Not quite as sweet as table sugar, erythritol is a sugar alcohol that has a low impact on blood sugar levels (read: low glycemic index). You’re likely seeing it in the health food section because of that and the fact that it’s considered a natural sweetener, like xylitol; it also has close to nil calories and carbs. In fact, it is found naturally in some fruits, mushrooms and fermented foods like wine and soy sauce.
Erythritol is often blended with other more-intense sugars to mimic the mouthfeel of sucrose, as erythritol exhibits only about 60 to 70 percent of the sweetness of pure sugar. And while sugar alcohols generally “can act as a laxative in high quantities and also cause gastrointestinal distress like gas and bloating” according to Clean Plates founder Jared Koch, erythritol normally doesn’t cause as much gastrointestinal distress as other sugar alcohols since a majority of it is absorbed before it enters the large intestine. Still, in large doses, it can cause nausea.
Two interesting facts: erythritol is certified tooth-friendly since sugar alcohol can’t be metabolized by oral bacteria, and it has a cooling effect (think: minty sensations) when it’s not already dissolved in water, such as when it’s used in frosting, chewing gum, or hard candy.
“Erythritol can be a good option for many, but because it is a sugar alcohol, it can also have some side effects,” Koch says, referring back to the gastrointestinal distress. “There have also been some reported cases of allergic reactions. That being said, it might be worth trying to see if it works for your body.”
You may have sweet success.
What is erythritol? Erythritol is a sugar alcohol (polyol) that has nearly zero calories and is 70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Sugar alcohols (like erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol) may be used as food additives or sweeteners. For example, erythritol is the main ingredient in the sweetener Swerve and is used in many brands of chewing gum and ice cream.
How sweet is erythritol? Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as sugar. This means you may need to use a slightly larger volume of erythritol vs sugar to get that same sweetness.
How many calories does erythritol have? Erythritol has 0.2 calories per gram, which is just 5% of the calories in sugar. If you’re tracking net carbs, like on the keto diet, erythritol can be subtracted from total carbs.
Where does erythritol come from? Erythritol can be found in many fruits and vegetables.
How is erythritol made? Commercial erythritol is often made from enzymatically hydrolyzed corn starch. This creates glucose, which is then fermented into erythritol.
How is erythritol classified? Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, which means it has a molecular structure similar to both sugars and alcohols. “Sugar alcohol” is a type of sugar alternative which includes erythritol, xylitol, and a handful of others.
Is erythritol natural or artificial? Erythritol is found in nature, while it can also be created artificially. It is classified as a sugar alcohol.
Health Benefits of Erythritol
- Glycemic index of 0
- Extremely low-calorie: 0.2 calories per gram
- Heat stable up to 160° Celsius
- Little to no aftertaste
- Safe for diabetics
- Safe for a ketogenic diet
Side Effects of Erythritol
When you consume too much erythritol or any sugar alcohol, it may lead to gastrointestinal side effects:
- Diarrhea (laxative effect)
- Disruption of gut bacteria
Does erythritol have an aftertaste? Erythritol has little to no aftertaste.