Is Erythritol Keto-friendly? YES IT IS!
Fast facts about erythritol:
- It contains far fewer calories than sugar and has 0 glycemic index
- It has 60-80% of the sweet taste of table sugar
- Seems to cause fewer digestive problems than other sugar alcohols
- Tastes better than other sugar alcohols
- Preferred sugar substitute for people with diabetes
- Promotes oral health and doesn’t lead to tooth decay
- It is proven to be safe for pets. Unlike xylitol which is toxic to dogs
Now let’s get into more details:
1. What is Erythritol?
It is a type of sugar alcohol occurring naturally in fruits and fermented foods. Also existing in small quantities in the human body as a natural byproduct of the fermentation of bacteria in our digestive system. It occurs naturally in wine, beer, mushrooms, pears, grapes, and soy sauce – to name a few.
Erythritol is produced from glucose or sugar. The first step is mixing glucose or sugar with yeast. This yeast ferments glucose to form erythritol. The fermented mixture is then heated and then dried by boiling off water. The crystals are then formed. These crystals are washed and purified to remove impurities, to make it safe for human consumption.
Although the name ‘sugar alcohol’ can be a bit misleading, it is NOT a sugar nor alcohol! Sugar alcohols don’t contain ethanol, so no they will not get you drunk. They also don’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar. The molecules are like hybrids of a carbohydrate and an alcohol. The molecules are structured in the way that stimulates the sweet taste receptors on our tongues.
Erythritol is around 60-80% as sweet as sugar, according to the International Food Information Council. The mild cooling effect when you consume it is caused by a harmless chemical reaction similar to evaporation.
- Another name for sugar alcohols is polyols.
- Erythritol was first discovered over 150 years ago, but wasn’t produced commercially until the 1990s.
2. Does it get absorbed into our body?
Erythritol gets absorbed in the small intestine and most of it comes right out in your urine. A recent study concluded that erythritol does “not affect plasma glucose or insulin concentrations or gut microbiota.” Taking into consideration all the fermentation variables such as gas production, pH, and hydrogen accumulation, they found erythritol to be non-fermentable by human microbiota (bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi and viruses). This is why it does not cause the same gassy, cramping or bloating effects that other sugar alcohols do. The diagram below shows the structures of common sugar alcohols and their effects on different types of bacteria.
3. Why is it keto-friendly?
Erythritol has only 0.24 calories per gram. It contains the least calories among the sugar alcohols.
But isn’t it a carbohydrate?
Technically, yes. However, here is where it gets interesting. The carbohydrates in erythritol will NOT impact your overall carb intake. This is because it does not get metabolized in the body. It is excreted unchanged in the urine.
When you are on a keto diet, the rule of thumb is to limit your carbs to 30 grams a day (net carb). Sweets and dessert seems to be pretty much out of the question.
So even though there are roughly 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon of erythritol, its net carb count is zero.
Past experiments show that there is no change in blood sugar or insulin levels when people were given erythritol. There is also no effect on cholesterol, triglycerides or other biomarkers.
For this reason, erythritol appears to be an excellent alternative to sugar for people who are overweight, with diabetes or other metabolic issues.
4. Comparing with other sugar alcohols
Common sugar alcohols include erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, to name a few.
Of all the sugar alcohols, erythritol contains the least amount of calories per gram. See the graph below for a comparison.
- Table sugar: 4 calories per gram.
- Fructose: 4 calories per gram.
- Maltitol Syrup: 3 calories per gram.
- Sorbitol: 2.6 calories per gram
- Xylitol: 2.4 calories per gram.
- Maltitol: 2.1 calories per gram.
- Lactitol: 2 calories per gram.
- Erythritol: 0.24 calories per gram.
Even better, erythritol has zero glycemic index! If you refer to the graph below, you will see that it is the only sugar alcohol which does not affect blood glucose levels at all.
What is Glycemic Index?
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale from 1-100 that ranks carbohydrate foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower increase in blood glucose. Find out why a spike in blood glucose is bad for you here.
5. Benefits of Erythritol
Erythritol may help reduce calories and added sugar in your diet. It doesn’t raise your blood sugar — no blood sugar spike means no cravings that can lead to weight gain.
A study from the Food and Chemical Toxicology found that it did not produce evidence of toxicity in humans. Even at high doses, they are mostly passed through the urine. There’s also no link between it and carcinogenic or cardiovascular risks reported. The FDA has not set a daily limit or recommended daily amount, and it is generally safe to eat in large amounts.
The Center for the Science in the Public Interest’s Chemical Cuisine recommends to limit xylitol, while it classifies erythritol as safe health line research.
What about the gassy effects or stomach upset?
When it comes to erythritol, you have to be eating of a LOT of it to experience these effects. We are talking about more than 30 grams a day. If you still concerned, you can stick to the recommended amount of roughly 10 to 15 grams per day as suggested by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
We recommend that you use any food, sugar alcohol or non-nutritive sweetener (like monk fruit or stevia) in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Manufacturers are not required to list a sugar alcohol count on the nutrition label. So you might not see it on every food that has erythritol listed as its ingredient. If it is included, you will find it listed under the total carbohydrate count, where is says “sugar alcohol”.
To substitute erythritol for sugar:
1 cup sugar = 1 + 1/3 cup erythritol
If this is too confusing to you, you can always use our 1:1 sugar substitute that is a blend of monk fruit and erythritol:
SugarLike monk fruit blend is a great alternative to sugar. No bad aftertaste, zero calories and zero glycemic index! Learn more about monk fruit here.
Now you know why everyone on the keto diet is so obsessed with Erythritol!
- (2018, March 1). 7 Things to Know about Sweeteners on Keto: Paleo Leap. Retrieved from https://paleoleap.com/7-things-know-sweeteners-keto/
- Anderson, P. (2013, July 17). How Sugar Substitutes Stack Up. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/7/130717-sugar-substitutes-nutrasweet-splenda-stevia-baking/
- Cloe, A. (2019, January 10). What Is Erythritol Made From? Retrieved from https://healthfully.com/22548-erythritol-made.html
- Miller, M. (2019, March 9). Everyone On The Keto Diet Is Obsessed With This Sugar Replacement. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a19055328/erythritol-side-effects/
- Nitsu, D. (2019, April 24). Erythritol On Keto: Benefits And Side Effects. Retrieved from https://ketoconcern.com/erythritol-keto/
- Oberst, L. (2017, October 11). Xylitol vs. Erythritol: What’s Healthier? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/xylitol-vs-erythritol#1
- (n.d.). Recent advances in biological production of erythritol. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07388551.2017.1380598
- Roxy. (2018, October 3). XYLITOL VS. ERYTHRITOL. Retrieved from https://foodloversmarket.co.za/xylitol-vs-erythritol/
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