal.

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Rebecca February 5, 2013 at 11:38 AM

We use Xylitol too, but I had no idea of some of the benefits you mention here. Thank you so much for enlightening us over at Seasonal Celebration!

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Sonya Morris January 12, 2012 at 11:19 AM

I was given some samples of a tooth cleaner/wipe for babies and it has Xylitol as an ingredient! I was skeptical at first, but after reading this post I will have to purchase them!

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Dagmar January 12, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Sonya, I’ve used those for L and they are great! I cut mine twice to get many more out of them. I wish I had used them on L’s teeth when they first came in.

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Katie @Pinke Post June 1, 2011 at 6:00 AM

This is the first I have read of Xylitol. I was raised in sugar beet farm land area. I like real sugar and I also don’t mind using products with corn syrup which you said were “deceptive” on the commercial. I don’t think a refining process is harmful to my health or my family’s and I trust and know where the ingredients come from. To me as a mom of three it matters mosts that I limit sugar intake and that we don’t overdo anything.

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Brynna June 2, 2011 at 6:12 PM

My dad is a sugar beet farmer too! :)

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Mrs L April 23, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup are not the same things. Corn syrup is more glucose, and fine. HFCS has a LOT more fructose, which is the more harmful form. (See Sugar: the Bitter Truth if you want to learn a lot more about the harm potential. Sugar is, of course, not great for you, but HFCS is worse, because of how the liver works to break down fructose.)

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WeeMasonMan's Mom June 1, 2011 at 2:42 AM

Xylitol is deadly to dogs, so if you have pooches, be sure to keep it away from them!

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Dagmar June 1, 2011 at 6:15 AM

That’s true, I meant to mention that in the post. There is a warning about that on the Xylitol I use.

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Jennifer June 1, 2011 at 1:49 AM

I use Ideal Sweetener. It’s made from Xylitol and I absolutely love it. It tastes like sugar and can be measured cup for cup like sugar. And it comes in white, brown and powdered varieties! I was so excited to have found this. But my friend did tell me that like all sugar substitutes, it should be used sparingly and we must be very careful around the pets. They cannot tolerate Xylitol. Thanks for posting this!

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Mrs4444 June 1, 2011 at 12:17 AM

I guess I’d have to taste it to be sold completely, but I enjoyed this post. Thanks.

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Brynna May 31, 2011 at 7:46 PM

We have been using xylitol for it’s antibacterial benefits for about 5 years. Definitely beneficial since we have lots of dental issues in our family (despite diligent efforts at prevention), and even though I believe decay goes much further than bacteria (NUTRITION!), I think it’s beneficial. But just like with most products like this, quality is definitely worth paying attention to.

We don’t use it as a sugar substitute though, because even though it’s low on the glycemic index, it’s still a sugar to the body. And I feel that overall, we just simply need to eat less sugar, period. No matter WHAT form it comes in. Plus it’s VERY easy to get too much and end up with a rumbly tummy.

I DEFINITELY don’t consider it an “artificial” sweetener though. There is a MASSIVE difference between these naturally occurring ones (even though in the end, they are refined as well) and ones like Splenda, Sweet N Low, etc. I did a research project on Splenda in a college nutrition class and was forever disgusted.

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PJ (Patti) May 31, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Hey Dagmar!
Great Article, but let’s see how long it takes for someone to come up with bad side effiects! LOL! Every time I think I found something healthier to use, someone always bursts my bubble. “This is a wonderful healthy sugar substitute”, BUT (someone finds out in a study that ) sacchrin causes cancer, Nutra Sweet turns into Formaldehide (spelling) too much regular sugar can cause diabetes (which I have) and so on. Where does it end? Just like medicine. Avandia is great for diabetes, BUT it can cause heart attacks (so the ad’s say. Another medicine is good for something else, but side effects are liver trouble, high blood pressure, bleeding, and so on and so on. Who want to risk it? I get so frustrated! It makes a person want to give up even TRYING to be healthy.

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Dagmar May 31, 2011 at 11:04 PM

PJ, I was wondering about the same thing. We were using agave nectar thinking we were so smart, only to find out that it’s basically high-fructose corn syrup. I hope that doesn’t happen with xylitol. For now, you just have to make sure to get it from birch and not corn.

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Lindsay Dianne May 31, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Thanks for this interesting article. I’m undecided on this material, but I’ll definitely be watching it. Most things are derived, in some way or another, from natural things… Even MSG is a naturally occurring substance. That doesn’t always mean that it’s awesome for us.
Still, if I can find an alternative that is okay for my body, I’ll use it,

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Terri May 31, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Thank you for sharing this article. I’ve never tried this but if I get the chance I might. Anything that helps with tooth decay and is good for you is my kind of product.

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Elle May 31, 2011 at 6:30 AM

I don’t know about xylitol. I tried it recently and it gave me immediate explosive bad stomach problems –if you know what I mean. So I did a lot of research on it by googling xylitol and diarrhea, and the way it’s created isn’t very natural and it is known to make many people have diarrhea and other stomach issues.

Stevia’s the only sweetener I use now.

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Dagmar May 31, 2011 at 6:41 AM

Hi Ellen, I use xylitol sparingly, not more than 2 teaspoons a day. I have read that it can cause diarrhea if you eat a lot of it, but that is rare.

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katlupe May 31, 2011 at 12:22 AM

I use that and Stevia. Ever since I read the book Sugar Blues, I was off the sugar or what I call poison. I know sugar and various forms and white flour products were killing me. I will check out the birch xylitol as I didn’t know about that. Thanks for the info!

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Joel May 30, 2011 at 11:08 PM

Xylitol is awesome and I also use Erythritol. Both are a little on the expensive side but SO much better for you than sugar or HFCS.

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Vivien May 30, 2011 at 7:41 PM

So interesting! Thank you for sharing!!!

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