Xylitol: Benefits, Uses, and a Few Side Effects

Xylitol is one of the best of the sugar substitutes, with xylitol benefits definitely outweighing its side effects–provided you don’t eat too much of it in a day. It falls in the category of safe sweeteners. For humans, that is–it is toxic to dogs. Read on to find out how it compares to stevia, what xylitol products you can buy and where, how to bake with xylitol instead of sugar, and more.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol Benefits

It is a naturally occurring substance which is derived from a variety of plants. It is falls into a category of sugar substitutes which includes sorbitol, mannitol, glycerol, maltitol, and erythritol — all words ending in ol, mostly ending in -itol. It’s too bad that the word “xylitol” sounds so chemical, when it is a natural substance!

It is sold in a form that resembles sugar, but it  has fewer calories: sugar has 15 calories in a teaspoon, while the xyitol calories in a teaspoon are 10. It is used in a wide variety of foods, including candies, and also in vitamins and medicines.

To find out more about what xylitol is and what it is used for, visit the FAQs at xylitol.org — by the way, this looks like an industry-sponsored website but I didn’t see who does it. Still, a lot of info there.

Xylitol Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of xylitol, compared to other sweeteners. As I was starting on a list, I found an excellent article listing ten xylitol benefits, with  references to other sites that were their resources so you can read the clinical evidence if you wish. Here are just the headings  of their list; click the link below to read the whole article; each benefit is explained clearly. I had no idea about some of the benefits, like helping to prevent ear infections.

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that has been recognized by dentists and health professionals worldwide as a great alternative to white sugar.

Commonly found in chewing gum and breathmints, Xylitol is known to have a many health benefits associated with its use.

1. Safe For Diabetics

2. Helps Prevent Cavities

3. Helps Prevent Ear Infections

4. Slows the Growth of Candida

5. May Improve Bone Density

6. Helps Tooth Enamel and Strength

7. Increases White Blood Cell Activity

8. Prevents Streptococcus mutans In Newborns

9. May Help With Allergies & Sinus Infections

10. May Lower Risk of Ovarian Cysts”

Since that article covers the general health benefits of xylitol more that the weight loss benefits, I’ll just add that having fewer calories is significant over time, and that it  works well in low-carb diets.

Xylitol Side Effects

The only side effect I have read about is this: because xylitol and the others listed above are not digested completely in our bodies, some people may experience some diarrhea; bloating or flatulence can also occur. If this should happen to you, eat less of it and there is a good chance that will solve the problem. And over time, evidently we can build up a tolerance for more of it.

Suggested maximum amounts per day are varied. I researched a number of websites and couldn’t find agreement among them. It seems that the amount commonly used for dental benefits, under 8 grams or about 1/4 of an ounce a day is unlikely to cause diarrhea, but if you cook with it, and use over 40 grams (about 1.5 ounces), you might have a digestive reaction at first.

These amounts are for adults. For kids, use way less and monitor their reactions.

So basically, the side effects of xylitol are quite minimal, for humans. But it is terrible for dogs…

Xylitol is Harmful, Even Fatal, for Dogs

Xylitol and dogs is a very bad combination. Dogs absorb it much faster than we do and so consuming it can lead to a lot of symptoms, including liver damage and even death. If you think your dog might have consumed some, it’s time for an immediate visit to the veterinarian. And don’t give your pet any human food that might contain it.

Many human over-the-counter and prescription meds, for example, now contain xylitol. Quite a few of these have commonly been used with dogs, but now you need to be very diligent about asking and reading labels.


Xylitol vs Stevia

Stevia has no calories; xylitol has about 10 per teaspoon. Xylitol has dental benefits that stevia doesn’t. Xylitol has a blander taste than some forms of stevia, which can have something of a bitter after-taste. These two are in my mind the two healthiest sugar substitutes, or natural sweeeners, and I use them both.

Baking with Xylitol

Xylitol can be substituted for sugar in almost any baking recipe. Because it kills microorganisms, though, you can’t use it in yeast recipes because the yeast will not rise properly. Also, xylitol can absorb more moisture than sugar, so if you make something and it turns out a bit dry, next time try increasing the water or other liquid.

Here’s a recipe for some cookies. They are called “sugar cookies” but they only have Xylitol. I would use a whole-grain flour myself, as white flour is just empty calories. With all that oil, these are not going to be very low calorie, but coconut oil is good for you in small amounts.

There are more xylitol recipes on the same page:

Almond Sugar Cookies

2 c coconut oil

1 ½ c xylitol

1 tsp maple extract

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond extract

4 c all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cream of tarter

Cream coconut oil and xylitol. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in extracts. Combine dry ingredients and slowly add to creamed mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls two inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet. Flatten with a glass dipped in xylitol. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.”

There is a xylitol cookbook at Amazonc; click on the image to find out about it.

If you don’t eat wheat or other flours with gluten in them, you can probably take any gluten-free recipe and substitute the xylitol for the sugar.

Where to Buy Xylitol

You can find it locally at health food stores and probably increasingly in regular grocery stores. Online, Amazon has a lot of xylitol products. Xylitol is used in mints, candy, chocolate, nasal sprays, and many other products. It’s particularly used in dental products, since it reduces bacteria.

Here are some links to Amazon xylitol categories:

Xylitol toothpaste

Xylitol candy

Xylitol nasal spray

Xylitol chocolate

… Guess I’ll leave it at that!

Xylitol: Benefits, Uses, and a Few Side Effects
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